Clean a Bird Feeder
One of the best ways to use baking soda in the garden is to clean your bird bath. “Shake baking soda into the basin. It removes mold easily and is safe for birds,” says Birds & Blooms reader Stephen Holland. “Cleaning the bird bath isn’t my favorite task, but it’s more fun when you use baking soda and white vinegar. The foam reaction is neat to watch and makes cleaning easy,” says Sharon Erdt.
Learn how (and how often) to clean bird feeders.
Prevent Black Spot on Roses
“To wipe out black spot on your roses, use the following recipe. Combine 1 tablespoons of baking soda, 2 1/2 tablespoons of horticultural oil and 1 gallon of water. Spray this solution on roses once when the symptoms appear and every 1-2 weeks thereafter,” says Laura Horning.
Make your own weed killer with vinegar and dish soap.
Stop Rot on Grapes
“At the very first sign of brown rot, spray your grapes with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda and a gallon of water. I’ve never needed to use this spray more than once a season,” says Eli Troyer.
Psst—don’t miss 25 secret garden tips we learned from grandma.
Win the Bug Battle
Here’s a cheap natural way to repel aphids and spider mites. Mix 1/3 cup cooking oil and 1 teaspoon baking soda in a jar. Keep it covered until needed. Combine 2 teaspoons of the mixture with 1 cup water in a sprayer,” says Henryette Marshall.
Learn how to get rid of indoor plant bugs.
Grow Bigger Plants
“Your plants will double in size and beauty with this once-a-month treatment. To 1 gallon tepid water, add 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon Epsom salts, 1 teaspoon saltpeter and 1/2 teaspoon household ammonia,” says Tillman Charlie.
Follow these tips to conserve water in the garden.
Clean Your Garden Clothes
“A paste of baking soda and water removes perspiration stains and odor when rubbed on a garment before you throw it in your machine. Works great on hard-to-clean polyester knits, too,” says Lavern Wolf.
Learn how to remove grass stains from clothes and shoes.
Do Robins Mate For Life?
Given the sweet stories of swans, cranes, crows and other birds that form lifelong bonds, you might wonder: Do American robins mate for life?
Unfortunately, robin love stories are a little shorter. Like other backyard songbirds, they are often monogamous once they’ve paired up in spring… but they go their separate ways once the family-raising season comes to a close. Thus, robin “relationships” tend to last only a few months out of the year. They’re certainly not paired for life!
Journey North notes that two robins that have been a mated pair before could end up back on the same breeding grounds in spring and thus pair up again. This scenario becomes more likely if they successfully raised young the year before. But in the traditional sense, robins do not remain monogamous.
Psst—If you see a robin bird, here’s what it means.
Unlike hummingbird males, the male robins are good bird dads. They play an active role in both nest-construction and brood-raising. He’ll bring his partner nesting materials to help her build their cup-style nest. He also sings loudly to defend their territory and all the important resources it provides. After the eggs hatch, he sticks around to help her feed the fledglings, and the mated pair may raise three or more broods together in a single season.
Do cardinals mate for life?
How Do Robins Choose Mates?
You might be surprised to learn that much of the decision-making in mating comes down to the female robin, rather than the male. Males arrive earlier to the breeding grounds than females, and they spend that extra time claiming and battling for territory. The oldest and strongest robins tend to wind up with the best nesting sites. When they arrive a few weeks later, females select mates based on who has the most eye-catching plumage and the best song.
Will a robin use a bird house?
How Long Do Robins Live?
Unfortunately, these delightful red-breasted birds aren’t long-lived. According to Journey North, most American robins live 5 or 6 years in the wild. But don’t worry, as the total population of American robins has been estimated at 300 million. These adaptable birds are commonly seen in cities, parks, farms and forests across Canada, Alaska and the Lower 48 states. Did you know it’s a myth that robins fly south and return in the spring? Find out what robins eat and learn how to attract them year-round.
