Why are these little birds so popular? There’s something so charming about washing your dishes at the kitchen sink or sitting at a table and looking out the window to see a hummingbird (also known as “hummies”) hovering a few inches away from you.
They’ll likely be hanging around a flower basket, window box or feeder where they happily feast on nectar.
They are the very small (just 3″ – 5″) and can fly backwards too! If you have a few regularly visiting your yard, you can’t help but feel part of something special.
They are spotted in the southern U.S. as early as March as they migrate north. You can follow their movement each year by watching the the map here (journeynorth.org).
When To Get Ready For Them: If you’re way down south, the first half of March is normally when you want to get your feeders up so you can attract them to your garden, the rest of us will be a little later (I’m looking at May).
What Hummies Are Looking For: Food, Water & Flowers. It’s that simple.
If you’re consistent in caring for them and have their treats ready and waiting, these little charmers will remember you and visit your property year after year!
How To Get Started: I’ve put together a tip sheet outlining everything you need to know to care for hummingbirds and ways to encourage them to hang around.
I’ve also included some good online resources for more in-depth, expert information if you’d like to dig a little deeper and learn something more authoritative.
Don’t Miss ‘Em: I’ve tucked in a few DIY projects just for fun, you’ll find those towards the bottom of this article. Plenty here, enjoy!
Recipe: Simple Food Formula
1 part white cane sugar
4 parts hot water
Just combine the ingredients and once the granules are dissolved and solution has cooled, away you go! Although some suggest it, there’s no need to boil first or “cook” the nectar.
This is the best, optimal recipe since it closely resembles the nectar of many wildflowers and is recommended by all the experts. If anyone suggests tweaking it with any kind of “special additives” or recommends buying “enhanced” nectar…be skeptical.
See this page for a cautionary note:
Please, do not put honey, Jell-O, brown sugar, fruit, or red food coloring in your feeder!
Honey ferments rapidly when diluted with water and can kill hummingbirds.
The effects of red dye have not been not scientifically tested, and it is not necessary to color the water to attract birds. Further, there are unverified reports that red dye can cause tumors in them; this may or may not be true, but why take the chance?
- Store unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- If you don’t have the budget for cane sugar, regular white granulated is fine.
- If you have a lot of activity in your yard and want to make a bulk batch, the ratio is 1:4 (sugar:water). Keep in mind the shelf life is limited as noted above (even refrigerated).
- Do not “top up” the syrup, drain the old batch completely before adding fresh stuff.
Did You Know: Hummies will consume up to twice their body weight in nectar every day!
They also enjoy supplementing their diet with the little insects and spiders that will be drawn to the syrup recipe.
Don’t Forget: Along with their sips of the homemade nectar, they’ll need a good, steady supply of fresh water.
If you want to pamper them, add a “misting” feature to your garden, they love them!
- Clean feeder every time you refill it by flushing well with hot water–do not use soap. A bottle brush can come in handy here.
- Empty, wash then refresh with new formula a couple times a week (hot weather deteriorates the food more quickly so you may have to do this every other day). When it gets cloudy or smells funny, you know it’s overdue.
- Deep clean every couple weeks by flushing with regular household vinegar and rinse well (at least 2 or 3 times). If it’s especially dirty, add a handful of uncooked rice…vigorously shaking/swirling this around will add some scouring muscle to the job.
- By being diligent in cleaning, you are avoiding bacteria and black mold…both of which can seriously harm and kill hummies.
- Find more details for cleaning here.
- If ants are a problem, try smearing Vaseline or Vicks VapoRub in a section around the hanger pole, they’ll avoid crossing that goop. Remember to check to see if you need to reapply after each rain.
Put these up a couple weeks before expecting them to migrate from the south. You can take them down in the Fall about 2 or 3 weeks AFTER spotting the last bird, just in case a few stragglers show up.
- Here’s a clever project made with a wine bottle, red paint (if bottle isn’t already red), small bowl with a plastic, snap-on lid and heavy gauge wire.
- Here’s another project from artsyvava.blogspot.com made with a wine bottle, copper wire and a hummingbird bottle stopper.
- Modern: A simple DIY from HGTV using a corn cob feeder (for squirrels), a clear soda bottle, razor blade, red spray paint, twine and a tube.
- Transform/Reuse Prescription Vials: Mother Earth News has a quick & easy DIY that costs just a few cents! This is a great, economical method if you want to place several around the garden.
- Baby Food Jars: Another recycle project that costs only a few pennies, features a clever ant trap underneath that’s made with an empty tuna can.
Bonus: Super sweet! This is a dear perch for your little friend that you can make, I’m sure he’ll put it to good use!
Flowers That Attract Them:
If regularly washing out feeders and mixing up recipes is too high maintenance for you, try a nice hanging basket of bright red or deep pink fuchsia–I’ve been lucky and it’s always worked for me! More plant suggestions are found here.
Some recommended perennials that draw their attention:
- Bee Balm (I have good luck growing this, even in zone 3 winters!)
- Trumpet Vine
For beginner gardeners, I’d recommend containers or boxes filled with petunias, geraniums or Impatiens (or try a mix of all three!). I find them pretty low maintenance and hardy.
A great, in-depth resource from the National Audubon Society: How to Create a Hummingbird-Friendly Yard: A little water, a few flowers, and a few perches will bring these tiny dynamos to visit.
Good luck this year, I hope these little guys find you and accept your invitation to hang around :).