How To: Attract Hummingbirds
Make your garden an open invitation to these fun feathered friends and then enjoy their buzzy beauty all season long!
With iridescent wings that catch the light as they flit between flowers, hummingbirds have earned their nickname of “flying jewels.” There are more than 300 species of these migratory winged wonders, 12 of which summer in North America and winter in tropical areas. Yet even if they don’t necessarily proliferate in your area, you can tempt them into your yard with the strategies outlined here. And you should! Not merely a joy to behold, hummingbirds—so called for the buzzing created by their wings beating in a figure-eight pattern 80 times per second—are a boon to gardeners because they pollinate as they feed, just like bees. So follow this guide on how to attract hummingbirds to an irresistible garden, and then sit back and enjoy the show.
1. Plant what they love.
Hummingbirds feed on tree sap, insects, pollen, and—their favorite dish—the nectar of flowers. So the best way to invite them is to transform your garden into a veritable smorgasbord. While it’s true that they’re partial to the color red and appreciate tubular shapes that discourage insects yet seem tailor-made for the hummers’ long, tapered bills, they’ll dip into any nectar-producing bloom, including geranium, begonia, hollyhocks, petunias, azaleas, butterfly bush, honeysuckle, weigela, morning glory, and tulip poplar. Plant some of these species that are suited to your USDA hardiness zone, and you’ll hopefully host hummingbirds in abundance.
2. Fill hanging feeders with nectar.
Amp the flower factor with a feeder! Generally available in hardware and discount stores starting in the spring, feeders come in a range of styles and price points. All feature a reservoir for nectar and ports for hummingbirds to drink from. Hang the feeder in a quiet spot close to the plants and flowers these feathered fairies already enjoy, but nowhere too lush or leafy that it obscures your viewing pleasure. You’ll also want easy access to the feeder for cleaning and refilling.
To make your own hummingbird nectar, bring one part white sugar to four parts water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Allow the solution to cool to room temperature before pouring into the feeder. Store any leftover nectar in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Be sure to take the feeder down at least once a week to clean it with mild detergent and water. An unattended feeder is bound to grow bacteria that could potentially harm birds.
3. Provide water and respite.
In addition to nectar, hummingbirds need plain water to drink and to bathe in. Birdbaths are not recommended, because the water is stagnant and deep. But a gently moving waterfall feature or a mister makes for a heavenly hummingbird spa. You might even catch them whizzing through your sprinklers for a quick shower on the fly. Once wet, hummers may actually perch on a nearby branch to preen and rest (it’s tiring to keep wings beating so fast for so long!). If you have no trees or shrubs that offer perfect perching, simply stick a dead branch into the ground about 50 feet from your hummingbird feeder or planting area.
4. Encourage nesting.
Hummer won’t occupy a birdhouse or nesting box. Instead, they build their own nests in trees and shrubs with twigs, leaves, plant fibers, and other natural materials, all bound together ingeniously with spider silk. So don’t be so quick to chase spiders from your property; their webs provide this necessary material. Hummingbirds will also eat spiders, as well as small insects and larvae, for a source of protein, fat, and salt.
Once you spot your first visitors after following through on these methods for how to attract hummingbirds to your yard, you’ll look forward to their return each year. It’s truly one of nature’s gifts that such a tiny creature can provide so much delight.