In March approximately 16 species of the total 325 hummingbird species (Trochildae family) began making their way back to North America and Canada. This year more than 7,000 birders tracked the migration of Ruby-throated “hummers” that flew thousands of miles in search of northern breeding grounds. Hopefully by now you have caught a glimpse of these magical, little birds. If not, we have suggestions on how to attract them to your feeders.
A few facts about hummingbirds
- Hummingbirds are the world’s tiniest birds but consume nearly eight times their body weight per day
- Their wings beat approximately 70 times per second in normal flight, and nearly 200 times per second during a high speed dive
- They live in Central and South America and migrate north each spring as far as Alaska
- Hummers flash and hide their bright colors at will and can hear better than humans
- They are intelligent and remember every flower they have visited instinctively knowing how long before the flower replenishes its nectar
- A hummingbird’s brain is 4.2 percent of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom
- They lay the smallest eggs of all birds, about a half inch long, and can reuse their nests, which are about the size of a thimble
- The average hummingbird weighs 3 grams; a nickel weighs 4.5 grams in comparison
- Classified as ‘swifts’ or Apodiformes, hummingbirds use their feet to shuffle but don’t walk or hop around like other birds
- The five most recognized North American species include Allen’s, Rufous, Anna’s and Costa’s and the Ruby-throated hummingbird
Natural sources of nectar
You can attract hummingbirds by setting up feeders and planting tubular and ornamental flowers, which are a natural source of nectar. Nectar contains water and sugars (sucrose, glucose, and fructose) and a small amount of protein. Try planting perennials such as Weigela, Lilac, Hibiscus, Columbine and Salvia. Hummers are attracted to the blooms which will also beautify your garden year after year.
Make your own nectar
Constantly fueling their high metabolisms, hummingbirds eat bugs, insects and drink nectar. You can supplement their natural diets with commercially prepared nectar, but it is easy to make your own recipe at home, and avoid the red dye that may be harmful to these iridescently feathered friends.
Hummingbird nectar recipe
Measure one-cup of tap water and a quarter-cup of granulated sugar. Bring tap water to a boil and stir in sugar until thoroughly mixed. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before adding it to your feeder. For larger portions, mix at the ratio of one-part sugar to four-parts water. The solution will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Avoid using food coloring, honey, brown sugar, unrefined sugar or sugar substitutes. Place your feeder away from areas that have been sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or insecticides to prevent harm to birds.
Types of feeders
There are two basic types of hummingbird feeders: inverted and saucer feeders. An inverted feeder has a suspended central reservoir that releases nectar through feeding ports. A saucer feeder is dish-shaped and allows birds to dip their bills into the nectar supply. Inverted feeders have a greater capacity but are more difficult to clean. Saucer feeders are easier to assemble and clean but have a smaller capacity and need more frequent refills. It is important to keep feeders clean to avoid mold and bacteria that can harm hummers. It is advisable to clean hummingbird feeders weekly since the sugar water can easily clog feeding ports.