How to Attract Hummingbirds
Written by: Dottie Baltz
Hummingbirds are a wonderful addition to any yard and garden. They are fun to watch and just a plain joy to have around. There is something to be said for a colorful bird that weighs less than an ounce, that can hover and fly backwards and fly at speeds of 25-50 miles per hour. What a powerhouse of a bird in such a tiny body!
Up north, we only have the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds during the summer months. They arrive in mid to late April and usually are gone before October (you can view there migration map here). It's always such a joy to see them for the first time. I know then that summer is truly around the corner.
One way to attract them is by planting trumpet shaped flowers that they can get nectar from. Hummingbirds use their sight to find new feeding grounds, so planting colorful flowers is a great way to attract them if you have never had them in your yard before. Popular flowers in my garden are the blooms on the weigela, butterfly bush, honeysuckle, rose of sharon and flowering quince shrubs. They also really seem to enjoy the fuchsia, lupine, petunia, bee balm, coral bells, foxglove, four o-clocks, penstemon, yucca, hyssop, salvia and hosta blooms. Plant different varieties and species of plants so that something is blooming for them all season long.
Once you have planted a garden that is designed to attract hummingbirds, you will want to stop using any chemical pesticides or herbicides as these chemicals can kill the hummingbirds as well as the insects they need to survive. They eat small soft bodied insects and spiders, so they need a good food supply if you want them to stay in the area. Nectar from flowers and sugar water are just a supplement to their diet. Bugs are really their main source of protein and nutrients.
Putting up sugar water feeders is a great way to see your hummingbirds up close and personal. I find that they use the feeders most in the early morning and at dusk when they are stock piling calories for the long night ahead or boosting their energy after a long nights sleep. The recipe for sugar water is simple.
One part white sugar to four parts tap water.
I like to warm the water in a pan or microwave first before adding the sugar so that it dissolves completely. Let the syrup cool, then add it to your hummingbird feeder. Any remaining syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.
I've noticed that hummingbirds love to perch near the feeder, so hang it near a tree or from a Sheppard's hook where they can wait in the wings until they are ready to eat. Mine is hanging from a hook on our deck and a large maple is planted near it. They must spend hours a day perched on the limbs of that tree, flying down every few minutes to take a drink.
Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned weekly and the syrup should be changed every few days during hot weather. Since most hummingbird feeders have small openings, I like to clean my feeders with baking soda and white vinegar. The fizzing action that occurs once the two are mixed, act as a scrubbing agent. For really dirty feeders, you can add sand to the feeder, and swish it around with the vinegar. If your feeders are cleaned often, they should be very easy to clean. I avoid soap when cleaning as it is difficult to remove all the residue and apparently the hummingbirds can taste it too.
Once a month I will disinfect my feeder by soaking it in hot water with a cap full of bleach. Rinse well, refill and enjoy the show.