A Hummer Of a Backyard

One of the more spectacular of our migratory birds in the Americas, hummingbirds are found exclusively in the New World, making this a truly American bird. While most of the over 300 species of hummingbirds are found in Central and South America, around a dozen species of these tiny gems searching for food and shelter grace many a garden in North America. If you live in an area where hummingbirds nest or migrate through, with very little effort, you can make your yard or patio both beautiful and a haven for hummingbirds. Here’s the lowdown:

1 – Their tiny size and high energy rate cause them to eat about every 15-20 minutes. That means there needs to be fresh nectar readily available at all times.  The best choice is to provide native flowers and use feeders as a backup. While hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers, not every flower has the nectar they need. So what plants are best?
 Here’s a list of a few native plants to choose from, depending on your location:
2- If you put out feeders, it’s essential to keep the feeders really clean. In summer when it’s hot, dirty feeders can lead to disease. Never use any hummingbird food which is colored with red dye as it can be fatal to hummingbirds. In fact, you can easily make your own hummingbird food which will be safe for the birds:
  • Mix 1 cup sugar into 4 cups of boiling water
  • Stir until sugar is completely dissolved
  • Let cool to room temperature
  • Fill your feeders
  • Put the rest of the mixture into the refrigerator and use it up within a few days – make sure it’s room temperature before you put it out for the hummers

3 – Fresh open water is essential for both drinking and bathing and you can provide a shallow bath and even a mister in hot weather which will please your hummingbirds no end!

4 – Nesting material is important in the season so fuzzy plants of the right kind are a good idea so the birds can strip the fluff off to line their nests. Cinnamon Fern and Pussy-willow are good choices, but dandelion and thistles also provide nesting materials.

5 – A safe place to nest, rest during storms or pass through is important when your weight is measured in single-digit grams. This means it’s best to practice organic gardening without insecticides, herbicides, or lawn chemicals – especially anything containing neonicotinoids that can be fatal to birds and bees. If you attract birds to your yard with native plants, you won’t need pesticides as many birds, including hummers, eat insects. So using pesticides not only eliminates a food source for the hummingbirds but if they do eat poisoned insects, there can be a build-up of the poison in their system which can eventually prove fatal.

6 – And it goes without saying that it’s important to keep kitty in the house or in her catio year-round, but especially during nesting and fledging season!

For more information on how to plan your garden and what to plant for hummingbirds, check out this article from Audubon.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird; Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel