how to atract humming birds

Hummingbirds seem like supernatural creatures from an enchanted realm that have somehow been transported into the everyday world. Typically weighing less than a regular marshmallow, the tiny birds can buzz through the air at astonishing speeds (the Anna’s hummingbird has been clocked at speeds of about 50 mph), fly backward and turn on a dime. It’s no wonder people are eager to draw them to their yards. A group of them, appropriately, is called a charm.

Though there are more than 330 species in the Americas, the ruby-throated hummingbird is generally the only species that makes the Mid-Atlantic its home between spring and early fall, before flying across the Gulf of Mexico to winter in Central and South America.

To regularly see the petite winged wonders while they’re in the region, you need to transform your garden into a hummingbird haven. We spoke with three experts about how to create an enchanting environment that will draw hummingbirds to your yard, including how to feed them and what to plant. Here are their suggestions.Advertisement

Go flower forward. Hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar from a variety of flowers. They work as natural pollinators as they move between blossoms, so the more flora, the better. Emma Greig, project leader of Project FeederWatch with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, recommends bee balm (Monarda), cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) and hanging baskets of fuchsia. John Rowden, senior director of bird-friendly communities with the National Audubon Society, suggests planting trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and some species of milkweed, including swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and common milkweed (A. syriaca).

Don’t forget trees and shrubs. Hummingbirds like to nest and roost in spots that are protected, secluded and not too close to the ground, so trees and shrubs are critical. The birds use bits of lichen, plant downs and fibers, twigs, and spiderwebs to create cuplike nests that they attach to branches. These larger plants also attract a bounty of insect life, an important source of protein for hummingbirds. “Pagoda dogwoods and flowering dogwoods are great insect-supporting native plants,” Rowden says. “And oak trees offer a smorgasbord of insects.”

Embrace native plants. “Native flowers often attract native insects, which promote native birds,” Greig says. Not sure what to plant? Audubon has a Native Plants Database where people can search by Zip code to determine which hummingbird-friendly plants will grow in their area and where to buy them.

Nix pesticides. “Pesticides are the number one threat to hummingbirds,” says Sheri L. Williamson, author of “A Peterson Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America.” “There have been some recent studies which have found alarming levels of pesticides in hummingbird urine and feces. Pesticides can interrupt migratory instincts and cause the birds to lose weight.” Additionally, these toxic substances can kill off the insects they rely on for food, as well as spiders, whose webs are a key building material for their nests.Advertisement

Give the little guys a big sugar rush. Hummingbirds love nectar. In addition to planting lots of flowers, gardeners can make a simple substitute by mixing 4 parts boiling water with 1 part sugar. Let the sweet solution cool before putting it in the feeder. “We don’t recommend adding anything else, such as food coloring, vitamins or other extra doodads you can buy,” Greig says. “Most are totally unnecessary. There [are] no studies showing they are beneficial, and they may be harmful.”

Get a good feeder. There are many feeders on the market, but there are only two important elements to a good one: You must be able to see clearly into the area holding the nectar, and the feeder must be easy to take apart for thorough cleaning. “In warm-weather months, check it every two to three days to ensure there’s no cloudiness in the nectar,” Rowden says, because that’s probably a sign of a bacterial or fungal growth that could be harmful to the birds. “If you see any, it’s time to wash it out.”

Put the feeder close to a window. This might sound counterintuitive, but “the closer you put your feeder to the window, the safer it is for birds,” Williamson says. “This way, when they get spooked off a feeder — maybe they see a hawk flying by — they don’t get up as much speed by the time they bang into the window, so they won’t hurt themselves that much.”Advertisement

Help them see the windows. When birds smack into your windows — known as window strikes — they can seriously injure themselves, leave themselves vulnerable to predators or even die. Consider applying window clings, stickers or decals to your windows to alert birds to the presence of the glass. Williamson recommends placing the stickers two to four inches apart for maximum effectiveness. Or, she says, you can purchase an Acopian BirdSaver, otherwise known as Zen curtains, which have parallel lines of thin cords that stretch vertically across a window.

A birdbath is nice. A birdbath gives hummingbirds a place to drink and bathe. Just make sure to check it once a week or so to ensure the water is clean. “Put in stones that break the surface of the water,” Rowden says. “This allows them to know the depth of the water and gives them something to perch on, since hummingbirds have very weak feet.”

A little pond is nicer. If you have the space, money and inclination, building a small pond on your property will exponentially increase the chances that your yard will be a hangout for hummingbirds. “It becomes a functioning ecosystem,” Williamson says, “attracting some of the tiny little insects with aquatic larvae whose adult forms are very important food for hummingbirds, like gnats and midges. Don’t worry: They don’t bite or transmit diseases. You’ll provide a richer, more diverse food source for hummingbirds, and might even attract breeding hummingbirds.”Advertisement

Mind your pets. Cats and dogs are threats to the birds in your yard, so keep them inside or limit their time outside to when someone can keep an eye on them. Don’t think hummingbirds are exempt from these risks because of their speed or small size. “Hummingbirds are hovering by plants, well within reach,” Rowden says. “And they are tasty little morsels for pets.”

Martell is a writer based in Silver Spring, Md. His website is nevinmartell.com. Find him on Twitter and Instagram: @nevinmartell.More home and garden coverageHAND CURATED

Planting for Nesting Hummingbirds

Maintaining some shrubbery and small deciduous trees in your yard will encourage hummingbirds to build their nests, as they prefer to do so near a ready supply of nectar and other food. This is especially true around the edges of your yard. They often use lichens and spider webs to build their tiny, expandable nests on tree limbs and other small horizontal surfaces.

