By Wendy Langhans
OK – I admit it – I’m somewhat partial to red. My first car, a used VW Fastback, was red. My current car, a Mazda M3, is also red. But I’m not the only one who is partial to red. So are Hummingbirds. Here’s just one example – a Costa’s Hummingbird approaching a Chuparosa flower. This photo was taken about 170 miles southeast of here, in the Anza Borrego desert, east of San Diego.
Hummingbirds are attracted to tubular-shaped flowers, which provide a glove-in-hand fit for their long beaks. Even though they’re especially attracted to red, their eyes can see the full color spectrum, including ultraviolet light. They’re also attracted to home gardens and hummingbird feeders, which is one of the reasons given to explain why hummingbird population has increased in San Diego, especially east of the I-15. According to UCSD researcher, Dr. Joshua Kohn, “Hummingbirds are now three times as dense inland as they were on the coast 50 years ago”.
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In the words of management consultant Peter Drucker, “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” Flowers are in the business of attracting pollinating customers through the use of color, shape and scent. So how are the local wildflowers responding to an increase in the number of hummingbird pollinators? One species of wildflower, Sticky Monkeyflowers, is responding by changing their product mix.
Sticky Monkeyflowers (Mimulus aurantiacus) come in two color morphs. According researchers at UCSD, “The red morph occurs close to the coast while the yellow morph occurs inland, with a narrow hybrid zone in between. Experimental studies have shown that hummingbirds, though they visit yellow populations, strongly prefer the red-flowered form when given a choice and that hawkmoths only visit the yellow form.”
Red Sticky monkeyflowers are now being found in greater numbers and further inland from the coast. The researchers suggest that an increase in suburban development has led to an increase in the number of hummingbirds, which in turn has lead to an increase in the red version of the Sticky Monkeyflower. All I can add to that is “Zoom zoom.”
(My thanks to Paul Levine for the hummingbird photos.)
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, February 19, 8:00-10:00 AM, Morning Bird Hike at Towsley Canyon. With our local deciduous trees bare, now is a great time to view exposed nests and homes of our feathered friends. Beginners are welcome. Bring binoculars, easy walk. 2 hrs. For directions and trail maps, click here.
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, February 2, 9, 16 & 23.
Saturday mornings, February 12 & 26.
For a glimpse of our local flowering plants, check out the Facebook page, “90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers”.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
NEW!!! Check out the new Facebook page – L.A. Mountains!!!