Some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright.” Shawshank Redemption
It may seem early, but according to the Hummingbird Migration Sighting Map, hummingbirds are slowly making their way up the cost from Central America and will be here in a matter of days.
Did you know that most Ruby Throated Hummingbirds return to the same place, and even the same feeder, each year? Some will just be passing through but will stop by your garden for a quick snack before moving on.
During migration, a hummingbird flies alone, often on the same path each year. They fly low, just above the tree line or water. Flying low allows them to see and stop at food supplies. As they travel up to 23 miles a day, they need to make frequent stops to fuel up.
You garden may already have some natural resources for these hummingbirds. They are drawn to Tulip Poplars, Rhododendron and azaleas, Clethra, Columbine, Bergamot, Phlox, and Passionflower. They sip the nectar from flowers and tree sap, and even ingest insects that are caught in the sap.
As many hummingbirds come home to roost, so to speak, you want to attract as many as you can to make their summer homes with you. Contrary to popular belief, hummingbirds do not eat only nectar. Insects and other invertebrates are the primary source of protein hummingbirds. An adult female can consume up to 2,000 insects a day. This includes mosquitoes, gnats, fruit files, spiders, aphids, and insect eggs. That beats Mosquito Squad any day!
Another advantage: do you hate to weed? Hummingbirds love to forage for food in naturalized areas, so you can define a section of your yard that you just leave alone and let the grasses and weeds take over, then tell your neighbors it is your Hummingbird garden! Better yet, throw in some wildflower seeds and make it a sort of English cutting garden, and you and the hummingbirds are good to go.
Nectar is still an essential part of the hummingbird’s diet. Plus, over 150 species of plants are pollinated by hummingbirds rather than bees. Flower color and structure are less attractive to bees and other pollen feeding insects in these plants, such as any red flower that bees do not see as well or those that do not have perching platforms like bell-shaped calendula.
Providing a feeder is also a great way to attract hummingbirds to your garden. Be sure to get one that is easy to disassemble and clean. They should be cleaned every week with soap and water, and the nectar changed every 3-4 days.
Red feeders will be more effective and less attractive to insects. Try not to have any yellow on the feeder as this attracts wasps and hornets.
You should place your feeder in a shady area that is open enough to allow the hummingbirds to fly around the feeder. Shade also prevents the nectar from spoiling on hotter days. Multiple feeders should be spaced 10-15 feet apart. If you see more than four birds at a feeder, or a male chasing another male off, you should add another feeder.
Locating your feeder near trees gives the birds a place to rest between feedings.
Nectar solution is easy to make. Mix 4 parts water to one-part sugar. Boil the mixture for 2 minutes to slow fermentation. Do not microwave – it changes the composition. Refrigerate until needed. Sugar water is perfect with a red feeder. Do not add honey, artificial sweeteners or red dye as they post health issues to the hummingbirds.
There is nothing more charming than looking out your window and seeing a hummingbird at your feeder. They have such a C’est la vie sort of feeling to them. And who doesn’t love a little more C’est la vie in their lives.