All bird species require food, water, shelter and nesting spots, and birders who understand how to attract hummingbirds will create sanctuaries in their backyards to fulfill all those basic bird needs.
There are three ways to provide tantalizing food for hummingbirds: through plants, feeders and insects.
- Plants: Hummingbirds feed frequently on nectar-rich flowers, and planting flowers specifically to attract these flying jewels is an easy way to make any yard a perfect hummingbird habitat. While the color red is very attractive to hummingbirds, the most important factor is that the flowers must produce plenty of nectar. Bleeding hearts, impatiens, petunias, salvias, bee balm, columbine, cannas, viburnums, honeysuckles and many other flower, tree and shrub species will attract a variety of hummingbirds. Birders who prefer non-red flowers can add an instant touch of attractive color with red or purple gazing balls that will attract hummingbirds as well.
- Feeders: Nectar feeders are one of the most common ways to attract hummingbirds to your yard. A wide range of feeder styles is available, including gel packs, inverted tubes and saucer dishes. Feeders may come with wasp, hornet and ant guards, and they are often colored red to help attract hummingbirds. Commercial nectar concentrates and mixes can be used or birders can fill their feeders with a homemade hummingbird nectar recipe.
- Insects: While hummingbirds are most well known for their fondness for nectar, they also eat a large quantity of insects, including spiders. To attract hummingbirds to backyard insects, avoid using pesticides or insecticides that will kill off this food source and choose flowering plants that are also attractive to insects.
Not all birds will visit feeders, but they are all attracted to water. Hummingbirds prefer moving water sources such as sprinklers, fountains, waterfalls, misters and drippers. They will often perch in a spray or fly through moving water to cool off or bathe. Water sources should be kept fresh and clean, and positioning the water near nectar-rich flowers will make it even more attractive to hummingbirds.
When they aren’t feeding, hummingbirds look for perches to rest and preen. Providing perches such as slender poles, clotheslines, thin vines, trellises, wires and multiple levels of shrubbery will give birds suitable shelter. At the same time, because many hummingbirds are very aggressive, they will prefer perches that also have good fields of view to protect their territories. Position perching plants and shrubs near food sources for the best results in attracting hummingbirds.
Unlike many backyard bird species, hummingbirds will not use birdhouses or nesting boxes. Instead, they build their double-lined, cup-shaped nests in trees and shrubs, though bolder birds may build their nests along wires, clotheslines or poles. Providing sheltered, safe areas of native plants for the birds to nest will make a backyard more attractive. Birders can also supply suitable nesting materials including fine lint, small lengths of string and animal fur to attract nesting birds.
Like all backyard birds, hummingbirds are wild animals with basic needs. Birders who understand how to attract hummingbirds by satisfying those needs can be rewarded with dozens of beautiful hummingbirds in their backyard.Hummingbirds on Feeder Photo © Teddy Llovet