It is not difficult to attract hummingbirds to your house or garden, assuming you live in an area where they exist, even transiently. Just a feeder or two, and/or some flowers that hummers are partial to, will see them becoming regular visitors. It might take an hour, or several months, but once they find your feeders or flowers, they are more than likely to return at frequent intervals. I have probably spent thousands of hours observing hummingbirds, and I am not even close to tiring of it…
Once hummingbirds find a feeder, word gets around fast……
I use two specific types of feeders, having field tested many – you can read about them here. (Link to article on best feeders)
At the end of this post is a detailed description of how to prepare the sugar water for your feeders. It is a simple water and sugar mix, meant to somewhat replicate but not replace, naturally occurring nectar.
Hummingbirds (contrary to popular opinion) do not only feed from ‘tubular’ flowers. They will investigate just about any type of flower, and if it produces nectar, they will return to it. Large areas of small, bright flowers will soon have them buzzing around (along with bees, unfortunately!). Here is a list compiled by Birdwatchers.com that are recommended for attracting hummers:
Plants and Flowers that attract hummingbirds:
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis
Lantana Lantana camara
Columbine Aguilegia spp.
Fuchsias Fuchsia spp.
Impatiens Impatiens spp.
Coral-Bells Heuchera sanguinea
Hollyhocks Althea spp.
Penstemen Penstemen spp.
Petunia Petunia spp.
Flowering Tobacco Nicotania alata
Geranium Pelargonium spp.
Begonia Begonia spp.
Azaleas Rhododendron spp.
Butterfly Bush Buddleia davidii
Flowering Quince Chaenomeles japonica
Honeysuckle Lonicera spp.
Weigela Weigela spp.
Flowering Crab Malus spp.
Tulip Poplar Liriodendron Tulipifera
Eucalyptus Eucalyptus spp.
Vines Honeysuckle Lonicera heckrottii
Morning Glory Ipomea ssp.
Trumpet Creeper Campsis radicans
Trumpet Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens
Sugar Water preparation for Hummingbird Feeders
Most natural flower nectar is apparently around 21-25% sugar, so we make our sugar water slightly less sweet – 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Two reasons for this: First, we want flowers to be more attractive than feeders. Flowers do not produce much nectar, so once the hummers have drunk from the sweeter flowers, they will then get the easier, but slightly less desirable, sugar water from the feeders. Second, if we make the sugar concentration too high, the birds will dehydrate. Keeping a lower sugar concentration means the birds remain hydrated, especially through the summer months.
Sugar Water in Small Batches:
For small batches, I boil a kettle full of water, while measuring out 1 part of sugar in a jug. I add ~2 parts of the boiling water to the sugar, and mix it until it is completely dissolved. I then top up to the total 4 parts of water with cold water. This means the finished solution is a lot quicker to cool to room temperature before putting into feeders.
Sugar water in large batches:
This is the approach I have to take during the summer months, when we are inundated with birds. I use a 5-gallon Igloo drinks cooler as a reservoir. In a (very) large saucepan, I heat up 80 (fluid) oz of sugar into a few quarts of water until the sugar is completely dissolved. I then continue heating for a few minutes, then pour it into the cooler. I then top up the cooler to half full with cold water. I then repeat the entire process to fill the cooler to the top (which is some way over its 5 gallon mark). This is approximately a 4:1 ratio of water to sugar, and can be dispensed easily through the tap of the cooler, right into the feeders. It should be noted that this approach should only be considered if you are using more than 5 gallons of sugar water a week. Any less than that and the sugar water should be prepared in small batches as above. The reason for this is that even in an Igloo drinks cooler, the sugar in the sugar water will start to ferment and cause bacteria in a week.
Is paramount for feeding hummingbirds. Neglecting to clean feeders thoroughly can lead to bacterial growth, which is known to affect the birds. Feeders must be cleaned thoroughly at every filling, as should the Igloo cooler, every time it is emptied. Not only does this get rid of the bacteria, but after prolonged dispensing of sugar water, the tap on the cooler sometimes clogs up with crystallized sugar, and cleaning remedies this immediately.