There’s no ho-hum with hummingbirds. These magnificent creatures just inches long will astound you.
Tiny hummingbirds flap their wings so fast they create an actual humming sound that gives them their name.
You’ll want to research which hummingbirds are drawn to your area. Here in New York, we get five amazing species.
Especially that mysterious and elusive little ruby-throated hummingbird. I also get my fair share of the calliope hummingbird. Less seen by me are the rufous, but if I keep my eyes peeled they do show up.
I have six hummingbird feeders which are always full of man-made nectar. And I still want more!
Once I had four hummingbirds swirling around my feeders for their homemade nectar.
If time was not an issue, I could watch my hummingbird feeders all day long. Too bad there’s lunch to prepare and laundry to fold.
So today we are talking about attracting hummingbirds. How-to lure hummingbirds into your yard and garden, their preferences, likes, and dislikes.
And it’s super easy, all they want is food, water, and protection! Once you start attracting hummingbirds to your space, you won’t be able to stop!Read more: Attracting hummingbirds to your garden!
Attracting hummingbirds – the when!
Hummingbirds should arrive by early to mid-May, although you may be lucky and see one in late April. Some of you lucky folk will see hummingbirds as early as February.
After a season of mating, laying eggs, and raising their young, hummingbirds depart New York near the end of September and early October.
Hummingbirds are found only in the Western Hemisphere, with almost half the species living in the “equatorial belt” between 10 degrees north and south of the equator.
The hummingbird family is very large, with over 330 species and 115 genera, mostly south of the U.S.
Hummingbirds comprise the family Trochilidae, among the smallest of birds, with most species measuring in the 3″-5″ range.
Many hummingbirds spend the winter in Central America or Mexico and migrate north to their breeding grounds in the southern U.S. as early as February, and to areas further north later in the spring. The first arrivals in spring are usually males.
Fewer than two dozen species venture into the U.S. and Canada, and only a few species remain year-round.
Crazy but true fact~ experts have confirmed that many hummingbirds do indeed return to the same bird feeders, gardens, and yards each year!
How much and how often do hummingbirds eat?
Hummingbirds have a very high metabolism and must eat all day long just to survive.
They consume between 1.5 to 3 times their body weight in food per day, feeding every 10-15 minutes, and visit 1,000-2,000 flowers each day.
Imagine eating 5-8 times an hour! That’s a lot of bugs, nectar, and sugar water! (man-made nectar.)
Hummingbirds consume insects as a significant portion of their diet, while nectar (natural from flowers or man-made) gives them energy.
While I have no intention of feeding my hummingbirds bugs, I’m more than happy to provide the right type of plants and consistent sugar water to keep their happy hearts humming.
However, I will leave small spider webs that will give the hummingbirds the opportunity to munch on a spider.
Nesting females will also collect spider silks to bind their nests together during the construction of a new nest or the revamping of old nests.
Really nice people hang mesh bugs with fruit peels outdoors to attract insects to an area for the hummingbirds. I don’t because they also attract ants.
Man-made nectar “recipe” for attracting hummingbirds
With the typical 4:1 ratio of water to sugar, a ruby-throat probably won’t drink more than about 2 fluid ounces per day.
My “recipe” is 1 cup of pure granulated white cane sugar to 4 cups of purified water. I make extra and pour it into an empty and cleansed milk jug placed in the fridge.
Unused man-made nectar lasts well in the fridge for 7-10 days.
If you’d like to make a smaller batch, try dissolving just 2 tablespoons of sugar into 8 tablespoons of water at a time.
Mix the sugar until it’s well dissolved with a fork or whisk it.
A group of hummingbirds can empty a feeder quickly which is why I opt for bigger batches.
Depending on the size of your hummingbird feeder, how many different birds are visiting your feeders, and how often each bird visits, you could reasonably expect a group of active birds to empty your feeder in two or three days
A hummingbird’s favorite time of day to visit a feeder and feed on your nectar is usually dawn and dusk, or early in the morning and late in the afternoon before sunset. That’s when I snap my photos.
But even though those two times seem to be their favorite to eat, hummingbirds do feed all day. As I write this post, I observe there’s almost no time when a hummingbird isn’t feeding at my feeders.
Seeing red when attracting hummingbirds…
Regardless of why they like red, it works. Hummingbirds seem to flock to this bold, bright hue, so be sure to introduce red to your yard wherever possible to keep them coming back.
Adding feeders with red accents is one of the easiest ways to feature this bright color in your yard. All my feeders have some red to them.
What you don’t want to add is a red dye which may harm your sweet hummers! Also avoid adding honey, organic, brown or golden sugar, or commercial mixes.
I recently learned that boiling water is also unnecessary. A big plus for people under time contains.
Also bad is the use of any pesticide. Not only does pesticide use reduce bugs, which hummingbirds munch on, but pesticides applied to the soil are also very bad.