There’s nothing like the thrill of discovering a bird has decided to nest in your yard. After all the hard work you’ve put in creating a good wildlife and bird habitat for them, learning they’ve finally moved in feel like a victory. But what about when that nest appears someplace a little inconvenient—like your backyard grill, or among your garden rakes, or even in a coat pocket? (Yup, that happens. Wrens love pockets.) Can you move a bird nest? Before you do, there are some factors to consider, including whether or not it’s legal to do so.
Learn how to identify bird eggs by color and size.
Can You Move a Bird Nest With Eggs in It?
First, the legal stuff: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects more than 800 birds in North America, including basically every bird that might nest in your yard. The act protects birds in a wide variety of ways, and that includes their nests. It’s illegal to interfere with an “active nest,” which is defined as one in which a bird has either laid eggs and/or is brooding (sitting on the nest).
What that means to you: If you come across a bird nest in your yard that has eggs, or see a female sitting on the nest, your options are legally pretty limited, no matter how inconvenient it might be for you. If the nest absolutely must be moved, you’ll need to contact a local rescue organization. Such organizations have or can obtain permits to deal with the situation. Please note that under the law, it is not legal to simply move the nest to another location in your yard. (Additionally, it’s unlikely the parent birds will continue to use it—they’ll abandon the eggs and try to build another nest.)
Find out how long baby birds stay in the nest and more nest facts.
When and How to Move a Bird Nest
So, when can you move a bird nest? The only time to do so is before it gets too far along. Most birds take several days to build a nest, so if you catch it early, go ahead and remove it. Then, find a way to block off the area so the birds don’t return. Birds can be awfully persistent. For instance, a friend recently discovered the beginnings of a robin’s nest in her patio umbrella. The nest was in the early stages, so she removed it and decided to keep the umbrella closed for the time being, unless she was actually sitting under it.
What about after the birds are done nesting? One thing to consider: It’s not uncommon for some species to re-use their nests, whether in the same season or the following year. Sometimes, other species will move in after the original builders have left. And the nest parts may even be scavenged by other birds for building their own nests. Whenever possible, just leave an old bird nest where you find it. If you have to move it, be sure the birds are gone and no new birds have moved in. This way you’ll do what’s best for wildlife, and avoid breaking the law. Psst—here’s when you should clean out birdhouses.
Next, learn facts about hummingbird nests and mourning dove nests.
What is the Bird Flu?
According to the University of Illinois Extension Office, avian influenza, or the bird flu, is an extremely infectious respiratory disease that affects all domestic poultry, including laying hens, broilers, and turkeys, as well as waterfowl and game birds. It can spread quickly within flocks causing severe disease and death. Currently 33 U.S. states have confirmed avian flu cases in wild birds.
In the last outbreak of bird flu, more than 200 commercial flocks and 21 backyard flocks in the U.S. were affected, leading to the deaths of more than 50 million birds between 2014 and 2015.
Ken Keffer, co-owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited Store in Bloomington, Indiana, says, “Avian flu isn’t new. Avian influenzas were first identified in Europe in the 1870s. Variants of the current highly pathogenic avian influenza strain (HPAI H5N1) first emerged in southern China in 1996. North America had outbreaks in 2014 and 2015. The recent strain was detected in North America last fall, and is different than previous H5N1 viruses according to the Centers for Disease Control.”
Learn more about other common wild bird diseases.
Which Species Are Affected by Bird Flu?
In wild birds, waterfowl including ducks, geese, and swans, are the main group impacted. It can be fatal in these species, although often they carry and transmit the virus without showing symptoms. Other birds including raptors like hawks and eagles, as well as shorebirds and gulls have also tested positive for HPAI H5N1 during this outbreak. Research has shown songbirds are less likely to contract bird flu and are less likely to shed large amounts of the virus. A small number of corvid species (crows, jays, and magpies) have tested positive.
Visible symptoms of bird flu include runny eyes, swelling, and lethargy.
