How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Backyard

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There’s nothing like the flamboyant and whimsical hummingbird. For being the smallest bird in the world, they have an amazingly big personality. Along with their exuberant disposition, their stunning iridescent feathers will take your breath away. 

Hummingbird Flying
Image by gilamonster8 via Flickr.

Considering this, it’s no wonder everyone is so captivated by this little bird! With the following tips, you’ll learn how to attract hummingbirds to your backyard so you can join in the splendor of their joy and character.

Creating a Hummingbird Haven in Your Backyard

Hummingbirds are relatively easy to attract because they search continuously for nectar and abundant nutrient sources. 

Across most of North America, hummingbirds are migratory and are around from spring to fall. Some hummingbird species are year-long residents in warm climates, such as the West Coast and South. 

As such, you may be able to attract a hummingbird to your backyard at any time, or you may need to wait for spring when they arrive in your area. 

In either case, you’ll want various resources for your hummingbirds so that your backyard meets their needs throughout the seasons. These resources include food (feeders and plants that attract hummingbirds), shelter, and water. 

Follow the steps below on how to attract hummingbirds to your backyard and you’ll have them buzzing around your flowers in no time.

1. Plant Flowers

Hummingbird Takes Nectar From a Flower
Image by Nancy Witthuhn via Flickr.

Hummingbirds are incredible fliers. Their fast-moving wings allow them to hover and speedily zip from flower to flower. 

As you might imagine, this requires a lot of energy. A hummingbird’s diet consists of about 90% sugary nectar from flowers to maintain their energy. This sugar provides them with quick fuel. Because they have such a fast metabolism, they feed about every 10 to 15 minutes. 

Planting a variety of flowers is the best way to attract hummingbirds to your backyard. In particular, plants that attract hummingbirds have brightly colored, tubular flowers. This is because a hummingbird’s long, sword-like beak and probing tongue have evolved to sip nectar from tubular flowers. 

While it’s often remarked that it’s red flowering plants that attract hummingbirds, it’s more about the flower’s nectar supply than its color. As long as you provide a variety of tubular flowers that bloom throughout the growing season, you’ll be sure to attract hummingbirds. 

Native flowers are preferred as these are easy to maintain, are better for the ecosystem, and provide the perfect amount of nectar for the hummingbirds. Here’s a list of some native plants that attract hummingbirds: 

  • Bee Balm (Monarda spp.) 
  • Salvia (Salvia spp.)
  • Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
  • Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)
  • Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
  • Delphinium (Delphinium spp.) 

While native plants are best, hummingbirds still appreciate ornamental flowers and shrubs. In the Pacific Northwest (where some hummingbirds are year-long residents), they love rosemary bushes which flower during the winter. I’ve also seen them sipping from lavender bushes, petunias, flowering mints, Anise hyssop, and hollyhocks. They’re not too particular. 

2. Providing Perches

Because of how much energy hummingbirds use when flying, they need to rest periodically. As such, shrubs and small trees are plants that attract hummingbirds because they provide resting perches. 

Shrubs will also give hummingbirds a safe and shaded place to rest throughout the day. 

With both resting perches and various flowers, you’re more likely to encourage hummingbirds to stay close to your backyard. This is because you’re providing both food and shelter – two of the primary resources they need. It also increases your chances of a female nesting in one of your shrubs. 

Hummingbird Perched
Image by Gary McCormick via Flickr.

3. Set up a Hummingbird Feeder 

Setting up a hummingbird feeder is a sure way to attract hummingbirds to your backyard. These special feeders are usually bright red and are designed to hold sugar water. 

You can easily make nectar out of sugar and water at home. Simply combine one part refined white sugar to four parts boiled water. Mix thoroughly until the sugar completely dissolves. Let the sugar water cool to room temperature, then fill the feeder and place it outside. 

It’s imperative to keep your hummingbird feeder clean and replace the sugar water once a week (twice in hot weather). Dirty feeders or moldy sugar water can be critically harmful to hummingbirds. 

To clean a hummingbird feeder, soak it in water and vinegar and rinse it out with warm water. If you notice the sugar water in your feeder is cloudy, immediately clean the feeder and provide fresh nectar. 

4. Maintain a Pesticide-Free Backyard 

Along with nectar, hummingbirds rely on small insects and spiders for protein. As such, they prefer diverse and healthy ecosystems that provide them with various food sources. 

To maintain a healthy ecosystem in your backyard, don’t use pesticides or herbicides. Not only does this support hummingbirds, but also all the wildlife in your area. 

Furthermore, hummingbirds use spiderwebs (and lichen/moss) to build their nest. And, hummingbird nestlings are almost exclusively fed small spiders until they’re able to leave the nest. 

In this way, a pesticide-free backyard encourages hummingbirds and other bird species (such as bluebirds or swallows) to nest near your home. 

Hummingbird Feeder Attracting a Hummingbird
Image by Laura Stafford via Flickr.

5. Providing Water

The last step is to provide a water source to create the ideal backyard for attracting hummingbirds. While nectar hydrates hummingbirds, they still love to bathe and sip fresh water. 

However, they don’t often bathe in bird baths. Rather, they prefer smaller pools of water or mist. You can find hummingbird fountains or misters online, or you can even make one yourself

Alternatively, place rocks in your bird bath to create more shallow pools for hummingbirds. These rocks will also help bees and other insects drink water more safely. 

Enjoying a Hummingbird-Friendly Backyard 

Now that you know how to attract hummingbirds to your backyard, it’s only a matter of time before they visit. 

With nectar, perches, insects, water, and plants that attract hummingbirds, you’ll create a hummingbird paradise that will attract them year after year. 

While it may be a bit of work at first to gather resources, the effort will be more than worth it once you have little hummingbirds zipping around your yard. 

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