If you are looking to attract hummingbirds, with their brightly colored feathers and amusing behavior, there are a few things you should do to create a healthy environment for them. Creating a healthy habitat for these spectacular little birds can be a rewarding undertaking.
Provide food for your hummingbirds in the forms of nectar from plants, insects and nectar feeders. Plant a diverse group of flowering plants, shrubs, vines and trees. They are especially attracted to red or orange tubular flowers, so make sure you have an abundance of plants displaying those flower types.
Native plants such as bee balm, trumpet honeysuckle and cardinal flower are rich in nectar and provide a feast for hummingbirds. As a general rule, native plants provide more nectar than hybrids or exotic plants, so concentrate on incorporating some of these into your garden. Other native plants that are beneficial are Missouri Primrose, Beardtongue, Purple Coneflower, Blazingstar, Garden Phlox and Columbine. Even a single plant can help these birds.
If possible, choose a variety of plants with different bloom times, so that there will be a constant supply of flowers on which the hummingbirds can feed. Encourage your neighbors to make their yards into hummingbird habitat, too. Having large swaths of land is even more valuable than small scattered patches because the hummingbirds can save energy traveling from flower to flower.
In the fall and early spring, when flowers are scarce, it’s important to maintain hummingbird feeders full of nectar. Feeders are critical to the survival of these birds, as they provide nutrition when it would otherwise be difficult to find. Hanging several feeders far apart prevents one hummingbird from dominating them all.
Make sure the feeders are filled with sugar water (4 parts hot water to 1 part white sugar, boiled for 1-2 minutes). Never use dye, honey or artificial sweeteners in the feeders. To prevent fermentation, hang the feeders in the shade. The sugar solution should be changed before it gets cloudy or about twice a week during the summer.
Hummingbirds need protein, which they obtain from pollen and insects. Protein is necessary to maintain their bodies and to grow new feathers. As an aerial hunter, a hummingbird snatches small insects from the air. They also eat insects from leaves and spider webs. Baby hummingbirds feed almost exclusively on spiders and insects while in the nest.
Because insects are an important part of their diet, it is important to reduce or eliminate pesticide usage in your yard in order allow for the development of some insects. No, this does not mean your yard will be overtaken by bugs! Having some insect population in your yard and garden makes them available as prey for hummingbirds, as well as other birds.
Hummingbirds like to bathe frequently, so if possible, provide for a constant source of water. This can be a drip fountain or fine misting device. Even just a stationary birdbath will provide them needed water. Just be sure to keep the water fresh.
Hummingbirds prefer to have their nests within a short distance to their supply of nectar. Having shrubbery and small deciduous trees available nearby allows them the protective cover and safety they need for themselves and their young. Their tiny nests are built on small, horizontal surfaces and lined with fluffy down obtained from weeds such as dandelions and thistle.
Sticks and small branches provide suitable perches for hummingbirds. This allows them to perch to rest, sleep or survey their territory. Leave them some spots in the open, so that they can survey their territory and see everything. Also, have some spots for them in protected areas, hidden from view and buffered from wind and cool temperatures.
Providing necessities such as these for our feathered friends will bring them to your home and garden where they can thrive. There, you will be able to enjoy their antics as they interact with one another and marvel at their extraordinary abilities in flight.