Poultry operations are especially feeling the effects of bird flu. When the disease is detected in domestic poultry, flocks are depopulated to prevent the disease from spreading and removed from the food system. Other area flocks are then monitored for the disease.
Discover 8 ways to ensure a bird-safe backyard.
Is it Safe to Feed Wild Birds Right Now?
There is no official recommendation to take down feeders unless you also keep domestic poultry, according to the National Wildlife Disease Program.
Ken says, “The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and United States Department of Agriculture have both stated that bird feeding is safe. Out of an abundance of caution, some agencies initially suggested taking feeders down, but these guidelines have been scaled back. Currently, I’m not aware of any restrictions in place on bird feeders.”
He further explains if you raise poultry and live in an area where avian influenza is being reported, you could consider removing bird feeders in the short term. “Past outbreaks of avian flu have generally waned by early summer,” he says.
Joy O’Keefe, assistant professor and Illinois Extension wildlife specialist in the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, advises homeowners to plant native shrubs and wildflowers this spring for their backyard birds. “In the absence of feeders, birds should be able to find natural sources of food from sprouting native plants and emerging insects,” she says.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says hummingbird feeders and oriole feeders do not need to be removed. Check with your state wildlife agency for updated guidelines in your area.
Clean Your Feeders to Reduce the Spread of Disease
Maintaining clean feeders and bird baths is always important. Scrub your feeders clean with some soapy water and a good stiff brush. Then soak them in a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) for a few minutes. Next, rinse them very thoroughly and let them dry completely before putting them back outside. Here’s how to clean a bird bath.
Ken points out it’s also important to maintain a clean area around your feeders. “If you aren’t feeding a no mess blend of seeds without any shells, rake up the empty hulls from under the feeders. You can also consider moving your feeding station around the yard to minimize accumulation,” he says. Try these no mess bird feeders to keep your yard clean.
The USDA has issued biosafety recommendations for backyard poultry flocks. “Poultry owners should keep things as clean as they can,” says Kenneth Koelkebeck, professor and Illinois Extension poultry specialist in the Animal Sciences department. “Remove standing water if possible because it will attract migratory waterfowl.”
Is Bird Flu Dangerous to Humans, Pets or Other Animals?
The CDC is monitoring the recent outbreak and reports it is not an immediate public health concern. In North America, no human cases have been associated with the H5N1 avian flu. The CDC considers the risk of humans catching avian influenza to be low. Similarly, dogs and cats are rarely infected.
However, pet birds and domestic poultry, including backyard chickens, can be susceptible to bird flu. Domestic flock owners should prevent contact between their backyard flocks and wild birds.
What to Do if You See Sick or Dead Birds
Report sick or dead birds to your state wildlife agency or local agricultural extension agent. You can also contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services toll-free at 1-866-536-7593.
Next, find out how to help a bird that flew into a window.
Father’s Day is right around the corner! Whether your father or husband is a do-it-yourself kind of guy, or he just enjoys spending time in the yard, these gardening gifts for dad will brighten his day.
Mushroom Growing Kit
Imagine how fun it would be for Dad to grow his own mushrooms that he can eat! In just a matter of days, he can start to see the growth begin, and he’ll be harvesting (and enjoying mushroom and swiss burgers) in no time.
Vintage Camper Bird House Scale Model
This retro camper wooden model kit will look great displayed indoors. Or Dad can hang it outside and see if a tiny bird family moves in! He can paint and customize the camper to make it his own!
Psst—these amazing camping gadgets are worth every penny.
Soil Test Kit
Anyone who loves their lawn will dig this soil testing kit. It’s a unique and useful gardening gift for dads. Included, you’ll find a sample jar, nutrient absorbing capsule and a soil scoop. Just mail the sample in the prepaid envelope. In about a week, results will show if the soil is lacking in any vital nutrients. Dad will also get customized fertilizer recommendations.
Give Dad’s garden a jump-start with the best potting soil for every type of plant.
