Learning how to attract hummingbirds is really easy, and it’s already that time again.
Perhaps because it feels like winter will never end, the appearance of my first Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on April 10 surprised me.
Last week, as I enjoyed my morning coffee on the patio, a dark blur jetted past my head.
At first I thought it was one of the many carpenter bees who’ve recently appeared. But just in case it was a hummer, I scrubbed up the feeder and mixed up a batch of food.
Sure enough, the next morning, our first little visitor appeared for breakfast, shortly after dawn. He’s been back every day since then. And I’ve also spotted 2 Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds at our cabin at the river.
Though the return of these little darlings seemed early, I checked a couple of bird migration sites and found that the hummers are right on time. Experts advise hanging your feeders out a couple of weeks before the scheduled arrival date in your area. I guess I was asleep at the helm this year. I knew it was important to get that feeder out, and I thought you might like to know a few tips for attracting your own hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds’ Basic Needs
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, hummingbirds have 4 basic needs:
Food for Hummingbirds
Instead of paying for pricey “hummingbird nectar” at the store, make your own. Doing so will not only save you money, but your homemade version will actually be healthier for the little cuties because it will NOT have any red dye in it! (I’ll bet you like to avoid unnecessary additives in your own food, so why not help the hummers do the same?)
Several years ago when I took a Master Gardener course, Carol Reese–diva of all things growing–gave this recipe, which I’ve used ever since.
Recipe for Hummingbird Food
- 3 parts water
- 1 part sugar
- Do NOT add red food coloring!
Simply mix the water and sugar, give the solution a good stir, and boil it on the stove or in the microwave for 2 minutes. Cool it, and store in the refrigerator.
That’s it! I usually put mine into a large Pyrex measuring bowl and heat it in the microwave. I must confess that I rarely boil the mixture. Instead, I heat it for a minute or so, cool it, and that’s that.
Actually, the original recipe called for 4 parts water to 1 part sugar, but Carol Reese modified the recipe to make it more concentrated. I think this is “crack” for hummingbirds. Mine surely slurp it up and come back for more.
Clean your feeder often, and watch that ants and wasps don’t take over, making your feasting spot uninviting.
Plants for Hummingbird Food
You’ll also increase your chances for attracting and guaranteeing return visitors by planting a variety of colorful plants, especially dark pink and red flowering plants, such as these:
- bee balm,
- day lilies,
Such common plants, either in pots or in the ground, will do the trick.
Hummers also need water, obviously, and enjoy a fountain or a fixture that provides a refreshing spray of water.
Security, Shade, and Shelter for Hummingbirds
Hang your feeder where your hummers can enjoy their frequent meals without worry of being attacked by cats or other critters. In other words, make it high enough so they are not disturbed unnecessarily.
Because hummingbirds are territorial and like to fight with other hummers, hanging more than one feeder and also providing flowers, vines, and trees will make your habitat both more inviting and more secure for them. Having this variety will ensure resting places at different heights, allowing them their own spot and some shade and shelter as well.
Other Tidbits about Hummingbirds
- According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, hummingbirds must consume so much because they burn up to half their body weight daily! (Now why can’t we do that?!)
- Constantly in motion, these tiny beauties beat their wings up to 80 times a second!
- As a result, they need loads of calories: 12,000 a day! (That’s also why I don’t feel as if I’m creating a species of hummers suffering from Type 2 Diabetes by upping the sugar-to-water ratio in the nectar I so lovingly prepare for them.)
- They can fly in any direction, even backwards! I’ve often experienced them dive-bombing me on the porch at the river. They may be tiny and beautiful, but they can be aggressive.
- Once they get used to you, they’ll let you come very near, especially if you’re wearing red. They love my pajamas that have big red ladybugs all over them!
- They can sometimes even be coaxed to eat out of your hand, though I’ve not yet tried this trick. Maybe this year…
Last year we had as many as 13 hummers at our feeder at the river at one time! It gets loud with that many humming! (The Old Farmer’s Almanac reports that one of the most frequently asked questions is “Why do hummingbirds hum?” Their response: “‘We really aren’t sure, but suspect that it might be because they don’t know the words.’”)
Mix up some hummingbird nectar, scrub up your feeders, and watch for these little acrobats to appear.
Have you had any hummers yet or in years past? What have been your experiences with them or tips for attracting and keeping them? Let me know in the comments below.