If you live in an area where hummingbirds visit, consider welcoming them to your home this year. You can provide a variety of helpful things for them, even in a small space, whether that be homemade nectar or nesting material. Learn how to begin, or even improve, your own hummingbird paradise!
People around the world marvel at the tiny wonders that are known as “hummingbirds”, though many may never have the opportunity to see these birds due to the fact they are uniquely New World birds only found within the Americas. With over 300 species of hummingbirds, only a handful are found in North America, including the well-known Ruby-throated Hummingbird which makes its way across the Gulf of Mexico and northward for the breeding season. Some hummingbirds like the Anna’s and Allen’s Hummingbird will stay year-round within the United States. Within this article you will also find helpful video and article links to help you learn more. If you live in an area that sees these beautiful birds, consider adding one (or a combination) of the following aspects to your home to welcome them!
I had the opportunity to previously write An Introduction to Hummingbirds with Carole Turek to talk about some of the basics of their care and interesting facts. Carole is the creator of Hummingbird Spot, with a website and an ever-growing YouTube channel in which she shares her own feeders, tips for hummingbird care, and videos of her journey to photograph every hummingbird species. We learned that hummingbirds consume insects as the significant portion of their diet, while nectar gives them energy that they need. Leaving small spider webs not only allows the hummingbirds to possibly consume the spider, but nesting females will also collect spider silks to help bind their nests together during the construction of a new nest or refurbishment of old nests. Some people also hang out mesh bags with fruit peels to help attract insects to an area for the hummingbirds.
Providing man-made nectar is another way to help hummingbirds, but putting out a feeder is a real responsibility. In areas with increasing development as their natural habitat is lost, it could be difficult for them to find a natural nectar source. Placing a feeder with homemade nectar can be done even on a small balcony setting. To help keep the birds healthy, keeping your nectar changed frequently and keeping your feeders well cleaned is important. Red dyes could be harmful to their health we have learned, and even store-bought mixes that are “red dye free” still contain different preservatives that are unnecessary to these little beauties. It is simple to make your own nectar using the 1:4 (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) ratio – two ingredients mixed until the sugar is dissolved. Make sure to use the correct sugar (pure granulated white cane sugar is the most common, but beet sugar is also safe to use). When selecting new feeders to add to your home, remember to select ones that will be easy to take apart and clean.
If you find yourself on a busy schedule and know you may not be able to have the time to mix up nectars and keep feeders fresh and cleaned (sometimes on a daily basis in hot weather), then you may consider planting hummingbird-friendly native flowers instead. Hanging plant pots are another option for those in small spaces, providing a natural nectar source for them. A simple online search or reaching out to a local gardening center/gardening club may help you determine which plants would be right for your area. Searching for native flowering plants and trees is a good option, because some beautiful plants we see at large stores are cultivated and crossed to be appealing for humans and may not be high in nectar content for hummingbirds. Another good practice I’ve learned over the years is to take a pair of binoculars and simply sit outside, observing which wild blooms the hummingbirds visit on their own.
Other aspects you can introduce to your home to further help hummingbirds in your area include providing them with nesting material, hanging perches for them, or even providing a shallow water source for them to bathe in. If you have space for it, consider planting bushes that have fluffy plant fibers for the female to take material from for her nest, or hang out a nesting material station near your feeders where they can take natural materials from it instead. Add hummingbird “swings” as perches near the feeders as well, or provide a well-branched limb secured upright for them in the area. Providing a small fountain with water, especially those that have a pump that will mist or lightly pump the water from the top, is a good way to keep the birds cool while they have a water bath- and it is fun to watch too!
I hope that this article has inspired you to begin feeding, or improve the feeding and care of, your backyard hummingbird friends. Make sure to do more research and pick up helpful books (I recommend Sheri L. Williamson’s Hummingbirds of North America field guide, a very good read even for the experience hummingbird caretaker) to continue educating yourself on their lives, and the best practices for helping them. If you live in an area that does not see these little birds, consider researching and making a charitable donation to an organization working to protect or restore their native habitats. Learn more about the large variety of hummingbird species and see if you have a difficult time choosing a favorite species like me. We hope you will continue to follow the adventures of Wolf Branch Homestead via our writing and videos in the future. Thank you for reading and learning more about welcoming hummingbirds to your home!
Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They have built two cabins with their own hands, enjoy milling their own wood, and enjoy raising heirloom crops in Spring and picking up discarded hides to tan in Winter. They have a small flock of rescued chickens, goats, and raise Khaki Campbell ducks.
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