Solo Stoves Portable Fire Pit
Looking for a gardening gift idea for dad that doesn’t blow smoke? Solo Stoves basically reinvented fire pits. These fire pits burn with logs, but the patented technology means a beautiful flame without any smelly smoke. These fire pits are portable, so Dad can enjoy them in the backyard or on a camp out.
Knucklehead the Harley-Davidson Gnome
If your dad or husband is a motorcycle rider, this garden gnome will add a touch of fun to the backyard with his biker jacket and sunglasses. The Harley-Davidson logo is printed on the gnome’s hat.
Check out the must-have boots for working in the garden.
Garden Subscription Box
Give gardening gifts for dad all year long with a garden subscription box. You can find a subscription box for any type of gardening that dad is into, from succulents and houseplants to vegetable seeds.
Power Planter Garden Auger
If Dad is a power tool guy who loves to plant flowers, this is the perfect gift! He can attach the auger to his drill and power through the soil to plant bulbs or perennials. It’s also useful for mixing mortar or paint. And it’s made in the U.S.A.
Petite Knock Out Rose Plant
Roses can be notoriously tricky flowers to grow, but the Knock Out rose is practically a fool-proof gardening gift for your dad. This special mini variety is the perfect size for containers and small spaces.
NectarGUARD Hummingbird Feeder Kit
This feeder kit includes everything you need to turn your own recycled glass bottle into a custom hummingbird feeder. You’ll get the NectarGUARD feeding flowers, a suction cup, hanger and instructions. Include a copy of the sugar-water recipe or a bottle of premade hummingbird nectar for a complete gift.
Copper Rain Gauge
How much rain fell in that big storm last night? Dad will never have to wonder again with this scientific measuring gadget. The tube rises as the base fills with water. Choose from a tabletop version or a garden stake.
Need help with watering your plants between rain showers? Check out plant waterer products we love.
Salsa Grow Kit
If Dad never misses Taco Tuesday, give him the seeds to grow a spicy salsa garden! Inside the kit he’ll find six seed packets, for tomatoes, jalapeños, tomatillos, cilantro and scallions, plus plant stakes and growing instructions. If you father’s more of a mixologist than a chef, check out the cocktail grow kit.
Velociraptor Garden Sculpture Set
Dinosaurs might not roam the Earth anymore, but with a little imagination they can still visit Dad’s backyard. Place these handmade steel sculptures out in the open or have them stalking stealthily through the bushes.
Your father can get in touch with his inner zen by pruning this stunning bonsai. The tiny tree will arrive planted in a ceramic pot with drainage holes. These tiny trees will make great gardening gifts for dad!
New tools make a great gardening gift for dads! We love these sturdy cast aluminum garden tools from Garrett Wade. You’ll definitely want to borrow them, so should probably buy a set of your own. Psst—these are the tools Dad secretly wants for Father’s Day.
Deck Mounted Bird Bath
Bird-loving dads can enjoy a close up view of water loving bird species with a deck mounted bird bath. It’s easy to clean and is simple to install on the railing.
We found more of the best garden lights for your yard.
Fish Garden Stakes
If your father enjoys fishing, catch this set of metal fish garden stakes. They will make him feel like he’s casting a line at the lake—even if he’s just hanging out in the backyard.
Don’t miss these unique owl gifts we can’t resist.
Herb Garden Trio Kit
This is a great gardening gift for Dads that have a small space. Even if Dad is downsizing from a big yard into a condo, he can still enjoy his favorite hobby with this Culinary Garden Trio Kit from Urban Leaf. Each kit includes basil, parsley and cilantro seeds, a reusable planter, soil discs and bamboo plant labels. If Dad likes tomatoes, you could also try the mini fruit and vegetable garden kit.
Bald Eagle Wind Spinner
If your dad is filled with American pride, give him this Bald Eagle Wind Spinner. As the breeze blows through the large metal wings, our national bird will soar in a circle. For bird-watching dads, check out our picks for the best binoculars and field guides.
Deluxe Tractor Scoot
Help Dad do all of his outdoor chores in comfort with this rolling garden seat. This heavy duty, steerable cart will reduce stress on his back and knees. And it includes a basket, so he can harvest ripe fruits and veggies, pull weeds or haul supplies.
Country House Bird Feeder
Dads who grew up on a farm will be charmed by Perky Pet’s Country House Bird Feeder that looks like a little red barn, complete with a matching cardinal weathervane. Plus the feeder is squirrel proof, so only songbirds will snack on the bird seed.
Check out more cardinal gifts for redbird lovers.
Bamboo Work Gloves
Pine Tree Tools’ bamboo work gloves are breathable and durable, so Dad won’t break a sweat while pruning or planting. And they’re touchscreen compatible, so he won’t have to take them off to answer the phone when you call to wish him Happy Father’s Day. Psst—don’t forget to send a fun bird card.
The Best Daffodil Bulbs
Dare to go daffodil! From classic to quirky, daffodils are a fail-safe way to cheer up any garden. Order bulbs early for the best selection, plant in the fall and enjoy the flowers for many springs to come. To get you started, here are some of our favorite daffodil bulbs. You may be surprised how many heights, colors, and shapes that daffodils come in.
You may also be surprised by how many different names these spring beauties go by: daffodil (of course), narcissus, and jonquil. Daffodil is the common name given to the plants by English-speaking people. Narcissus is the group’s botanical name, which many gardeners now use as its common name, too. And jonquils are a specific type of narcissus (Narcissus jonquilla), including popular varieties such as Baby Moon, Beautiful Eyes, Lemon Sailboat, Yellow River, Sherborne and Martinette. Jonquils usually have one to three small fragrant flowers per stem with more cylindrical pointed leaves.
Make sure to plant your daffodil bulbs before the first frost of the season, preferably in early autumn. Best advice for how to plant spring bulbs? Plant twice as deep as the bulb is tall. You should also pick a daffodil bulb that will grow well in your plant zone. (If you’re not sure where or what your plant zone is, check out our handy guide.
Psst—did you know the daffodil is the March birth flower?
Zones 3 to 8
This member of the poeticus group stands out in the garden thanks to its distinctive look: red-rimmed short trumpets skirted by large white petals. It has a fantastic fragrance, multiplies without a fuss and makes a great cut flower.
Why we love it: Actaea is an heirloom that keeps spring going a little longer because it blooms later in the season.
Check out the top 10 showstopping tulip bulbs to plant for spring color.
Zones 4 to 9
A top 10 list wouldn’t be complete without the super popular Tête-à-Tête miniature daffodil. Although it stands only 5 to 8 inches tall, its buttery yellow flowers make this spring bloom noticeable even from a distance. Force them indoors, grow them in containers or tuck them into perennial plantings for an extra dash of color.
Why we love it: The early blossoms are a welcome sign that spring has arrived at last.
Zones 3 to 8
Add something different to your early or midspring garden with this charming flower. This large-cupped variety features snow-white petals and a bright coral trumpet.
Why we love it: Cool Flame may look delicate, but this variety holds its own among other daffodils and seasonal flowers such as allium.
Psst—check out the best websites for buying flower bulbs online.
Zones 3 to 8
Look closely at how this plant’s trumpets turn downward and you’ll see how it got its name. (The botanical name is Narcissus bulbocodium.) Also known as the hoop skirt or hoop petticoats daffodil, Golden Bells are happiest in full sun or part shade and in average and well-drained soils.
Why we love it: These 6- to 8-inch tall daffodils are right at home in rock gardens, troughs or small-scale plantings.
Zones 6 to 9
These midsized daffodils are longtime favorites in southern gardens. Like paperwhites, they grow in sweetly fragrant clusters of 10 to 20 little white and yellow blooms. Plant them in combination with colorful tulips or pansies to really show them off.
Why we love it: Thomas Jefferson was a fan! But he probably knew the Avalanche daffodil bulbs growing at Monticello by the name Seventeen Sisters. They can be grown indoors or, where climate allows, outdoors.
