Find out how to make your backyard a hummingbird paradise when the tiny, vibrant birds make their return to Chicago this spring.
(CHICAGO) These beautiful, tiny birds migrate every year. In spring, they make their way north from Central America and Mexico.
They stay in our area all summer and into fall before making their thousand of miles journey back to their southern homes.
The Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most common species of hummingbird found in Illinois.
You may start to see them in April, but May is when they become more abundant. They migrate south from September to October, but occasionally you may find one lingering into December.
You'll recognize the ruby-throated hummingbird by its bright green coloring. It has a gray-white underside, and the males have a distinct, dazzling red throat. The females have brown heads and sides.
- Length: 2.8-3.5 inches
- Weight: 0.1-0.2 ounces
- Wingspan: 3.1-4.3 inches
Where to find hummingbirds in Chicagoland
Ruby-throated hummingbirds must eat constantly to stay alive due to their extremely high metabolic rate. The tiny bird's heart beats 250 times per minute, and when flying, it can rise to 1,200 beats per minute! Hummingbirds eat nectar, small insects, and spiders.
Since hummingbirds require so much food, they are attracted to gardens where bright and vibrant flowers are growing.
The following Chicago spots are excellent for bird watching, including hummingbirds:
However, you don't have to leave your house to find hummingbirds. If you have room for a garden or a place to hang a colorful hummingbird feeder, you can attract hummingbirds into your own backyard.
Tips for attracting hummingbirds to your Chicago backyard
Hang a hummingbird feeder
You don't need a large backyard to hang up a bird feeder. The Chicago Botanic Garden recommends glass or plastic feeders with a perch to allow the birds to rest while eating. Fill the feeder with a mixture of sugar and water (4 parts water to 1 part sugar.)
To make the sugar mixture, boil the mixture for a few minutes and let it cool. Fill your feeder with a few inches of the mixture. (You can refrigerate the rest for up to 2 weeks.)
You do need to clean and refill the feeders every four days. More often when it's over 80 degrees in the summer.
Plant vibrant, nectar-producing flowers in your garden
Hummingbirds are attracted to orange and red nectar-producing flowers, and also blue-flowered salvia.
According to the Chicago Botanic Garden, hummingbirds are attracted to the following flower plants:
- Red buckeye
- Rhododendron flowers
- Honeysuckle vines
- Trumpet creeper vines.
- Morning glory
- Blue and red lobelia
Don't worry if you don't have room for a large garden. You can hang baskets of verbena, fuchsia, and lantana on your patio or balcony.
Nix the pesticides
Hummingbirds are vulnerable to pesticides sprayed on flowers. Since they eat spiders and insects, inviting hummingbirds into your yard is a natural way to control your pest population.
Provide a water source
Hummingbirds also need a source of water to drink and bathe. You can provide water by placing a shallow dish with water in your backyard, or a bird bath.
Make sure to change the water regularly to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
How long do hummingbirds stay in Chicago?
They'll mostly all be gone from northern Illinois by around mid-October. Fall is another great time to spot the hummingbirds as they make their annual migration south.
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