Attracting Hummingbirds to your yard or garden
With some 328 recognized species, Hummingbirds are one of the largest avian families in the New World and surely one of the most fascinating.
Hummingbirds are found in diverse habitats from windswept paramos at altitudes as high as 5000 metres to humid forests, from arid deserts to wet subtropical forests.
To meet the high oxygen needs of their lifestyle, their hearts beat 500-600 times per minute when the bird is perched and up to 1,200 times per minute in flight. Short chase flights have been clocked at 150 km/hour.
At rest the breathing rate is 300 times per minute which rises to over 500 times per minute during flight compared to humans which is 14-18 times a minute.
Hummingbirds drink their body mass in nectar in several hours, thus supplying the energy for growth and maintenance of body temperatures at 40-42 degrees centigrade.
To conserve energy, hummingbirds go in to torpor to survive periods of low temperature and darkness involving an 80-90% reduction in metabolic rate and saving up to 60% of the energy used in the nocturnal resting phase.
The Rufous Hummingbird undertakes the longest avian migration in the world, based upon distance traveled in proportion to body size. No wonder we all want to attract these tiny dynamos in to our yards and gardens and here are some tips on how to do that!
How to attract Hummingbirds to your yard or garden
You can attract, feed and nourish hummingbirds in your garden or backyard with a few easy steps. Flowers, nectar feeders, perches, insects, and water are the key ingredients to a healthy yard that will attract these amazing birds.
Hummingbirds are specialized for nectar-eating, evident by long bills and grooved or brush-tipped tongues ideal for probing flowers and lapping nectar. Nectar supplies fast energy and makes up 90 percent of a hummingbird’s diet.
You can create a hummingbird friendly environment by following these steps:
- Fill your yard with native flowering plants, vines, shrubs, and trees and if you only have a deck or window box, a single plant or hanging basket will help hummingbirds. Plant native red or orange tubular flowers to attract hummingbirds, in addition to native plants rich in nectar.
- Grow native plants like trumpet honeysuckle, bee balm, and hummingbird sage, which provide greater quantities of nectar than non-native plants.
- Eliminate the use of pesticides in your garden and encourage your neighbors to make their yards hummingbird friendly too. An entire corridor of habitat is much more valuable than scattered patches.
- Group similar plants together and choose species with different blooming periods so that there will be a steady supply of flowers nearly year-round.
Some of the plants that are attractive to Hummingbirds:
- Beebalm, Wild bergamot, Horsemint, Monarda fistulosa
Native in Pacific northwest
- Scarlet beebalm, Monarda didyma
Native to the Pacific northwest
- Blood Currant, Ribes sanguineum
Native to the western United States and Canada
Blood Currant is highly attractive to hummingbirds, and very drought tolerant, withstanding moist to drier, well-drained soils, and full sun to partial shade.
- Harebell, Campanula alaskana
Native to north-western North America
This hardy resilient plant produces beautiful blue bell shaped flowers throughout the summer and fall
- Crimson Columbine, Aquilegia Formosa
Native of the west coast and Rocky Mountains
This plant is popular with hummingbirds, and grows best in moist soil and partial shade.
- Red Elder, Sambucus racemose
Native to North America across Canada and the United States.
It produces fragrant, pale, cone-shaped flowers at the ends of stem branches, followed by bright red or purple fruit clusters. The berries are enjoyed by a variety of wildlife, though they can be poisonous to humans if eaten raw.
- Scarlet Skyrocket, Ipomopsis aggregate
Native to western North America from British Columbia to Mexico.
This perennial herb is also known as Scarlet Gilia and Skunkflower. It can grow to 5 feet tall, with low-growing, fern-like leaves and trumpet flowers that range from white, pink, and brilliant orange-red.
Make sure you create plenty of safe places for hummingbirds to perch, rest and sleep. Hummingbirds often perch to rest or survey their territory; some spots should be in the open and obvious for territorial birds, while others should be in protected areas, hidden from view and buffered from any cooler overnight temperatures.
Hummingbird (Nectar) Feeders
Hummingbird feeders provide hummingbirds with nectar critical to their survival, not only during spring and fall migration but during the winter too for Anna’s Hummingbirds here in Vancouver.
The Do’s and Don’ts!
- Hang several feeders far enough apart that the hummingbirds cannot see one another; this will prevent one bird from dominating the rest and hang feeders high enough up so cats can’t jump and reach the birds.
- Fill the feeders with sugar water, made by combining four parts hot water to one-part processed white sugar, boiled for a minute or two. Never use honey, cane sugar, artificial sweeteners, or red dye.
- Hang your feeders in the shade to prevent the sugar solution from fermenting and be sure to change the sugar water regularly — before it gets cloudy, and at least twice a week in warm weather.
- Clean the feeders with a solution of one-part white vinegar to four parts water about once a week. If your feeder has become dirty, try adding some grains of dry rice to the vinegar solution and shake vigorously. The grains act as a good abrasive. Rinse your feeder well with warm water three times before refilling with sugar solution.
- You should either take your feeders down in the Fall or commit to keeping them up over the entire winter, since Anna’s Hummingbirds are resident and will stay and depend on your feeder. It’s important not to forget to fill it or allow it to freeze.
Hummingbirds need protein from pollen and insects to maintain their bodies and grow new feathers. Like swifts, hummingbirds are specialized aerial hunters and can snatch small insects from the air. Hummingbirds also glean insects from leaves and from spider webs. To maintain a healthy ecosystem in your yard:
- Eliminate pesticides. Spiders and insects (arthropods) are an important part of an adult bird’s diet, and young hummingbirds still in the nest are almost exclusively fed arthropods.
- Make sure your yard contains insect-pollinated flowers as well as hummingbird-pollinated plants.
- Use native plants.
Hang a basket with overripe fruit or banana peels close to a hummingbird feeder to attract tiny fruit flies.
Hummingbirds prefer to nest near a ready supply of nectar and other food, and you can encourage them to nest in your yard by maintaining some shrubbery and small deciduous trees in which they can seek protective cover, especially around the edges of your yard. They build their tiny, expandable nests on tree limbs and other small horizontal surfaces, often constructing them from lichens and spider webs.
A water feature with different depths is great for all birds and wildlife – shallow areas are used by bathing and drinking birds, emerging dragonflies and somewhere for amphibians to lay eggs – deeper areas help aquatic insects survive cold spells.
Hummingbirds like to bathe frequently—even in the pools of droplets that collect on leaves. Provide your yard with a constant source of water from a drip fountain attachment or a fine misting device or gurgler stones like in the video. A misting device is an especially attractive water source for hummingbirds.