Nearly 20 species of hummingbirds migrate from Mexico and Central and South America to the U.S. to nest every spring. Their high metabolism rate requires that they eat half or more of their body weight each day, so attracting hummingbirds to your yard is not as difficult as you may think. The bills and tongues of these tiny jewels are adapted to suck nectar—their primary diet—but they eat small insects, too. Their ability to hover allows them to feed from tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers that lack landing platforms.
Attracting hummers naturally…
Planting a hummingbird garden, or adding plants they like in your current landscape will certainly help in your efforts to entice them. Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to the color red, and feed on flowers that are rich in nectar. So when you are perusing the garden center for what to plant, consider this:
- When possible, go native; choose plants that grow naturally in your area.
- Mix it up by using perennial and annual flowers.
- Select plants with red or orange tubular flowers in varying heights and bloom times, planting the taller ones behind the short ones. Bee balm, cardinal flower, and petunias are a few to consider.
- Also include flowers that produce a lot of nectar but are not necessarily red or orange, like prairie blazing star, lupine, or morning glory.
- Plant flowers near trees that can offer protection from predators and the weather.
- Include a birdbath with a mister or a dripper.
- NEVER use any pesticides or herbicides.
- If you live in an apartment or condo, consider a hanging basket of fuchsia or red petunias.
- Find out what native plants grow in your area by contacting the Lady Bird Wildflower Center or your local Agricultural Extension Office.
Although nectar-producing plants are the best source of food for hummingbirds, you can also offer them artificial nectar in the form of sugar water. However, there are some important things for you to know to ensure that you are offering good, wholesome nectar in well-sanitized feeders.
- Hummingbirds are very territorial around food, so having several feeders will attract more birds and reduce the likelihood of hummer-feeder wars.
- Choose feeders that are easy to take apart and easy to clean, and a size that the birds will empty in a day or two.
- To make the nectar, dissolve one part granulated white cane sugar into four parts water. Store unused portion in a glass jar in the refrigerator for no more than two weeks.
- Never use honey, red food dye or coloring, artificial sweeteners, or premade mixes with red dye.
- Hang feeders in a shady spot, out of direct sunlight. The sun causes the nectar to ferment and spoil.
- Refresh and clean feeders at least every two to three days. During very hot weather, change the nectar and clean feeders daily.
- Clean feeders with a bottle brush using hot tap water each time you refresh the nectar.
- NEVER use soap or detergent.
To learn more about the hummingbirds that frequent your area, go to All About Birds.