Hummingbirds have a reputation among gardeners and birdwatchers for being hard to spot, but that’s not true at all. It turns out if you know how to make your yard inviting, hummingbirds will flock to it all summer.
1. Build a hummingbird feeder (or buy one)
While it’s not true that hummingbirds never eat solid food, they mainly feed on nectar, so a regular bird feeder won’t cut it. Most store-bought feeders are fine, but you can also easily build one yourself.
Yes, a red feeder really will help attract hummingbirds, and you shouldn’t have much trouble finding one.
2. Don’t buy nectar
You might be tempted to pick up some hummingbird nectar along with your feeder, but you’d just be wasting your money. The tried and true recipe for hummingbird nectar is 1 part sugar, 4 parts water. Boil the mix for 1-2 minutes then let it cool and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Despite what you’ve heard, never mix honey, artificial sweetener or red food coloring into the nectar. These ingredients will only make your nectar less appealing, or make it spoil faster.
3. Check every day
Unlike a regular bird feeder that you can “set and forget,” a hummingbird feeder requires regular upkeep. Wipe down the outside of your feeder daily to keep bees and wasps away, and change the mixture at least every few days because it can go bad. Be sure to scrub out the inside of your feeder every so often to keep it clean.
4. Plant some “hummer-friendly” flowers
Hummingbirds are small but they have big appetites, eating every 15 minutes or so and snacking on nectar from hundreds of flowers per day. Hollyhocks, petunias, begonias, penstemon and geraniums are all popular with hummingbirds, as well as azalea and butterfly bushes. Even flowering trees like morning glory will make the birds feel at home.
5. You might need an extra feeder
Depending on where you live you may have very territorial hummingbirds. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, which are common on the East Coast, are known to fight over flowers and feeders. Setting up a few in one spot will guarantee you get some nice sightings with more than 1 bird.
6. Timing is everything
Hummingbirds are creatures of habit: if they find a place they can get good food they’ll visit everyday. To attract hummingbirds before they pick another yard, set up your feeder about 5 days before the season starts (just as the weather is warming up).
Despite what you’ve been told, hummingbirds are smart enough to migrate when it’s time to fly, so there’s no harm in leaving your feeder up until the very end of the season.
7. Use hummingbird-friendly design
You know that hummingbirds are attracted to flowers and the color red, but that’s not all they’re interested in. Flower beds and planters with round curves are their favorite kind, so use those for nectar-filled plants.
Unlike most birds, hummingbirds don’t bathe. They might enjoy a tall and shallow bird bath, but if you can leave your sprinkler or mister on when they’re in the yard they will prefer that.