If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll want to know how to attract hummingbirds. Here, the hummingbirds arrived here a bit late this year, but who can blame them? Why, just a few days ago it was snowing. In May! But the weather’s since turned nice, so now it’s time to think about how to care for hummingbirds so they’ll stick around for the summer.
How To Attract Hummingbirds
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, hummingbirds don’t have a good sense of smell and rely, instead, on bright colors to attract them to their food. Given the shape of their beaks, they particularly enjoy the feasts to be found in tube-shaped flowers, which hold the most nectar.
Some varieties of plants that attract hummingbirds are:
- Angel trumpets
- Flowering tobacco
- Butterfly bush
- Bee balm
After locating sources of food, hummingbirds look for good places to nest. Unlike many birds, they don’t build their nests in holes in tree trunks or even standard bird houses. Since their nests are very tiny, they look for a sturdy V in the branches of trees where they can be sheltered from the wind.
Our backyard has a large catalpa tree which, in addition to providing flowers they love, offers many perfect places for them to nest. Since hummingbirds typically return to the area where they were hatched, each year we get at least a dozen hummingbirds setting up house in our yard (which means we also have to keep around 4 feeders going at all times).
Other trees that attract hummingbirds to nest:
How To Help Hummingbirds Build Nests
The female hummingbird is solely responsible for building the nest. (Male hummingbirds are kind of jerks that way.) You can help make her job easier by keeping a good supply of soft materials they like to use when nest-building:
- Cottonwood fluff
- Dryer lint
- Spider webs (don’t clear them around nesting season)
While nest-building, the females work incredibly hard, easily burning over 12,000 calories a day (wow, right?!) so it’s important to make sure they have plenty of food available. If you truly want to keep hummingbirds around, be sure to hang a feeder or two where they can safely feed without becoming your cat or dog’s lunch in the process.
How To Make Hummingbird Nectar
Heat in pan, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved:
1 part sugar
4 parts water
Let cool before pouring into hummingbird feeders.
Making hummingbird nectar is easy, but there are a few considerations involved:
• If your water has a lot of minerals in it, you’ll want to use filtered stuff or boil, then cool it, before measuring it for the nectar recipe.
• Don’t change the amount of sugar called for. The ratio is designed to simulate natural nectar: too sugar and it will go bad quickly, too little and the hummingbirds won’t be getting the energy they need to… well, flit about like hummingbirds.
• Don’t substitute honey, molasses, Stevia, agave or any artificial sweeteners for the sugar called for. Both honey and molasses can create a mold that will kill hummingbirds, while the others just don’t provide the caloric energy they need.
• Adding red dye isn’t necessary. They’ll find the stuff just fine.
How To Clean Hummingbird Feeders
It’s important to keep your feeders clean since dirty feeders breed mold and bacteria that can be fatal to hummingbirds. How often to clean them depends on the temperatures, but a good rule of thumb is to clean them weekly when the temps are 70F or below, every 3 days when they’re in the 80s, and daily if the temps climb over 90 degrees.
To clean the feeder, first drain any unfinished nectar. (Don’t even think about using it again!) Then pour a spoonful of dried rice or dried beans into the feeder, and fill it halfway with warm water. Cover the opening with your hand and shake like mad, letting the rice or beans act as scouring abrasives. Dump the feeder and rinse. As long as the old nectar was still clear, not milky, and there wasn’t any mold growing, you’re ready to refill it with fresh nectar and hang it again.
If nectar turns milky or black mold starts growing inside the feeder, you’ll want to disinfect it by adding 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water and soaking the feeder for an hour. Rinse repeatedly to get rid of any lingering chlorine before refilling the feeder.
Now, if you want to get truly adventurous, try feeding hummingbirds by hand! Just dress in red, then fill a clean shot glass or floral stem tube with hummingbird nectar and sit near where they’re used to eating, holding your hand very steady. It may take an hour or more of being perfectly still, but it’s a truly magical experience you’ll never forget!
Equipment I Use For This:
(Heads up: I personally own, recommend and use all of the items listed below. I’ve provided Amazon affiliate links if you’d like to purchase them. You won’t have to pay more, but I get a few pennies from each sale. Those pennies go toward the cost of running this site, so if you think about it, buying this stuff helps you out TWO ways!)