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Easy tips for attracting hummingbirds to your yard

April 5, 2013 | By | 8 Replies More

hummingbirds

Hummingbirds swarming a feeder

Even though I’ve seen hummingbirds hundreds of times, my first spring sighting – in the beginning of May in my area – is still a cause for celebration. I never tire of watching the tiny birds dart about the garden. Attracting hummingbirds to your yard requires some persistence, but it’s easy and rewarding.

Beginning in early Spring, I start checking the hummingbird migration maps.  The species that visits my yard each year is the ruby-throated hummingbird.  Every fall, they use their teeny-tiny little wings to fly all the way to South America for the winter.  A few months later, they fly all the way back to Philadelphia, and they start to appear right after my beloved forsythia are finished blooming.

 

Preparing for hummingbirds

1.  Get good hummingbird feeders that are easy to clean. When attracting hummingbirds to your yard, it’s crucial to diligently maintain your feeders, especially when the weather gets hot and mold can collect in the nectar and around feeding ports.

Choose drip-free feeders with a built-in ant moat or use a separate ant moat to keep ants out. I like to have at least one feeder that has a perch. Every so often, I get lucky, and a weary little hummer will suck down some nectar and then perch for a bit, sitting very still for me to admire. And the color red?  Yes, hummingbirds love red, but they also love orange, pink, and purple, so just pick what you like.

hummingbirds

Female hummingbird at feeder

2.  Prepare your nectar. Do not buy pre-made nectar.  It’s a waste of money, and the red dye used is not only unnecessary, but it’s not healthy for hummingbirds.  Dissolve one part ordinary white sugar and four parts boiling water and let cool.  That’s it, end of story.

3.  Maintenance is key. When the weather gets hot, nectar can get nasty pretty quickly. Cleanliness is very important for attracting hummingbirds and for their health. Use the hottest soapy water possible to thoroughly clean all feeding ports and then rinse completely to eliminate any fungus or mold. Use a tiny bristle brush with a wire handle that you can stick into the ports for scrubbing.

Many years ago, I’d been trying all summer to attract hummingbirds to my yard, and I hadn’t seen a single one. I was traveling a lot for work, and I had not been cleaning and refilling my feeders frequently enough. One rare evening at home, I sat outside with my glass of wine when an adorable little hummer stopped at my neglected, empty, probably moldy feeder. He kept zooming in, hoping to find just a droplet of fresh nectar before eventually flying away.

hummingbird

Salvia, another hummingbird magnet

I was so sad!  I had just assumed that because I hadn’t seen them, the hummingbirds weren’t visiting my yard. Don’t let it happen to you. If you’re going to feed hummingbirds, make the commitment to change the nectar every 2-3 days from spring until fall.

4.  Flowers, flowers, flowers! You can use a variety of flowers for attracting hummingbirds to your yard. All types of salvia, monarda (bee balm), lonicera (honeysuckle), and fuschia are natural hummingbird magnets, and they will beautify your yard. I place pots of black and blue salvia all around my patio and close to our seating areas. Hummingbirds cannot resist them, and they’ll come really close to get a taste. My newest hummingbird favorite is this honeysuckle from White Flower Farm – the vine itself is magnificent, and the hummers can’t get enough of it.

hummingbirds

Hummingbirds can’t resist bee balm

5.  Start early, stop late. If you live in a hummingbird migratory area, get those feeders out in the spring, before you see any hummingbirds. The very first ones to arrive will find your feeders and settle in your yard all season to nest and raise their babies. Lucky you!

Late in the summer, when you think all your hummers are gone, leave the feeders up for a few more weeks. Remember that at this time of the year, they are migrating back to South America. Hummingbirds from the north that are passing through your area on their journey will appreciate a quick meal to keep them going.

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Category: Enviable Ideas, General, Home and Garden

Comments (8)

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  1. Good article, short and to the point, no erroneous information. I’ve been feeding hummers for 20 years or so and there’s nothing like the sight of 40 or 50 hummers vying for 18 perches on 3 different feeders at sundown, trying to fill up before they head off to their nest for the night. So many hummers in one place is just amazing to see! Early in the season you can make your nectar a little stronger, perhaps a 3:1 mix, in order to keep those few birds that are arriving from moving on. That strong a solution will attract bees though, so don’t use it for more than 2-3 weeks. 4 parts water and 1 part sugar is correct. NEVER use honey or powdered or brown sugar either. Only white sugar. Cane sugar is preferable over beet sugar but the hummers will feed on the beet sugar solution if that’s all you have, with no ill effects. -Rod-

    • Brande says:

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Rod. Wow…I’d LOVE to see that many hummingbirds at once! I usually just have a few in the yard. I will definitely try the 3:1 mix. I really miss the hummers this year. We’re in the process of moving, and I made the decision to NOT start feeding at our current home this spring becasue I feared the new owners (moving in mid-summer) would not keep the feeders up. So, I instead put up one feeder at our new house hoping to attract some there. I don’t think the previous owner fed them, so it may take a while to attract them. Happy Spring!

  2. Sue Wheeler says:

    I, too, put my feeder out by the second week in March. But, I rarely have no more than four birds at any time. Occasionally, during migration, I will see more. I change water nectar regularly also; Texas is hot. It is not unusual for a pair, who are fighting for space, to fly into our glass and, occasionally, knock themselves out. Morning before last, two did exactly that. After several minutes, one flew away; the other just sat there as if in a trance. I went out, thinking he would fly away; but, I gently rubbed his head down to the tip of his tail. He seemed not to fear me. Thirty minutes later, he flew to the feeder and sat there almost an hour before flying away.

  3. Lea Arnold says:

    I love humming birds.Wish i could see three or four at my feeder at one time.Only one at a time.Other wise one chases the other one away.I have two feeders.enjoyed your comments and the article.

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