Spotting a hummingbird is a little like spotting a rainbow in the sky—it’s rare, and it’s delightful. Unlike rainbows, however, there are ways you can attract hummingbirds to your garden. It’s a matter of understanding their habits and what they like.
So, here’s the skinny on hummingbirds. Let’s begin by stating the obvious: hummingbirds are the smallest bird species, typically weighing less than 1 ounce and measuring about 2 inches in length. They are also the only bird species which can fly in any direction, including backwards. Their wings beat on average 80 times a second, giving them the ability to hover in midair as they sip nectar with their long, slender beaks.
Because of all that activity and their extremely high metabolism, hummingbirds expend a great deal of energy, making it necessary for them to eat half their body weight every day. That means they must eat continually throughout the day.
How to Send an Open Invitation to Hummingbirds
If you want people to come to your house for a party, you send them an engraved invitation. If you want hummingbirds to come to your garden, you can send them the equivalent of that invitation by providing them the things they like most.
Here are 3 ways to attract hummingbirds to your garden, and to ensure that they return every year:
1. Give Them a Place to Perch
Although it seems that hummingbirds never stop moving, in fact they spend most of their days (and nights) perched in trees and shrubs. Male hummingbirds like to perch in the open on twigs, vines or clotheslines. Females of the species prefer privacy, perching hidden in trees and shrubs. If your yard doesn’t have many trees, plant vines where male hummingbirds can perch. To attract females, make sure there are some thick shrubs close to the flowers where they feed.
2. Plant (Lots of) the Flowers That Hummingbirds Prefer
It’s important to plant the flowers from which hummingbirds prefer to feed. That includes herbs, flowering shrubs, dwarf trees and vines. Be sure to leave lots of space between plants so your hummingbird visitors have enough room to hover and effortlessly navigate from one flower to another.
Because hummingbirds have a relatively weak sense of smell, you should plant the brightly-colored flowers that help them find the nectar they’re looking for, especially red flowers. You should also opt for tubular flowers which hold the highest quantities of nectar. This includes perennials like as bee balms, columbines, daylilies and lupines, biennials like foxgloves and hollyhocks, and annuals like impatiens and petunias.
3. Set Up Hummingbird Feeders
This is one of the best ways to increase the odds of bringing hummingbirds to your yard, because you can stock your feeders with the foods hummingbirds most cherish. That means following a recipe that most closely mimics the constituents of nectar.
Start by mixing 1 part sugar with 4 parts of water. After combining the ingredients, boil the mixture for about 2 minutes (no more than that—boiling too long will remove too much of the water, which can be harmful to a hummingbird’s health)—this will remove any impurities from the sugar and the water. Make sure the “nectar” cools completely before putting it into your feeder(s).
The rule of thumb when cooking for hummingbirds is to keep it simple—don’t try to get fancy by using a sweetener other than sugar. Honey, for example, spoils quickly—that can lead to the growth of bacteria which can cause a fatal fungal disease. And don’t use artificial sweeteners—if there’s any species on the planet that doesn’t need to diet, it’s the hummingbird; they need those sugar calories to keep them going.
One additional little trick to add some cachet to your feeder—choose a brightly colored one, preferably red. In the same way that it’s easier for hummingbirds to find bright, red flowers, a red feeder is like telling your hummingbird, “Dinner is served!”
Hummingbirds are among the most fascinating and mesmerizing of bird species. Did you know, for example, that there are more than 325 species of hummingbird in the world, 8 which breed in America? Did you know that hummingbirds can’t walk or hop, or that more than 25% of their total weight is in their pectoral muscles, or that they take 250 breaths a minute while at rest?
Those are all great reasons to bring hummingbirds into your garden, and into your life. To find out more about the flowers, herbs, vines and seed collections which can help you get started on your quest to make hummingbirds a part of your life, shop our Flowers category now!