30 Brilliant Ways to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Backyard
Check out our expert tips for attracting hummingbirds to your backyard, including the best plants, feeders and other backyard features. Before long, your backyard will be a hummingbird paradise!
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A Little Bit About Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are some of the most fascinating and flashy fliers you’ll ever see. Yet they’re also some of the most misunderstood. If you want to attract them and keep them coming around (and don’t we all?) you might not be sure how to get started. After all, a lot of information is out there, and it’s a little overwhelming trying to decide what to believe or try. To provide a little insight into these tiny feathered gems, we thought we would get inside their heads a bit and think the way they do. Of course, we can’t really think like hummingbirds. But we have studied their behavior enough over the years to make some good guesses about what they’re thinking. Here’s what we think they might advise. Plus: Learn how to build a cantina bird feeder for your backyard.
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“This is One of Our Favorite Plants”
Your backyard hummingbirds (and butterﬂies!) go crazy for the abundant nectar in the beautiful late-season purple-and-white blooms of the Mexican bush sage. In cool climates, treat this shrubby perennial as an annual and plant it as soon as the threat of frost has passed. It needs a long growing season and mild winter to survive.
“This is What Our Home Looks Like”
When it comes to the job of parenting, female hummingbirds do all the heavy lifting, from building the nest to raising the young. After both eggs hatch, the mother feeds her nestlings a slurry of nectar and keeps them warm. Once they’re about 15 days old, she starts bringing them small insects, continuing to care for them until about a week after they leave the nest. Most nests are built in the fork of a tree or shrub, 10 to 40 feet above the ground, so having trees in your yard is important for attracting hummingbirds.
These Container Plant Combos are Full of Nectar
Whether you have a sprawling landscape or a small patio, growing nectar-rich blooms in pots is a no-fail way to boost the hummingbird and butterfly population in your garden. These cherished fliers flock to colorful flowers that are nestled into favorite pots. The major benefit of this small-space strategy is placing the pots wherever you need to—near a sugar-water feeder, a shady corner or a sunny balcony.
Try these two combos, or mix and match with other hummingbird favorites! The first includes one Ablazin’ Purple Salvia, two Colorblaze Lime Time Coleus, and two Suberbells Evening Star Calibrachoa. And the second combination includes two Surfinia Sky Blue petunia, and two Supertunia Mini Rose Veined Petunia.
Get a Little Sappy
Hummingbirds, especially males, sometimes arrive in their northern nesting grounds before flowers have started to bloom. Where can they find the sweet treats they need for energy? Tree sap! Hummingbirds are known to follow sapsuckers around and drink sap from the holes they drill in trees like maple, birch, and hickory. Plant some of these trees in your own yard to attract hummingbirds that arrive in early spring, along with their sapsucker friends. Plus: These 10 plants will help you to create a perfect rain garden in your landscape.
Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Swanson
“Incorporate a Splashy Water Feature”
Although they occasionally stop at a shallow bath for a dip, these tiny birds prefer to wet their feathers by flying through or sitting under a gentle spray. One of the best ways to transform your landscape into a hummingbird hub is to incorporate a moving water feature. Hummingbirds rinse off in the rain, at splashing streams or in the spray of waterfalls, and you can re-create the same kind of natural showers they love in your own backyard. It’s easy!
“Use Red! It Really Does Work”
In North America, the flowers best adapted for hummingbird pollination are bright red blooms with a tubular shape. Hummingbirds instinctively watch for red things and investigate them. (We’ve seen them making detours to check out the taillights of parked cars, and even someone’s sunburned nose!) There’s no question that planting red flowers will when attracting hummingbirds. These wildflowers do amazingly well in home gardens.
Along Came a Spiderweb
Many hummingbirds use spiderweb silk to build and anchor their tiny nests. The unique flexibility of spiderweb silk allows the nest to expand as the baby hummers grow from the size of jellybean eggs to full-grown birds in the space of just a few weeks. During nesting season (mid to late spring in cold-winter climates, and year-round in warm areas), allow spiderwebs to accumulate in your garden rather than knocking them down. This may help attract hummingbirds looking for a place to nest.
