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
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.
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