Emperor Valley Zoo Hummingbird Garden
The Emperor Valley Zoo Hummingbird Garden was opened in April of 2011 as part of general upgrade of the zoo. Located at the south eastern corner of the zoo, an open air exhibit instead of an enclosed aviary, the hummingbird garden, designed to attract hummingbirds, is next to the flamingos and turtle exhibits. To its south are the Rock Garden and Hollows of the Queen’s Park Savannah, to the north is the forest of Chancellor Hill and to the east is the Royal Botanic Gardens, potential hummingbird habitats and sources of the flying visitors. A bit small, possibly due to limited zoo space, the garden approximates 14 by 22 meters. However, it is the focus and core of a ˈgreater gardenˈ as the surroundings are also planted.
The Hummingbird Plants
Around the core garden are Heliconia latispatha, a leafy plant with attractive erect yellow, red or yellow-red bracts (a modified leaf serving to protect the enclosed flowers, mostly in the bud stage, and attract pollinators) that jut out at the uppermost of high stems; and Bougainvillea, thorny ornamental vines with white flowers surrounded by pink, magenta, purple, red, orange, white, or yellow bracts, are planted as hedges at the zoo southern and western perimeter.
The core garden has mainly perennials, e.g., Heliconia Bihai (balisier), a leafy plant with upward pointing red bracts, Heliconia Rostrata (hanging lobster claw), a leafy plant with downward hanging red and yellow bracts, vervine (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), a shrub that produces a five petal flower that are blue or purple but they can be white or pink, red ixora (West Indian Jasmine), a favorite of hummingbirds, and croton (Codiaeum variegatum). The heliconias, vervine and ixora are particularly attractive to hummingbirds but the bougainvillea is less nutritious. Rather, the bougainvillea and croton act more like color decoys to attract hummingbirds.
Given the zooˈs location and the presence of a cultivated garden, nearby secondary forest and Botanic gardens the green hermit, little hermit, all the local emeralds, including the white-chested emeralds, white-necked jacobin, rufous-breasted hermit, copper-rumped hummingbird, black-throated mango and ruby-topaz hummingbird are expected visitors to the garden. However, there are at least 5 reported species visiting the Emperor Valley Zoo Hummingbird Garden, the black-throated mango, copper-rumped hummingbird, little hermit, ruby-topaz hummingbird and the white-chested emerald. The male of the black-throated mango exhibits a glossy bright green back and dull black throat with a blue green border whilst the female has bronze-green upperparts and a central black stripe on white underparts; essentially green throughout, the copper-rumped hummingbird is a small hummingbird with a copper-green back, copper-bronze rump and bright green underparts; the little hermit, also small, has olive-green upper parts and orange ochraceous (yellow brown or khaki) belly; a very small hummingbird, the ruby-topaz hummingbird has deep red crown and nape, iridescent gold gorget and breast and orange tail; and the white-chested emerald has bright golden-green upperparts, reddish copper upper tail and white underparts.
A break from rhythm and pace of a zoo tour, attention to a small scale and patience may be required to enjoy these birds. But as hummingbirds expend a lot of energy they must feed frequently during the day--creating an opportunity for observation. Paved pathways lead up to and around the core garden so close inspection is possible. Although hummingbirds can become accustomed to the presence of humans, remote observation may be better.
Notes (April 2015):
- A sound/barrier can help to reduce the road noise in the garden, from the nearby Circular Road, which is a modest disturbance to the ambiance and may pose a deterrent to potential hummingbird visitors.
- Much more green than red (a color more eye-catching to hummingbirds) in the garden as the garden and its immediate surrounding are dominated by herbaceous perennials, particularly Heliconia latispatha.
- The Heloconia latispatha dominance also contributes to the sense of a single layered garden rather than a multilayered one.
- A trellis, along the southern fence, with some nutritious flowering vines would contribute to a layered garden effect.
- Inclusion of annuals with shorter life cycles would complement the perennials bloom cycle; these planted in bunches can take advantage of hummingbirds attraction to broad strokes of colour.
- Areas of natural shade, within 20-30 feet of the core garden, with perches would help to entice the hummingbirds to linger.
- Hummingbirds like to take baths and play with water, so, the garden would be enhanced with a shallow bird bath and mister/sprinkler system.
- Signage detailing visiting hummingbirds and plant species can be an advantage to the garden experience.
- Pathway signage can help guide visitors.