“This Feeder is One of Our Favorites”
Flying saucer-shaped feeders are backyard favorites for a reason. They’re super easy to clean and refill, and the sugar water is usually far enough below the feeding ports that pesky bugs can’t dive in for a sweet snack. A built-in ant moat provides additional protection. Buy this one on Amazon here.
“You Can’t Go Wrong with the Classic Plastic”
Hummingbird newbies can’t go wrong when you use a standard sugar-water feeder. There’s nothing fancy about this backyard staple, but the plastic is easy to clean and the bright red color is extra-attractive to hummingbirds. Plus, many of these classics come with a built-in ant moat, which prevents hungry pests from crawling inside to sample the sweet stuff. Get a hummingbird feeder like this on Amazon today.
“We Don’t Need Fancy Food”
Some companies sell hummingbird nectar, but you can easily make your own. Measure out 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water and mix thoroughly. If you boil the mixture to remove impurities, it may keep longer before it starts to spoil. And don’t mix in any honey, red dye or other additives when feeding hummingbirds. Simple sugar and water work just fine. Keep your bird bath germ and mosquito free with these cleaning tips.
“Horizontal Bar Feeders are Easy to Access”
Multiple ports on a bar feeder can mean many hummingbirds at once, which is always a treat. But cross your fingers that these territorial birds make friends instead of foes. Prevent any power trips by setting up several feeders. Get this style of hummingbird feeder on Amazon now.
“Keep It Clean”
Sugar water that has started to grow moldy can be dangerous to birds. If you’re going to put out feeders, it’s essential that you keep them clean and replace the mixture regularly—at least once every three or four days, more often in hot weather. If the mixture starts to look cloudy, clean the feeder and replace the nectar immediately. This wreath feeds birds and looks beautiful, too!
“Splish, Splash, We Like to Take Baths”
Like all birds, hummingbirds bathe to keep their feathers in top condition. They’re especially fond of misters and fountains, where they seem to love playing in the spray. Give them a place to bathe by adding a simple solar-powered fountain to your existing bird bath, or go the extra mile and build your own hummingbird mister to attract hummingbirds in need of a shower. Plus: Here are nine more expert tips for attracting these tiny, beautiful creatures to your backyard.
“Put It Out In The Open”
Hummingbirds are always looking around for food sources, and they’re good at finding them, but you’ll have more luck attracting hummingbirds if you put feeders in a place where it’s easy to spot. Use a feeder with some bright red on it, and position it where it can be seen by birds flying past at a distance. Build a durable home for your backyard birds with a piece of plastic fence post. Here’s how.
Photo: Courtesy of Ginny Phillips
Black & Blue Salvia
Hummingbirds love all of the salvias, but black and blue is a favorite in our yard. — Ginny Phillips Olathe, Kansas
“Give Us a Little Extra Space”
Goldfinches and some other songbirds may feed together peacefully, but hummingbirds often fight around feeders, chasing one another away. Hummingbirds are adapted to feeding at flowers, which will produce only limited amounts of nectar, so they instinctively protect their food sources even when they’re at feeders with an unlimited supply. Try putting up two or more feeders that can’t be seen from one another. Even the toughest little hummingbird can’t monopolize multiple feeders if he or she can’t see them all at once.
“We’re Creatures of Habit”
If the hummingbirds returning in spring seem to remember where you had flowers or feeders in previous years, they probably do. As tiny creatures that rely on specialized food sources in a big, big world, they have to be good at finding their way back to the best spots. They have a highly developed sense of what scientists call spatial memory. This is a good reason to work extra hard at attracting hummingbirds. Once you get them established, they’ll be back for more. Any of these 49 colorful plants will brighten up your landscape.
