If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll want to know how to attract hummingbirds.
I live in Kansas where the hummingbirds arrived here a bit late this year, but who can blame them? 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 attract hummingbirds so they’ll come and stick around for the summer.
How To Attract Hummingbirds
PLANTS THAT ATTRACT HUMMINGBIRDS
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, hummingbirds don’t have a good sense of smell and instead rely upon 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
PLANTS THAT PROVIDE SHELTER
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 birdhouses. Since their nests are very tiny, they look for a sturdy V in the branches of trees to protect them 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 their birthplace, each year we get at least a dozen hummingbirds setting up house in our yard — which means we also have to keep around four feeders going at all times.
Other trees that shelter hummingbirds:
PROVIDE NESTING MATERIALS
The female hummingbird is solely responsible for building the nest. (Male hummingbirds are 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
- Pet hair
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 want to keep hummingbirds around, hang a feeder or two where they can safely feed without becoming your cat or dog’s lunch in the process.
You will need:
1 cup sugar
4 cups water
1. Stir sugar and water together and bring to a boil. Boiling kills microbes and delays the growth of mold and bacteria.
2. Let cool before pouring into hummingbird feeders.
3. Discard weekly and replace with fresh nectar. You may need to do this more often in warm, humid environments where mold and bacteria grow more quickly.
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. The 1:4 ratio is designed to simulate natural nectar: too much sugar and it will spoil quickly, too little and the hummingbirds won’t be getting the energy they need.
• Don’t substitute anything for the sugar. Both honey and molasses can create a mold that will kill hummingbirds, while agave and other sweeteners don’t provide the caloric energy they need.
• Adding red dye isn’t necessary. If your feeder is brightly colored, they’ll find it.
KEEP THE FEEDERS CLEAN
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 70°F or below, every three days when they’re in the 80s, and daily if the temps climb over 90 degrees.
1. To clean the feeder, drain any unfinished nectar. (Don’t even think about using it again!)
2. 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 well, letting the rice or beans act as scouring abrasives.
3. 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.
4. If nectar turns milky or mold starts growing inside the feeder, you need 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.
EVER FED A HUMMINGBIRD BY HAND?
If you want to get 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!