Every spring it happens—stunning, jewel-toned tiny birds come flitting through our yards on their way back home from their winter habitats in the south. The earliest sightings are usually in the warm, southern states around late February.
If you’d like to attract more of the little birds, get up to date on hummer facts and fiction, and read our tips for creating a hummingbird friendly habitat in your yard. If you’re curious about what species of hummers you’ve got, the most common varieties in the US are Allen’s, Rufous, Anna’s, Costa’s, and Ruby-Throated. You can get more info about these, and other, species at the World of Hummingbirds Catalog. Did you know that there are over 300 species of hummingbird in the world, and that 51 of them are endangered in some way?
To attract more hummingbirds, you want to create an inviting habitat—that includes water, places to perch, shade, sun, feeders full of nectar, and lots of tiny bugs. Obviously, you don’t want to use pesticides in your garden—you want those bugs for the hummingbirds. Attract enough hummingbirds, and you won’t have a bug problem!
Since hummingbirds are solitary, and can be aggressively territorial, it’s best to use multiple feeders, either spaced widely apart, or grouped tightly together to prevent one territorial bird from monopolizing them all. If hummingbird fights break out, don’t interfere, just observe and consider providing an extra feeder in the contested area.
So, you’ve got plenty of feeders, an inviting habitat, and the hummingbirds are coming regularly. But so are a bunch of uninvited guests like ants, wasps, squirrels and more. What to do?
- Ants—pesticide is not an option, but you can minimize ants by ensuring your feeder is not leaking. Use sticky ant traps along the feeder’s hanger. Do not use oil or Vaseline, or cooking spray, etc on the hanger. It may cut down on ants, but it can also stick to the hummingbird’s feathers.
- Wasps—while they’re good for the eco-system, they’re not so good for hummingbirds. Make sure your feeder doesn’t leak, and locate it well away from areas where you’ve seen wasps flying around. If wasps do find the feeder, try moving it around—your hummers will still find it very quickly. You can also use natural wasp traps to reduce the population.
- Bees—this one’s tough, because you want bees around. Like wasps, moving the feeder every few days can help reduce bees, but keep your hummingbirds happy. Placing the feeder in shade may help as well. You can also try placing a bowl of nectar near the hummingbird feeder—the bowl will be more attractive to the bees and keep them away from the bird feeder. Every day, move the bowl a tiny bit further away from the bird feeder.
- Squirrels—the best bet to keep squirrels out of your feeders is to use a squirrel guard (or inverted pie pan) directly above the feeder. Your other option is to provide squirrels with their own food and water station.
- Other birds and bats—unless they’re causing problems for the hummingbirds, it may be easiest to just let these critters coexist. You can bring your feeders in at night, but hummingbirds need to feed before dawn. Like with squirrels, you may be better off providing daytime birds, or even nighttime bats, with their own feeders.