Birding Tips








Attracting Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are drawn to red, pink, and orange flowers. Some good hummingbird flowers are impatiens, salvia, lilies, trumpet vine, and monarda (bee balm). Although trumpet-shaped flowers are famous for attracting hummingbirds, I have found the diminutive blossoms of coral bells receive more hummer attention than any flower in the garden except columbines.

It's best to plant several kinds of flowers, so that something will be in bloom for hummingbirds all the time, whether they are migrating north in spring, spending the summer (if you're lucky), or heading south in the fall. Hummingbirds prefer flowers planted in big same-species clumps, rather than scattered around. And of course you will want to avoid chemicals and sprays.

Hummingbird FeederHummingbird feeders impose a responsibility on the provider. To be safe, they must be clean, and that is a challenge in hot weather. The solution should be changed at least every other day, even if no hummingbirds are using it, so that it doesn't ferment or get moldy. Once a week the feeder must be washed with vinegar and water or a 10% chlorine solution and scrubbed with a baby-bottle brush. (Most experts advise against using soap or detergent.)

If all this is too much trouble, just plant the flowers and skip the artificial feeders. You'll still attract hummingbirds, and you won't be harming them with unsanitary feeders.

Here's the recipe for hummingbird syrup. Boil four cups of water and stir in one cup of white sugar. Do not use honey, which can cause a fatal fungal infection on the birds' tongues. Do not add food coloring to the solution. The red color on the feeder is sufficient. You can store the excess syrup in the refrigerator for a week or two.

Hang the feeder where you can see it from a window. If ants discover the feeder, discourage them by applying petroleum jelly to the wire that suspends the feeder. If bees begin to dominate, purchase a hummingbird feeder that comes with bee guards.

Another thing that hummingbirds love is dripping water. These tiny, aerial birds do not wade in a splash in a bird bath like a robin. Their taste is more delicate. They love dripping water, and I have watched hummingbirds fly back and forth through the water, timing each trip so that they caught a drop on their backs as they passed.

So if you can arrange a bird bath with a drip, you are likely to see a humminbird in it. Or feed hummingbirds right outside your window, with a feeder that mounts to the glass.

Happy hummingbirding!

For more about hummingbirds see Nancy Newfield's new book, Hummingbird Gardens. It has excellent photographs of all the hummingbirds of North America with notes about each species' natural history. It contains many practical gardening ideas for turning your yard into a hummingbird haven.

Author Nancy Newfield (the Hummingbird Lady) lives on the Gulf Coast where she has been studying hummingbirds for many years. She has made many original contributions to scientific understanding of hummingbirds and their ranges.

go back

Home FAQ Tips Stories Videos Software Optics Bookstore Orders