Learn how to grow and care for amaryllis.
Zones 3 to 8
They may top out at 14 inches tall, but don’t overlook Pipit. The mini, star-shaped blooms are golden with white centers, fading to creamy white. They are easy to grow and will naturalize well in your yard.
Why we love it: These fragrant daffodils are wonderful cut flowers.
Check out the 4 types of flower bulbs that gardeners should grow.
Zones 3 to 9
Brighten up your moon garden with this midspring bloom. The narrow petals create the perfect backdrop for outward-facing trumpets, and it’s a snap for new gardeners to grow, especially in the South. This fragrant heirloom has a history dating to 1916.
Why we love it: Often called the whitest of the white daffodils, Thalia produces up to five pure white flowers per stem.
Zones 3 to 8
Bring out the tropical side of your landscape with this long-lasting, heat-resistant daffodil. Tahiti‘s red-orange ruffles accent sunny blooms, making it a standout in the garden.
Why we love it: This striking charmer is one of the most sturdy and reliable double-flowering daffodils you’ll find.
Zones 3 to 9
Traditionalists love Dutch Master, a classic golden daffodil. For an earlier bloomer, check out Unsurpassable, a trumpet variety that performs well in both northern and southern landscapes.
Why we love it: You can’t go wrong with this daffodil standby. Its bold color and large, sturdy blooms make it a wise choice for mass plantings. Check out more of the best classic yellow flowers to grow.
Calliope Hummingbird Size
Measuring a mere 3 inches long and weighing roughly the same as a pingpong ball, the Calliope hummingbird is incredibly tiny. In fact, Eric Rasmussen, avian scientist at the MPG Ranch in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, points out that this hummingbird is the smallest bird seen in North America.
Although quite tiny, it’s not the smallest hummingbird in world. Meet the world’s largest and smallest hummingbirds.
What Do Male and Female Calliope Hummingbirds Look Like?
Look for several key clues to identify this diminutive species. Both males and females sport glossy, bright green plumage on their heads and backs, with white on their underparts.
Male Calliopes puff out a shimmery group of neck feathers, also known as the gorget, to woo potential mates. The gorget has stripes of magenta along the throat, while females and juveniles just have a bit of cinnamon color underneath.
Look closely, too, at a Calliope’s tail and wings. “When they are perched, their wingtips tend to protrude just below the tail tip,” Eric says.
Calliope Hummingbird Range
These small hummingbirds are found in parts of Utah, the western half of Wyoming and Montana, into southern Canada and the states west of the Rockies. It’s a long-distance migrant, traveling all the way down to central Mexico for the coldest months of the year.
Calliopes focus on flowers as they travel north for up to 2,800 miles mainly through the interior West in early spring. As the wildflower meadows of the Rocky Mountains bloom, Calliopes fly uphill, where they mate and raise their young before following the mountains as they travel back south in fall.
See fascinating facts about hummingbird migration.
Calliope Hummingbird Nest
During breeding season, male Calliopes are brave and territorial enough to chase off much larger birds, even hawks, from their territory.
To impress females, males fly high into the air, then dive down while making a buzzing noise with their tail feathers. A male will also hover in front of a female with his dazzling neck feathers ruffled forward while making a sound similar to a bumblebee.
Calliope hummingbirds make impressive sounds with their feathers when showing off to potential mates, but they aren’t particularly noisy birds. They let out a zippy chip when foraging or encountering other birds, but do not have a real bird song.
Do hummingbirds mate for life?
The location of the 11/2-inch-wide nests can vary, but they’re typically several feet up in a conifer tree. The female hummingbird cares for the young until they are ready for the first flight around three weeks old.
Discover amazing facts and pictures of baby hummingbirds.
Calliope Hummingbird Habitat
Enjoy a front-row seat to Calliope hummingbird visits by creating an ideal habitat in your own backyard for these tiny fliers.
