I've been a hummingbird enthusiast for years. I've perfected my homemade hummingbird nectar and can tell you how to make your own!
You can attract, feed, and nourish hummingbirds in your backyard with a few easy steps. Flowering plants, location and type of feeders, and good-quality food will ensure you have hummingbirds that return to your yard year after year. If you're lucky, they may even make a nest and have baby hummers in your yard!
Add Plants That Attract Hummingbirds to Your Yard
Due to the tubular shape of their long bills, hummingbirds are attracted to certain types of plants with sugary nectar. Try to fill your yard with native flowering plants, shrubs, vines, and trees. Sometimes even just one additional flowering plant in a hanging basket or window box can help. Also try having several different plants that flower throughout the growing season to maximize the amount of time the hummers are in your yard over a season. Here are a few plants that hummingbirds especially enjoy:
- Trumpet honeysuckle
- Hummingbird sage
- Cardinal flower
- Bee balm
- Plants that have native red or orange tubular flowers
The Importance of Location
It is important to have the feeders in an area that does not get too much through-traffic but is still visible, so you can enjoy their beauty from a safe distance. You may try to have the feeder outside of a picture window or near your kitchen window where you will readily see them feeding throughout the day.
We have several feeders directly outside of my office window. That way I can see them any time I’m sitting at my computer, which is often. I’ve tried moving the feeders to other locations but for the most part, it seems to attract the hummingbirds where it is right now. Because it is on the side of our house, people aren’t walking out there very often, which I think encourages the hummers to feed freely throughout the day.
What Do Hummingbirds Eat?
If you’ve ever gone into Home Depot or Lowe's or any store that sells bird seed and accessories, you’ve probably come across the bright red-colored hummingbird food. I have used it in the past but not with great success. A lot of people say that the red nectar is actually bad for hummingbirds, and it’s a better idea to make your own.
How to Make Your Own Hummingbird Food
Making your own hummingbird food is pretty simple, so long as you have access to water and plain white sugar.
- It is recommended to mix the sugar and water in a 1:4 ratio. My small window feeder holds 1 cup of water, so I put 1/4 cup of sugar in a pot on the stove along with the water and bring it to a boil. Do not use honey, artificial sweeteners, or red dye in your hummingbird food in place of white sugar. Once the sugar has melted, turn the stove off and let the mixture cool.
- After it is room temperature, you can safely transfer it to your hummingbird feeder and get ready to watch some hungry hummingbirds.
- Make sure to change out the feeders at least once a week or sooner if you notice the solution looking cloudy or gross.
Types of Hummingbird Feeders
We have a feeder that sticks onto the window that has lasted a long time and provided a super up-close view of the birds. You may also notice that the window feeder has an ant moat around it. This seemed to be unnecessary until a particularly windy afternoon had our feeders knocking into the window just enough to spill some of the sugar water down the window. Sure enough, by the next day, we had ants coming to enjoy some of that sugar water! Thankfully a quick rinse with the hose and cleaning the window and outside of the feeders was all that was needed. But I can see how the ant moat comes in handy, since the feeder is directly attached to the wall instead of free standing like our other two feeders.
Our glass feeders hold about 2 cups of liquid in each of them and are very visually appealing. These seem to be preferred, maybe because of their additional perching spots. Despite them holding more liquid, I still change out all the feeders on a weekly basis.
When Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Being that hummingbirds require a lot of energy and expend a lot while flying, they feed quite often. I’ve noticed that ours feed regularly throughout the day but that they are most active first thing in the morning. They also migrate. So you may see them starting in the spring, and then they will leave sometime in the fall. Having a feeder out in early spring and late fall will help provide food for the hummingbirds that are early/late to migrate.
What Types of Hummingbirds Do I Have?
This is where things can get a little tricky. You can buy a guide about hummingbirds or search online to see what birds are common to your area. Those are the first two things I would recommend, especially since depending on your location, you may have different hummingbirds than if you lived in a different state. Then I would suggest that you watch your birds carefully, take a few pictures if you can and make notes. Take note of their tail feather shape, the colors of their body—specifically around their head and necks—and make sure to have good lighting.
There are around 300 different types of hummingbird species in the world! Major differences between the males and females can be noted in overall appearance, as well as their size and coloring of feathers. The easiest difference to spot is the coloring of their feathers. Males are more brightly colored then their female counterparts. You'll notice around their head, specifically under their neck area, called the gorget, is often a very vibrant color in male hummers. Females are usually dull colored, either in shades of brown or green, although sometimes they will have spotted parts of their body as well.
It gets tricky if you have any juvenile or immature hummingbirds at your feeder, as a young male will look very similar in coloring to a female. The females are actually slightly bigger than the males, due to them laying eggs and needing to build a nest and raise her offspring. So if you're watching your birds closely, this may help you determine their sex.
Curious, Vocal, and Sometimes Aggressive!
Since we've had the feeders so close to the window, the hummingbirds seem to be even more curious than they were before. I often will catch them resting after feeding and tilting their head to the side as the watch me, watching them!
They are also very vocal, the males more so than the females. They will often chirp repeatedly as they fly, perch on a branch, or even after they've landed on the feeder. The males seem to be much more aggressive than the females, often chasing after one another when one of them will get close to the feeder.
Wishing you all the best in attracting more hummingbirds to your backyard. With the use of flowering plants, feeders in a good location, and some patience, you'll have hummingbirds in your yard in no time!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Lisa Bean
moonfairy on September 17, 2018:
Great first article Lisa....I enjoyed it very much!