I have to admit that if there is one thing in my yard that gives me the sheerest sense of joy, it is watching hummingbirds. I mean really, there's no way that you can look at one and feel anything short of pure amazement. It defies logic that they can fly around like they do. Shaped like a plane, but act like a helicopter. It's just the coolest.
So, this morning I was hanging laundry out and I saw my first hummingbird of the season!!! I just stood there vibrating with excitement. I always want to shriek when I see them.... I quickly finished hanging my boys' now adult-sized jeans (more about that sense of amazement another day) and ran inside to find my feeders.
I have two. Feeders, that is. And it occurred to me as I was scrubbing them & sanitizing them that maybe not everyone knows how to attract and properly feed hummingbirds. So, I'll give you my speal on that! :0)
First it's important to build an environment for them. It's easier than it sounds. Hummingbirds actually spend a HUGE part of their day sitting quietly on tree branches, under leaves & such, watching you. I happen to have a Catalpa in my yard and they love it there. Catalpa's have ginormous leaves & that gives them lots of cover. But so will most shade trees and even large shrubs. And actually, speaking of shrubs...... Shrubs with thorns provide great cover for small birds because predatory birds and most importantly the house cat won't go in after them. Hummingbirds don't use bird houses or bird baths or any such fussy stuff. They're master hiders, so give them somewhere to hide.
Next, consider what you're planting this year. Hummingbirds prefer natural nectar to feeders. But along with nectar, your landscape will provide them with a buffet of small bugs. This is an often unmentioned but very important protein source for hummingbirds. Flowers, shrubs and vines with tubular flowers are the easiest for them. Consider the following shrubs: Desert Willow, Azaleas, Flowering Quince or Weigelas. For annual and perrenial flowers stick to red or pink, as these are the colors your hummers are most attracted to: Bee Balm, Columbine, Lupine, Fuschias, Petunias, Impatiens, Salvias, Snapdragons, etc. A curious note: Plants grown from seed tend to have more natural nectar than nursery grown plants.......*yeah, I know, a shameless plug!
Hanging feeders are great too. They will give you a place to watch your hummers more closely. You can get powdered, or even liquid, feed at the grocery store. But you can also make your own pretty easily. Just boil 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and let it cool. Store it in the fridge. Fill your feeder about half full, try to clean it with hot soapy water once a week or so..... Also, stay away from red dye, it can be harmful to some hummer species, I forget why at the moment. And NEVER EVER use honey in your feed. I know, it sounds odd, honey should be such a natural source of food for them. However, honey can VERY QUICKLY ferment in your feeder and kill your hummers. *They don't hold their liquor well ;D
Here's some fun hummer trivia:
- The oldest historical mention of hummingbirds likely dates back to the Taino Native Americans, who were reportedly the first humans to greet Columbus when he landed in America. The Taino believe that hummingbirds are the spreaders of life on Earth, and their warriors were known as Colibir, or Hummingbird warriors, because they are a peaceful bird that will defend their territory with the heart of an eagle.
- The hummingbird is so small, that an insect, the Praying Mantis is its natural enemy.
- Hummingbirds can't walk.