At every age, hummingbirds need a constant food supply to maintain their energy. “I strongly encourage planting native flowers,” says Eric. “That is the best way to help hummingbirds.”
Choose native options that bloom early in the season and continue through the fall for an ongoing food source. If you put out sugar-water feeders to attract Calliopes or other hummers, you shouldn’t use red dye in the mixture.
Besides feeding on nectar, Calliope hummingbirds perch on branches before diving to snatch and eat insects from midair. They also may collect spiderwebs for their nests.
Eric notes that hummingbirds, including Calliopes, prefer shallow water features that gently bubble. “They need a little place to perch,” he adds. Here’s how to pick out the best bird bath for hummingbirds.
Choose native plants with smaller blossoms to accommodate Calliope hummingbirds.
- Anise hyssop
- Bee balm
- Coral bells
- Golden currant
- Indian paintbrush
- Western columbine
The Beauty of a Hummingbird Feather
When the sun hits it just right, a male ruby-throated hummingbird’s throat is a beautiful iridescent red. His vibrant green head glows, too! And, of course, ruby-throats aren’t the only hummingbirds with pretty feathers. Learn about the science that makes a hummingbird feather look so colorful and vibrant.
Discover more jaw-dropping facts about hummingbirds.
John Schewy, author of The Hummingbird Handbook, writes, “Hummers vary tremendously in the color and arrangement of their iridescent parts. Even among the handful of hummingbird species that are widespread in the United States, the array of colors is impressive. The male Allen’s and rufous hummers have blazing red-orange throats. The beautiful male Anna’s hummer has an incredible iridescent magenta throat, face and crown. And the closely related Costa’s hummingbird, whose neck feathers taper into long mustache-like points on each side, has a head wrapped in royal purple.”
Check out 50 stunning hummingbird pictures you need to see.
Hummingbird Feather Colors
Birds & Blooms reader Cheryl Curtiss asks, “I read that hummingbird feathers are not the bright colors we see. Can you explain this?”
Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman explain. “It’s true. When we look at an Anna’s or ruby-throated hummingbird, for example, we’re not really seeing green pigment on their back feathers or red pigment on their throat feathers. Instead, those are structural colors. The feather itself is just dull and dark, but it’s covered with transparent layers of particular shapes that operate like a prism. They bend the light and reflect back only certain colors. This is why the colors can seem to change, too. Those red throat feathers may look orange, gold or even green, depending on the angle of the light.”
Birds & Blooms reader Steven Hogan asks, “Why do ruby-throated hummingbird feathers appear black sometimes?”
Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “The beautiful iridescent colors of some hummingbird feathers have a surprising source. The feather itself may be a dull blackish color, but it’s covered with a thin layer of clear cells that are structured to reflect light only in certain ways, as a prism does. Light striking the feather from just the right angle reflects back brilliant red, violet or green, depending on the species. The color can shift as the angle changes, which is why a ruby-throated’s neck sometimes may look gold or greenish. But without direct lighting, those feathers simply look black.
Psst—Hummingbirds can see even MORE colors than humans, according to researchers.
What are the colorful patches on their necks? John Schewy writes, “With just a turn of the head, a hummingbird explodes in iridescent radiance. Its gorget (the patch of colorful feathers covering its throat) instantly blazes in shades that span the color spectrum, depending on the species. These dazzling colors come from the feather structure rather than pigmentation. Each iridescent hummingbird feather has tiny spikes that are densely packed with many layers of microscopic structures filled with air bubbles.”
These structures reflect light, says Bob Sundstrom, a science advisor for BirdNote, “creating color in the manner of sun glinting off an oily film on water.”
Next, discover the top 15 colorful hummingbird flowers you should grow.
Garden Health Benefits for Kids
Develop Healthy Eating Habits
Kids might turn up their noses at store-bought produce, but eating homegrown veggies is different, and you’ll immediately see the benefits of gardening. Help picky eaters by planting vegetables, and watch as they devour the harvest.
Nurture Smart Students
Gardening feeds minds as well as bodies. Each time you teach children about gardening, they get an education in math, science and nutrition.
