The Hymn of the Hummingbird
Aside from keeping the delicate balance of animals and insects in your environment, pollinating your local plants and biologically taking care of your soft-bodied insect problems; attracting hummingbirds is fun for both young and old. April is the perfect time to start planning the anticipated arrival of our hungry little hummers as these guys will fly an 800 km trip all the way from their winter grounds in Mexico. They beat their wings up to 75 times per second... meaning that they need a lot fuel. Ranging from 7cm to 10 cm, these tiny wonders can weigh anywhere from 2-20 grams. Keep in mind that although hummingbirds are quite tiny, they need a lot of food. The commitment should not be taken lightly because there is quite a bit to keep in mind. Consider these two methods and choose which one will be right for you.
Method 1: Using Feeders
Hummingbirds get their energy to maintain their incredible metabolism from nectar and sugar water from feeders this is what enables them to get their real food; protein. This, they get from small spiders and soft-bodied insects. Please be aware that this method requires commitment. The feeder must be cleaned anywhere from once every week, to once a day and in some cases, every few hours, as the temperature rises. Honey nectar ferments in the heat and will kill the hummingbird if ingested. Homemade nectar is no different than store bought in terms of quality; because the hummingbird needs to consume almost twice their body weight in food each day; it is simply a caloric supplement to its natural diet.
Cleaning your feeder is the most important part of attracting hummingbirds. The style of feeder will not affect the amount of hummers at the feeder. Choose one that is easy to clean on a regular basis. It does not take long for these tiny, persistent birds to find other reliable food sources if the feeder is not clean and fully stocked. To clean your feeder, follow these two steps:
Step 1: flush feeder with hot tap water and scrub with a bottle brush. DO NOT USE SOAP. This will deter the bird. If black mold is present, use step 2.
Step2: Bleach soak- ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. Allow the feeder to soak for about an hour and then scrub with a bottle brush. Let the feeder rinse under running water for about 10 min.
You can now re-fill with fresh nectar.
Recipe for artificial nectar:
1 pt. ordinary white cane sugar
Mix the two ingredients; it is not necessary to boil but some find this dissolves the water easier. Because microorganisms are transferred to the feeder by hummingbird bills, boiling the water is an old wives' tale.
As it was mentioned earlier, using feeders are a responsibility. With this, however, the presence of happy, full energetic hummingbirds is the great reward for all your hard work. This is not the end-all and be-all for attracting hummingbirds though. If you are not up to the task for using a feeder, than perhaps simply planting the right shrubs and perennials are more your style. The right plant material can be just as effective as a feeder. Generally, hummingbirds are attracted to reddish, tubular blooms. To make this a little more of a manageable task, here are some plant material suggestions that are readily available from our nursery:
Alcea rosea: Hollyhocks, Zone 3-7
Canna sp.: Canna, Zone 8-10 ( tender perennial)
Delphinium: Delphinium, Zone 3-7
Dicentra spectabilis: Bleeding heart, Zone 3-8
Epimedium grandiflorum: Bishop's hat, Zone 4-9
Hemerocallis sp.: Daylily, Zone 3-8
Heuchera: Coral bells, Zone 3-8
Hosta: Plantain lily, Zone 3-8
Liatris: Gayfeather, Zone 3-8
Lobelia cardinalis: Lobelia, Zone 4-8
Lonicera sempervirens: Honeysuckle, Zone 4-10
Monarda: Bee Balm, Zone 4-8