“Bring On the Bugs”
We all know hummingbirds love nectar and sugar water. But did you know that insects make a up a large part of their diet too, especially during nesting season? Gnats, flies, mosquitoes, and spiders provide the protein these diminutive birds need. So while it’s tempting to try to clear as many pesky insects from your yard as possible, you’ll actually attract hummingbirds by letting the insects be. You can even try to bring in more fruit flies by putting out overripe bananas or other fruit.
Ant-Proof Your Hummingbird Feeder
If it bugs you that ants come to your hummingbird feeder and treat it like a picnic table, try this. Punch a little hole in the bottom of a shallow can and thread through the line that suspends the feeder. Tie a large knot in the line so the container rests on the knot. Seal the hole at the top and bottom with silicone caulk. Then punch a hole in a smaller can, slip that over the string and caulk it to the bottom of the first can. After the caulk hardens, pour in water and your feeder will be ant-proof. It acts like the moat around a castle. — reader Glenn Rosser
Like this tip? You’ll enjoy these 45 hugely helpful handy hints as well.
If you already have a robust and hungry hummingbird population in your yard, try a feeder with a bit more air. Chic and stylish glass feeders, like this one, may be a challenge to clean and there’s no perch for the birds to linger. However, it’s a fun way to see how hummingbirds hover. Buy this feeder right now.
Attract Hummingbirds to Your Balcony
To make your high-level offerings truly stand out, focus on vivid flowers. For a sunny balcony, geraniums are a solid choice. Their bloom clusters are huge and draw the eye of humans and hummingbirds alike from a distance. But geraniums are generally scanty in nectar, so add a pot or rail box of nectar-rich nasturtiums (long-blooming and easy to start from seed), New Guinea impatiens or other hummingbird-friendly flowers to keep the nectar-seekers there once they arrive. If your balcony is on the shady side, annual shade impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) over a satisfying nectar source and a highly visible attraction.
When you lack outdoor space for feeders, then it’s time to look for creative solutions … and this one is genius! Choose a window, attach the copper-curled feeder, and wait for the hummingbirds to appear. Consider turning a window into a greenhouse, like this one.
“It’s Not You, It’s Me”
While the hummingbirds enjoy having your backyard as a nectar source, they aren’t relying on you 100 percent. One of the top questions asked is: “If I have my feeder out in fall, will it keep the hummingbirds from migrating?” The answer is no – feeding hummingbirds will not stop them from migrating. They’ll migrate when they’re ready, whether feeders are available. It’s instinct!
“Take a Seat”
Though hummingbirds are well-known for their ability to hover as they feed, they definitely need places to sit and rest. Provide woody shrubs near your feeders where they can perch and scope out the situation. You can also buy or build special hummingbird swings for them to enjoy. Love working in your yard? These nine home and garden tools are easy on your back.
“Leave It To the Ladies”
Backyard birders sometimes worry because they had a pair of hummingbirds around and then the male disappeared, leaving a single mother behind. But this is normal for hummingbirds. The male never helps with nest building, incubation or feeding the young. The amazing mother hummingbird does all that work herself. Meanwhile, the male goes off in search of another female. It seems odd to humans, but this behavior ensures that there will be even more hummingbirds for us to enjoy! This reader built a deer-proof bird feeder.
Try a Ring Pop Feeder
Admit it: you’ve wondered what it would be like to hold a sweet hummingbird in your palm. With this ring feeder, you almost can!
“Stay Alert, But Be Patient”
It may take some time for hummingbirds to find your feeder—and even after they do, it may be a while before you notice that they’re visiting. They may zip in to the feeder for a quick sip many times before you happen to catch them in the act. So keep feeding hummingbirds, and keep watching. You’re likely to be rewarded. Check out these 16 seriously cool birdhouses.
Bouquet of Blossoms
Stake these beautiful glass buds into the ground among your favorite plants, maybe even this one that’s a hummingbird favorite, and watch the beauties flock to it!
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