Grow Responsible, Self Confident Kids
When kids see their garden ﬁlled with ﬂowers or veggies, they gain a sense of pride knowing they had a hand in it. They also develop patience and learn to respect the earth.
Check out the top 10 easy plants for kids to grow.
Reduce Childhood Obesity
Keep kids active by introducing them to the fun and physical side of gardening. Show them that tending a garden can be rewarding for the beautiful ﬂowers and tasty vegetables, and for the exercise and outdoor fun.
Broaden Their Horizons
Stuck on lunch foods? Can’t get your kids to help garden? Grow a few unique vegetables or ﬂowers to get kids excited about gardening. They might eat that purple carrot because it’s a purple carrot!
Healthy After School Activities
Instead of rushing home to video games and TV, your kids can grab gardening gear after school, go on a frog hunt or count butterﬂies out back.
Getting outdoors is beneﬁcial for kids with attention deﬁcit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It helps calm them so they can concentrate more easily. According to the National Wildlife Federation, exposing kids to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing the symptoms of ADHD.
Aid Kids With Learning Disabilities
Studies show that children with learning disabilities increased their nonverbal skills and formed positive relationships with others when they tended a garden.
Psst—here’s how to get kids excited about birding.
Garden Health Benefits for Adults
Boost Your Mood
Ever wonder why gardeners are so chipper and optimistic? Spending time outside is one of the major benefits of gardening, and it can do wonders for your mood. It’s great for reducing stress and tension, and helping you relax. (Going birding is good for your mental health, too!)
Eat the Healthiest Foods Now
Growing vegetables means you’ll have the most nutritious veggies at your ﬁngertips for the whole growing season. Even longer, if you ﬁnd time for canning or freezing!
A Fun Way to Stay Fit
Forty-ﬁve minutes of gardening burns as many calories as a 30-minute aerobic activity. Weeding, digging and planting can burn as many as 350 calories per hour. And it doesn’t feel like work. It’s fun exercise that gets you outdoors listening to the birds!
Improve Your Sleep
Get a better good night’s rest by eating a diet rich in vegetables and adding light exercise and fresh air. If you still have trouble getting your zzz’s, plant lavender to promote relaxation.
Follow this month-by-month guide to growing healthy vegetables
Power Foods Nourish People
Many foods low in calories but high in heart-disease-fighting nutrients—so-called “power foods”—are those we can grow ourselves. Some to try are asparagus, broccoli, avocado, bell peppers, carrots, leafy greens, tomatoes and squash.
Try these top garden trends of 2022.
Garden Health Benefits for the ‘Young at Heart’
Improve Mobility, Strength and Endurance
Low-impact exercises like digging, weeding and planting strengthen muscles. They are perfect for those who can’t participate in vigorous activity. Also, gardening uses many muscle groups as well as promoting hand strength, joint ﬂexibility and improved motor skills.
Learn how to create a windowsill herb garden.
Reduce Health Risks
Gardeners have a lower risk of osteoporosis and diabetes. Spending time in a natural setting can lower blood pressure and relieve muscle tension.
Keep Your Heart Healthy
Research has proved that light physical activity signiﬁcantly lowers the risk of heart disease.
Follow these 5 tips for picking healthy plants at the nursery.
Get a Daily Dose of Vitamin D
Vitamin D, obtained through exposure to sunlight, protects against health problems like osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Improve Your Financial Health
Store-bought vegetables don’t taste as good as homegrown, and they can be on the pricey side. Even growing just a few of your favorites can noticeably trim your grocery bill.
Save money and recycle with cardboard gardening.
Promote Social Interaction
Get to know your neighbors while you tend your garden. Gardening is a bond that many people share and can help you become more involved with other members of the community.
Stimulate Your Mind
Gardening helps those with Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia by providing a safe and stimulating environment. The sensory stimulation can also help evoke memories. For more health benefits of gardening, look into planting a healing garden.