Did you know there are over 1000 species of pollinating animals in Canada?
That’s right…bees, birds, beetles, butterflies, flies, moths, small animals and wasps are all pollinator species here in Canada. Plants and their pollinators are an invaluable natural resource. Pollination is the key factor that enables producers to grow over a billion dollars’ worth of apples, berries, cucumbers, melons, pears and numerous other kinds of Canadian farm produce.
Of the 690 species of birds in Canada, 223 are accidental meaning they are rarely seen here. Twelve species were introduced to North America or directly to Canada, three species are extinct and three (possibly four) have been extirpated meaning they are no longer in Canada but seen elsewhere. One species of uncertain origin is also included.
When pollination is carried out by birds it is known as Ornithophily.
Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world (weighing in at about 2.5 grams - the weight of a penny) are most common species of birds who pollinate.
Did you know that flowers use scents to attract insects and not hummingbirds?
Plants that attract bird pollinators commonly have bright red, orange or yellow flowers and very little scent. Hummingbirds do not have a sense of smell. Hummingbirds are visual hunters and guided by their eyes. Hummingbirds are attracted to flowers that are unscented, brightly coloured and tubular as these hold the most nectar.
These are the beneficial plants that provide much more nectar than hybrid and exotic flowering plants:
- Perennials such as bee balms, columbines, daylilies, lupines, red or purple hollyhock, pink or red coral bells, summer phlox or sage.
- Biennials including foxgloves and hollyhocks
- Annuals including begonias, cleomes, cosmos, geraniums, impatiens and petunias
- Red or orange tubular flowering plants
- Plants rich in nectar like trumpet honeysuckle and hummingbird sage
- Hummingbirds also spread flowering plant pollen necessary to produce vital greens, fruits, vegetables and grains.
- Shrubs and vines like hibiscus, honeysuckle and flowering currant; these plants prefer full sun exposure and shelter from winds.
- Sunflowers are vital to pollinators; birds love the seeds and they are rich in sources of nectar and pollen for honeybees, bumblebees and other wild bee species, butterflies and other beneficial insects. Remember to leave the flower in the garden after the season has ended as it becomes a natural late season and winter food source right where it grows.
Did you know that Hummingbirds actually do return!
Yes, experts have confirmed that many of the hummingbirds actually do return to the same gardens, feeders and backyards every year if there are sufficient plants and nourishment to help them survive. The lifespan of a hummingbird is 3-5 years and establishing an environment to return to is likely key to a longer life.
The biodiversity and climate change crisis is a major dilemma in Canada. A staggering three billion birds, basically one third of the bird species has been lost from Canada and the United States since just 1970. And significant declines in pollinator populations have been noted around the world since 2006.
Our pollinators are at risk from all kinds of conditions such as invasive species, cats, collisions with windows, habitat loss, and climate change.
Habitat Loss: this is the biggest impact to our pollinator decline in recent decades. In Canada, our land use changes including agricultural activity, urban development, natural resource extraction, and infrastructure development have all contributed to this decline. Loss of bird habitat affects both aquatic and terrestrial environments including marine and coastal areas. We need to create gardens, yards and lawns that support our bird species with beneficial nutrients and attractants to help them survive.
Pesticides: reduce and gradually eliminate the use of pesticides on your property – if you can put this into practice it would be a game changer for many pollinators. Attracting pollinators like birds will benefit your garden and eventually a natural balance will result. If you can experiment with meadow gardens, wildflower gardens and kick the lawn habit you're ‘wild’ areas create more natural environments, are shelters for all kinds of pollinators, and are more beneficial as food sources.
And when it comes to climate change…as our pollinator population declines, so will the organic foods and plant products we enjoy; wild ecosystems depend on these pollinators and they need our help to create more areas for them to eat and thrive.
Planting vegetation they need provides cover and food for birds; flowering plants like sunflowers and thistles are highly beneficial for prewinter food sources.
- Adding tubular, nectar-producing flowers to your garden is another way to help.
- Flowering trees and shrubs also attract hummingbirds.
- Fruiting trees such as mountain ash and serviceberry attract fruit-eating birds such as bluebirds, robins, and waxwings.
- Many sparrow species benefit from native prairie grass plantings.
A great way to identify bird pollinators and give your children an opportunity to learn about which birds you can attract to your garden: check out this Wikipedia link below - there are terrific photos of each bird in Canada to help identify them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_birds_of_Canada
Remember to clean your bird feeders every two weeks with hot soapy water and a vinegar solution. And make sure to always have a source of water for all pollinators.