Hummingbird. Even the name hints at the mystery of this amazing feathered creature. The name hummingbird was inspired by the humming sound the wings make, flapping as they do at speeds as fast as 80 to 100 beats per second. Think of that! In the time it takes you to blink your eyes, a hummingbird’s wings go down and up as many as 100 times. A medium-sized hummingbird flying under normal conditions probably beats its wings about 50 beats per second. Even the largest, heaviest hummingbirds beat their wings about 10 beats per second—still a remarkable speed record. It’s no wonder the wings emit a hum as they slice through the air. Looking for some easy, commonsense tips to attract hummingbirds to your backyard? Try these tips below.
1. Add more flowers/feeders.
Flowers first, feeders second. But you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?
2. Add a water feature with a mister.
Hummingbirds love to bathe and mister gives them just the kind of fine spray of water they prefer. If you cannot find a commercial source selling a bird bath mister, poking some tiny holes in a length of old hose will work just fine. Place it near your bird bath so the mist is caught in the bath’s basin.
3. Place tiny perches around the yard.
We leave the bare dead branches in place at the crown of our ornamental Japanese maples because the hummers LOVE to perch on them. Think of how tiny hummingbird feet are, and find some small but sturdy branches to stick around your yard, garden, or deck. Once a hummer tunes in to a favorite perch, it will use it repeatedly.
4. Get your feeders up early/Leave ’em up
Check the arrival dates map in this chapter to see when to expect returning hummingbirds in your area. Put the hanging baskets out and feeders up at least a week before the first arrivals date.
5. Get a head start with hanging baskets
This works great to attract hummingbirds before your gardens are blooming. Any garden center worth a nickel will have flower-filled hanging baskets for sale long before the local plants are blooming. I rarely buy more than one, but that’s usually all it takes.
6. Be organic
With their incredibly high metabolisms, hummingbirds are very susceptible to chemicals such as those used to control garden pests. If you want your hummingbirds to be healthy, avoid or limit the use of chemicals in your gardens and never use any chemicals of any kind on or near your hummingbird feeders.
7. Vary your habitat
Hummingbirds need other kinds of habitat other than flowering plants. They need trees in which to nest, shrubs in which to shelter, places to forage for insects, and access to water for drinking and bathing. Making your yard more bird friendly will automatically make it more hummingbird-friendly, too.
8. Red ribbons, plastic flowers
If you are just starting to establish your yard or garden for hummingbirds, and you want to catch the eye of a passing hummer, a quick way to do it is to hang something bright red or bright pink. The vision of hummingbirds seems to be particularly acute for colors in the pink–red–orange parts of the color spectrum, which is why so many native flowers that have evolved to be visited by hummingbirds are these colors. If you can’t get to the garden center for a hanging basket, hang out something red such as a piece of surveyor’s tape, an artificial flower, even a handkerchief.
9. Leave spider webs up
Spider webs are one of the materials used by hummingbirds to weave together the nest. Look at a hummer nest closely and you’ll see the tiny fibers of spider webbing are what holds it together, what bonds it to its support, and what allows the nest to expand as the nestlings grow. Avoid the temptation to sweep away spider webs in spring and summer when hummers might use them as building materials. Hummers also visit spider webs to swipe and eat insects caught in the webbing, yet another reason to leave those webs alone.
10. Rotten fruit!
This tip may be further than you’d like to go, but rotten fruit is very important to hummingbirds. Why? Rotten or rotting fruit attracts fruit flies and other insects, which are the perfect high-protein snacks for hummingbirds. Hummingbirds rely on insects as a major part of their diet. Don’t believe me? Place a brown banana (or some other past-its-freshness-date fruit) out near your hummer feeder and leave it there until it begins to attract insects. Then watch to see if these insects don’t in turn attract hungry hummingbirds. I’ve seen this in action in our vegetable garden, where rotten tomatoes buzzing with insects had two female ruby-throats diving and snagging the flying bugs.