When pesticides get into the soil, it’s absorbed into the plant’s nectar. When applied to a plant, pesticides can rub off on the bugs that the birds eat.
Plus, pesticides could rub off onto the birds when they clean their feathers and its accidentally ingested. All bad!
Fast fact: Of more than 330 species of hummingbirds, only a handful are found in North America, including the famous ruby-throated hummingbird, which makes its way across the Gulf of Mexico and northward for the breeding season.
Cleaning the hummingbird feeders
Clean the feeder with hot, soapy water and replace the sugar water every three to five days – sooner if the nectar gets a little cloudy.
Clean feeders immediately if you spot mold. Plastic feeders mold quicker than glass ones so if mold forms, use a mild bleach solution and clean the feeding holes with a thin brush.
Rinse thoroughly with water and let feeders sit in the sun for a day to ensure all bleach traces are gone before filling again with sugar water.
Never put anything other than sugar and water into a hummingbird feeder.
If you get numerous hummingbirds then you might find the hummingbird feeders are empty in 1-3 days, so cloudiness doesn’t become an issue.
Still, I wash mine prior to re-filling them.
Ants are attracted to sugar water too and can be problematic not to mention icky. I don’t like them swirling in my feeders. Yuck!
Some types of feeders are more likely to attract pests than others I’ve noted. Regardless, if I notice too many ants, I dump the sugar water, wash the feeders and start fresh.
At the end of hummingbird season (insert big sad sigh here) I bleach all my feeders and let them air dry. I store them in a cool, dry place until April of the following year.
Fast fact: Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth at the base of the hummingbird feeder. The sharp edges of food-grade diatomaceous earth cut the exoskeletons of ants and other garden insects, killing them.
All about feeders when attracting hummingbirds…
When selecting feeders to add to your home, select ones that will be easy to take apart and clean.
I dislike feeders with lots of plastic parts that tend to mold quickly if left unattended (like when you go on vacay).
Glass feeders are always a good bet and super easy to clean.
Position hummingbird feeders in cooler, shaded areas out of direct afternoon sunlight, when the day’s heat is more likely to promote faster fermentation and spoilage.
A well-placed sugar-water feeder protects hummingbirds from window strikes and predators such as snakes and cats while allowing clear views.
It’s best to place feeders 6 feet from a house, 5 feet off the ground, and 10 feet from a shrub or tree.
Also always keep some distance from your sugar-water feeders and any seed or suet feeders which draw in larger birds. You don’t want those big birds intimidating your sweet, little hummers.
Be aware that it’s likely your feeder is attracting more than one male hummingbird during the breeding season.
Since hummingbirds are territorial when their hormone levels are high, it’s best to have at least two feeders close together to keep the peace.
Perfecting plants for attracting hummingbirds…
If you have the space, plant bushes that have fluffy plant fibers for the female to take for her nest, or hang a nesting material station near your feeders that they can take natural materials from instead.
Planting hummingbird-friendly native flowers is a way to attract these beauties and provide natural nectar.
A quick online search will reveal the best-hanging pots and native flowering bushes, plants, and trees that are always a good investment.
The exotic-looking fuchsia in shades of white, pink, hot pink, and purple is the surest way to a hummingbird’s heart. They absolutely love them!
Consider perennials such as bee balms, columbines, penstemons, daylilies, and lupines; biennials such as foxgloves and hollyhocks. A few awesome annuals are cleomes, impatiens, and petunias. You can’t go wrong with salvias or jewelweed.
It’s never a bad idea to ask the workers at the local nursery. Even better.. grab a pair of binoculars and simply sit outside, observing which wild blooms the hummingbirds visit on their own.
Other ways to make hummingbirds’ hearts hum…
Other ideas to make those adorable hummingbirds content is to introduce nesting material, hanging perches, or even shallow water sources for them to bathe in.
An ideal perch could be a high, thin branch left to grow beyond the main growth of shrubs. Another option is purchased or homemade swings constructed from wire.
Hang them on small trees or posts near nectar-producing flowers and your sugar-water feeders. but high enough off the ground to protect them from predators.
I love how the hummingbird in the above photo is gleeful over this zip-tie perch! Round the clock, this zip tie perch almost always has a diminutive feathered friend resting on it. So cute!
And it makes sense. Hummingbirds hover, fly backward and dart straight ahead at speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour—no wonder they appreciate a perch to pause and reset their weary bodies. Not to mention watch for tasty bugs!
The placement of perches is to be considered. Why not put your perch next to a preening station for wet hummingbirds for a destination vacation!?
A hummingbird bath should be flat, shallow, and have a mister in a perfect world. Or, use a traditional birdbath filled with a few rocks piled atop to decrease the depth.
Natural Ant Repellent Spray
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 heaping tablespoon cayenne pepper