Hummingbirds are unique and exquisite little birds. Observing a hummingbird in your yard is an exciting spectacle for all ages because these fast moving, tiny birds often make it difficult to catch a glimpse.
Although there are well over 300 species of hummingbird, there are only 17 routinely observed in North America. These petite birds typically measure between 7-8 inches in length, but can attain a minuscule 2-2.5 inches in the case of the bee hummingbird. All species of hummingbird are characterized by their brightly colored feathers and lengthy bills.
Hummingbirds maintain a high metabolism and therefore exhibit high energy requirements. Research has shown that they can consume half their body weight in sugar daily. To meet their insatiable appetites, hummingbirds consume nectar, tree sap, pollen and small insects.
Tips for Attracting Hummingbirds
- Hummingbirds, like most birds, enjoy bathing so leaving a sprinkler with a fine mist on in your yard may attract the occasional bird (if there are no distractions like pets or children)
- Hang hummingbird feeders
- Red is attractive to hummingbirds, so red flowers may encourage their presence
- Plant perennials that produce deep-throated flowers, these are natural food sources and will help to grow the presence of hummingbirds without the mess of an artificial feeder
- Suggested wildflowers include: crimson bee-balm (aka wild bergamot or Oswego tea), columbine, jewelweed, and cardinal lobelia (aka cardinal flower)
- Other common flowers for attracting hummingbirds include: daylilies, lilies, cannas, bouncing bet, spiderflower, silktree, red buckeye, morning glories, petunias, scarlet sage, and honeysuckle
- Many of these flowering plants will also attract butterflies
Hummingbird feeders can be purchased at your local home and garden or wild bird store—you can also purchase a nectar solution for your feeder.
However, if you would rather recycle materials or enjoy DIY projects, you can choose to make your own feeder and nectar solution at home. Here are a few tips for creating a successful hummingbird feeding spot in your backyard:
- To create a nectar solution at home, mix 1 cup granulated sugar with 4 cups water, boil, cool to room temperature, then pour into your feeder
- Hang your feeder at a height of 3-5 feet
- If you choose to make your own feeder, make sure to use red wisely in your design
- Check your feeder 2-3 times per week during the northern hummingbird migration
- For southern locations like Florida this can be as early as January
- For the northeastern region and Canada, this season typically lasts from May- September
- Wash your feeder with warm soapy water once a week to prevent the growth of harmful mold and bacteria
- To keep ants at bay, use an ant guard or ant moat
- To avoid attracting bees and wasps, avoid using the color yellow on the feeder, wipe the feeding holes with a damp cloth to clean any nectar that splashes out, and make sure that there are no holes large enough for a bee to get through
- NOTE: Hummingbird feeders may also attract large moths and, if you live near a wooded area, flying squirrels
Creating a hummingbird oasis in your backyard can be a fun family project and may unintentionally attract other interesting creatures like butterflies, moths and flying squirrels. Utilize your space wisely and invest in creating a safe space for the hummingbirds and for observing them, and your efforts will surely pay off.
Hummingbird Fun Facts
- Hummingbirds are some of the smallest birds in North America
- They can hover and fly backwards
- They get the name hummingbird because of the humming sound that their wings make when flying
- A hummingbird’s wings beat 55 times/second when hovering and up to 75 times/second when flying
- Hummingbirds do not suck the nectar, instead they use their tongue to lap up food at a rate of 13 licks/second