Using Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds have become a friend to many gardeners due to their diet of flower nectar. Hummingbirds have tiny wings that beat at high frequencies that are audible to the human ear as a humming sound. The smallest bird is a species of hummingbird known as the Bee Hummingbird. Because of their fast metabolisms, hummingbirds eat very frequently, and can consume up to three times their body weight in one day. Ten to fifteen percent of their time is spent eating. Common types of hummingbirds in North America include:

  • Allen's Hummingbird

  • Anna's Hummingbird

  • Costa's Hummingbird

  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

  • Rufous Hummingbird

Diet

A hummingbird's diet consists of nectar from flowers, insects, and spiders. Hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers, although they drink from a variety of colored flowers. Next to insects, hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of all animals. This high metabolism is necessary due to the rapid beating of the hummingbird's wings.

Hummingbird nectar can be made by combining one cup of pure cane white sugar with four cups of boiling water. These should be combined and mixed until the sugar is fully dissolved in the water. The mixture should be cooled and refrigerated. Once cooled, it can be added to the hummingbird feeder. It is recommended to make your own hummingbird food instead of buying a pre-made mixture, as often those may contain additives that are harmful to birds, including food dye. Hummingbirds also need water to drink, so be sure to place a shallow birdbath near the hummingbird feeder.

Migration

Hummingbirds are found throughout the Americas and migrate annually. Most hummingbirds will migrate from the United States and Canada in the winter to Mexico and Central America. Some species located in southern South America will migrate north during the southern winters. Hummingbirds typically migrate to the United States from Central America and Mexico in the early spring coordinating with the arrival of flowers and tree leaves. They can remain north until mid-autumn and then venture south for more food sources.

Gardens and Landscaping

Hummingbirds are visually attracted to flowers; they do not use scent to find them. Bright flowers are important to have so that hummingbirds can see them from a distance. Flowers should be spaced out enough so that hummingbirds have room to maneuver. This also provides separate feeding spaces since some hummingbirds can become territorial of their food source. Hanging baskets with flowers are a good option for those in apartments or who may not have a lot of space in their yard. Trees and shrubs should also be located need the flowers or food source so that hummingbirds have a protected area and a potential nesting region. They often use moss and lichens for nest building. Perches such as archways, clotheslines, and tree branches should also be located nearby for the birds. Make sure to avoid the usage of pesticides and insecticides in hummingbird gardens. The birds might ingest pesticides while trying to feed on nectar. Also, having insects near the feeding area will attract hummingbirds since they will supplement their nectar diet with insects as a protein source.

Some common flowers and plants to use in a hummingbird garden include:

Flowers

  • Trumpet Vine

  • Geranium

  • Fuchsia

  • Zinnia

  • Cardinal Flower

  • Goldenrod

  • Red Salvia

  • Petunia

Trees and Other Plants

  • Eucalyptus

  • Willow

  • Bottlebrush

  • Moss

  • Crabapple

  • English Hawthorn

  • Firecracker Bush

  • Morning Glory

  • Locust Tree

  • Honeysuckle

Fun Facts:

  • A hummingbird rarely walks. Their feet are good for perching but not walking on the ground. They fly almost everywhere.

  • Although hummingbirds have a relatively long lifespan for an animal with such a high metabolism, most hummingbirds will not live past their first year due to dangers between the time they hatch and depart from the nest. Baby hummingbirds cannot fly. Hummingbirds that survive their vulnerable first year, live for about three to five years, but they can live up to ten years or more.

  • Hummingbirds can fly sideways, upside-down, and can ever hover in mid-air

  • Hummingbirds fly an average of twenty-five to thirty miles per hour, and when making quick dives their speeds can reach up to sixty miles per hour.

More Resources:

Hummingbird Habitats

Hummingbird Feeder Information

Landscaping for Hummingbirds

How to Create a Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden

Hummingbirds and How to Attract Them

Hummingbird Tidbits

The Hummingbird Society

Hummingbird Migration

Birdwatchers.com's Tips for Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds

Hummingbird Gardens

Hummingbirds of the World

Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Garden

Wild Birds Unlimited Hummingbird Resources

How to Create A Haven for Hummingbirds

Plants that Attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies