For the third year, hummingbirds have been visiting my garden. The first time I remember seeing one, I was stunned. I thought I was dreaming. I never imagined they could thrive where I lived, so close to New York City.
I thought I was lucky to see the hummingbird for the first time, but I had lilies planted that had recently bloomed...
It wasn’t until recently that I discovered they’re attracted to certain colors and flowers.
Revisiting why they were in my garden in the first place, I also recently discovered they (specifically Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds) migrate from Central and South Americas and back up the east coast annually.
Other species of hummingbirds inhabit other regions of the United States. I can only speak for the species that are local to my area.
In this area, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds return from the south around Memorial Day and stay through the summer until about Labor Day! Some enthusiasts have seen other species later in the season, but I cannot attest to that.
I found it interesting that Birds & Blooms said, “To some, sighting a hummingbird signals that challenging times are over and healing can begin. To others, these tiny fliers are an inspiring sign of hope and good luck. Hummingbirds also can have a spiritual significance and mean the spirit of a loved one is near,” and here I am trying to lure them to my garden!
With all my recent discoveries about hummingbirds, I decided to do more to attract them to my garden since they’re a vital part of the pollinating community.
I started looking into feeders since they seem to gravitate toward them. A little light reading (linked below) and a few YouTube videos later, I learned you want feeders with ant traps and bee guards to avoid other pollinating pests.
I also learned not to buy premade hummingbird food or use red food dye when making my own. In fact, the Cornell Lab strongly urges against using red dye in hummingbird food.
To make your own hummingbird food, you will find varying recipes and opinions about brands of sugar, and ratios depending on the time of the season.
The general ratio is 1:4.
1:4 = One part granulated sugar to four parts water.
Considering the size of your feeder(s,) mix the appropriate amount of water with sugar and boil. Once the mixture is boiled, allow the mixture to cool (room temperature) and fill your feeder(s.)
Store prepped hummingbird food in the refrigerator for up to a week. Just as cooling down is important for fresh food, do not serve cold food to hummingbirds as this may induce cold shock. (I’ve never done this, but the thought scares me!)
It’s important to use white granulated sugar, not powdered sugar or brown sugar. Hummingbirds will digest other forms of sugar differently. It can lead to health issues for them.
When hummingbirds visit your feeder(s,) you’ll need to clean the feeders and replace the food regularly. This is to be done every day in the summer when it’s hot and every other day when temperatures are cooler.
To clean, you can soak it (them) in dish soap. Be sure you clean the area the birds come in contact with thoroughly. You want it to be clear for them to access – and germ-free, or they won’t come.
When you’ve realized hummingbirds see your garden as a luxury hummingbird resort, you may notice them from as early as 5:00 am to as late as 9:00 pm – multiple times a day, depending on your garden!
Organic cotton nesting material is also a perk in attracting them, but not necessary.
Lilies aren’t the only flower hummingbirds are attracted to either! According to Almanac, flowers that attract hummingbirds are nectar-rich. They explain, “Brightly-colored flowers that are tubular tend to produce the most nectar, and are particularly attractive to hummingbirds. These include perennials such as bee balms, columbines, daylilies, and lupines; biennials such as foxgloves and hollyhocks; and many annuals, including cleomes, impatiens, and petunias.”
A full list of their favorite flowers can be found below!
If you’re new to hummingbirds like I was (since I only began to try harder at attracting them this year,) remember to be still when you see one. Don’t immediately grab your phone for a picture and scare it off. The calmer you can remain when you see them, the more likely they are to return to your garden.
To anyone else starting to notice these “Garden Jewels,” I hope this helps you figure out how to attract more to your garden!
U.S Forest Service:
National Wildlife Federation:
Recommended flowers (& food):