Ensure that your yard has an abundance of secure areas for hummingbirds to rest and sleep. Hummingbirds frequently use perches to rest or survey their area; certain locations should be visible and open to the public for territorial birds, while other locations should be in protected areas that are out of sight and shielded from any overnight drops in temperature.

For hummingbirds to maintain their bodies and develop new feathers, they require protein from pollen and insects. Hummingbirds are skilled aerial hunters that can catch tiny insects in the air, much like swifts. Hummingbirds also glean insects from leaves and from spider webs. To maintain a healthy ecosystem in your yard:

  • Eliminate pesticides. Adult birds primarily consume insects and spiders, or arthropods, and young hummingbirds that are still in the nest are nearly exclusively fed arthropods.
  • Ensure that your yard has both hummingbird- and insect-pollinated plants and flowers.
  • To attract tiny fruit flies, hang a basket filled with overripe fruit or banana peels near a hummingbird feeder.
  • Use native plants. According to Doug Tallamy’s research (in Bringing Nature Home), native plants will support a higher concentration of insects and spiders than alien ornamentals, which will then serve as prey for hummingbirds and other birds.

Hummingbirds enjoy taking frequent baths, even in the droplet pools that form on the leaves. Give your yard a steady supply of water with a fine misting device or a drip fountain attachment. Hummingbirds find a misting device to be an especially alluring source of water.

How to Invite Hummingbirds to Your Yard

With a few simple steps, you can draw hummingbirds to your backyard and provide them with food and water. For a yard to be healthy and draw these incredible jewels, it must have flowers, perches, insects, and water.

Hummingbirds’ long bills and grooved tongues, which are perfect for probing flowers, show that they are specialized for nectar consumption. Hawthorne’s sugary nectar provides quick energy and accounts for ninety percent of its diet. Regrettably, hummingbird-friendly habitat may be shifting along many hummingbird migration routes as a result of development and climate change. By following these guidelines, you can make a hummingbird’s habitat healthy:

  • Plant trees, shrubs, vines, and native flowering plants throughout your yard. Visit our native plants database to generate a personalized list of native plants that are good for birds in your area and to connect with nearby native plant resources. One plant in a hanging basket or window box can make a big difference.
  • Plant native plants instead of hybrids and exotics, as they provide a lot more nectar, such as trumpet honeysuckle, bee balm, and hummingbird sage.
  • Hummingbirds can be attracted by planting native plants with red or orange tubular flowers in addition to those that are high in nectar.
  • Sort similar plants into groups and select species that bloom at different times of the year so that flowers are available almost all year round.
  • To provide hummingbirds with ready perches, leave some sticks and small branches on bushes and trees.
  • Minimize or eliminate the use of pesticides in your yard.
  • Encourage your neighbors to make their yards hummingbird friendly. A habitat corridor as a whole is far more valuable than individual patches.

A birdbath is nice. A birdbath gives hummingbirds a place to drink and bathe. Just make sure to check it to make sure the water is clean, about once a week. Rowden advises adding stones that shatter the water’s surface. Since hummingbirds have very weak feet, this gives them something to perch on and lets them know how deep the water is. ”.

Go flower forward. Hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar from a variety of flowers. They work as natural pollinators as they move between blossoms, so the more flora, the better. Emma Greig, project leader of Project FeederWatch with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, recommends bee balm (Monarda), cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) and hanging baskets of fuchsia. John Rowden, senior director of bird-friendly communities with the National Audubon Society, suggests planting trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and some species of milkweed, including swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and common milkweed (A. syriaca).

Martell is a writer based in Silver Spring, Md. His website is nevinmartell.com. Find him on Twitter and Instagram: @nevinmartell.More home and garden coverageHAND CURATED

Don’t forget trees and shrubs. Trees and shrubs are essential because hummingbirds prefer to nest and roost in areas that are private, protected, and not too close to the ground. The birds construct cup-shaped nests that they fasten to branches using fragments of lichen, plant downs and fibers, twigs, and spiderwebs. These larger plants also draw an abundance of insects, which provide hummingbirds with a valuable source of protein. According to Rowden, “Pagoda dogwoods and flowering dogwoods are great native plants that support insects.” “And oak trees offer a smorgasbord of insects. ”.

Help them see the windows. When birds smack into your windows — known as window strikes — they can seriously injure themselves, leave themselves vulnerable to predators or even die. Consider applying window clings, stickers or decals to your windows to alert birds to the presence of the glass. Williamson recommends placing the stickers two to four inches apart for maximum effectiveness. Or, she says, you can purchase an Acopian BirdSaver, otherwise known as Zen curtains, which have parallel lines of thin cords that stretch vertically across a window.

FAQ

How do I get hummingbirds to come to my feeder?

Give the little guys a big sugar rush. Hummingbirds love nectar. In addition to planting lots of flowers, gardeners can make a simple substitute by mixing 4 parts boiling water with 1 part sugar. Let the sweet solution cool before putting it in the feeder.

How long does it take hummingbirds to find a new feeder?

It may take several weeks before the hummingbirds find and begin feeding regularly from a new feeder. Before making any changes, try waiting at least two weeks to give them enough time to discover your feeder.

What brings hummingbirds to your yard?

Grow native plants like trumpet honeysuckle, bee balm, and hummingbird sage, which provide much more nectar than hybrids and exotics. Plant native red or orange tubular flowers to attract hummingbirds, in addition to native plants rich in nectar.

Why are hummingbirds not coming to my feeder?

Perhaps availability of natural sources of food or nest sites have changed, causing the birds to look elsewhere. Despite their tiny size, hummingbirds can be injured or killed by free-roaming domestic cats. Some studies have also found that a good wildflower crop will reduce the number of hummingbird visits to feeders.