Unlock The Secrets to Inviting Hummingbirds to Your Garden
Let's meet our feathered friends, the Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) and Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna). Typically, the Rufous marks the onset of spring, arriving around mid-March, and stays for a lovely summer visit before embarking on their journey north, as far as Alaska. Post their adventurous trip, they prefer to winter in the warmth of Mexico.
Contrary to their adventurous counterparts, Anna’s Hummingbirds are homebodies, claiming territories along the coastal regions of North America, spanning from Alaska to Baja California. You can spot these territorial beings throughout the year in various botanical gardens.
With their minimal sense of smell, hummingbirds rely on colour cues and nectar quality to choose their meals. They map out their food sources, marking well-planted gardens on their regular visits, which we call trap-lines. A rich food source can sometimes lead to some hummingbirds fiercely guarding it against others.
Though they have a soft spot for the colour red, hummingbirds won't discriminate against flowers or feeders of different colours once they've confirmed them as bountiful food sources. Their keen eyes look out for the flower's shape and the abundance and sweetness of its nectar. Here are some of the most appealing flowering plants for hummingbirds:
Begonia Begonia spp.
Bleeding Hearts Dicentra spp.
Butterfly Bush Buddleia davidii
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis
Columbine Aquilegia spp.
Coral Bells Heuchera sanguinea
Crocosmia Crocosmia spp.
Foxglove Digitalis purpurea
Fuchsia Fuchsia spp.
Geranium Pelargonium spp.
Honeysuckle Lonicera spp.
Impatiens Impatiens spp.
Lantana Lanta camara
Larkspur Delphinium spp.
Licorice Mint Agastache rugosa
Lupins Lupinus polyphyllus
Morning Glory Ipomoea tricolor
Penstemen Penstemen spp.
Petunia Petunia spp.
Sage Salvia officinalis and other Salvia species
Scarlet Runner Bean Phaseolus coccineus
Tobacco Nicotiana alata
Weigela Weiglea spp.
Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa
In designing a hummingbird haven, diversity is the spice of life. Blend annuals with perennials, shrubs with vines, offering our winged visitors a smorgasbord of feeding options throughout the seasons.
Feeding Hummingbirds: The Feeder Approach
If space is a constraint, hummingbird feeders are a practical choice. These can be placed anywhere for a delightful bird-watching experience. Accessibility for regular cleaning and refilling is a vital consideration for feeder placement. Nectar, the hummingbird food, needs to be fresh to prevent mould, so weekly cleaning is essential, and even more frequently in hot weather. If mould does appear, it can be removed with a bottle brush or by adding some sand to warm water and shaking vigorously. Preferably avoid using detergents for cleaning.
The nectar recipe is straightforward: Dissolve ¼ cup (57ml) of regular white sugar in 1 cup (227ml) of warm water. Speed up the process on the stove, but avoid boiling it as it may lead to caramelization, which can harm the birds. Allow the nectar to cool completely before use. Unused nectar can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Your choice of feeder style can be a matter of personal preference. You may opt for the appeal of an antique glass feeder or the minimalism of a glass tube feeder, or perhaps the more flamboyant Balloon Hummingbird Feeder. Once hummingbirds discover it's a reliable source of nectar, they may become territorial. If this occurs, consider adding another feeder out of sight of the first one, like on the other side of your property. Activity around feeders can decline mid-summer due to the availability of natural nectar from blooming flowers, which hummingbirds prefer over feeder nectar.
Attracting hummingbirds to your garden can be a rewarding experience that allows you to observe these fascinating creatures up close. By creating a hummingbird-friendly environment, be it through a diverse, nectar-rich garden or by installing carefully chosen feeders, you are providing these birds with essential resources and enhancing local biodiversity.
Keep in mind that whether you are planning a hummingbird garden or setting up a feeder, consistency and cleanliness are key. Regularly maintain your flower beds and feeders to ensure a healthy, safe environment for these birds. Over time, you'll observe the hummingbirds' preference for certain plants or feeders, enabling you to fine-tune your offerings. With a little patience and care, you'll soon enjoy the spectacle of hummingbirds flitting about your garden, brightening up your day with their vibrant colors and energetic charm.
Remember, attracting hummingbirds is not just about giving you a joyful viewing experience, but it also contributes to the survival and prosperity of these amazing birds. By offering them a reliable food source, you are playing a role in their conservation, particularly in regions where their natural habitats may be under threat. So, enjoy their presence and take pride in the help you're providing to these remarkable members of our natural world.