The first hummingbirds have already been spotted in southern states; it’s time to hang out our feeders to invite the tiny avian powerhouses into your yard for another year. Hummingbirds aren’t just a pretty face in the garden, they play a vital part in pollination and they have a voracious appetite, and it’s not just for nectar. They also happen to eat tiny bugs like ants, aphids, mosquitoes, gnats, whiteflies, and small beetles (another reason to not use pesticide in your garden!) The bugs actually account for about a third of their diet. So, how can you attract more of these fabulous fliers? Hummers don’t have a sense of smell, so it’s all about practicality and pretty with them.
You’ll attract more hummers with several colorful feeders spaced throughout your yard. Keep them out in the open where they’re easy to spot, close to blooming flowers and relatively close to shelter like trees or bushes where hummers can rest between sips. Make sure the feeders are placed well away from potential hiding spots for cats. Using several feeders spaced out will also help prevent one dominant bird from chasing away all the others.
Hummers tend to prefer moving water like misters, sprinklers, fountains, waterfalls and drippers. They’ll often perch in the spray or fly through moving water. Water should be fresh and clean, and as close to nectar-producing flowers, or feeders as possible.
Give ‘em shelter
Hummers do perch, and when they’re not flying around and feeding, they need a safe, shady spot to rest and keep an eye on “their” feeder. Tall poles, clotheslines, thin vines, trellises and open branches in shady areas are favored spots for most hummers. Since they can be territorial, the best shelter will also provide a clear view of feeders, flowers and water sources.
Plant a hummingbird garden to really attract hummers. Bushes and shrubs like azalea, butterfly bush, honeysuckle, acanthus, mimosa and lantana are popular. Almost any brightly colored trumpet flower is attractive as well, morning glory and cypress vines are also good choices. In the perennial department, try bee balm, canna, columbine, foxglove, hosta, and lupine. For annuals, try fuchsia, impatiens, petunia, and salvia. Select plants so that something is in bloom all spring and summer long.
Paint your garden red
Skip the red-colored nectar, it’s bad for the birds, but hummers do love red. If your feeder doesn’t have a red nectar dish, just tie some red ribbon to the hanging wire. Plant red-bloomed flowers, hang some pretty red glass ornaments or even use a red, hand-blown glass feeder.
Hummers don’t use nesting boxes or birdhouses; instead they build cup-shaped nests in trees and shrubs. If you’re in an area where hummers will nest, make sure there are nesting materials available. They tend to like moss, lichen, plant down from things like thistles, dandelions and cattails, spider silk, bits of bark or leaves, and feathers. Help nature out a bit by putting bits of string, cotton fluff, natural-fiber lint and even hair or animal fur out where hummers can find it.
Go au natural
Since hummers feed on nectar and insects, skip the pesticides and keep your fertilizer use as low as possible. You don’t want hummers getting sick from the chemicals in your garden, so if you wouldn’t put it on something you would eat, don’t put it in your hummingbird garden.