Why Settle for a Few When You Can Have Hundreds?
When it comes to attracting hummingbirds to my yard, I’m unapologetically greedy.
I want so many that the air vibrates with the beating of invisibly fast wings.
I want the unending zigging and zagging that reflects the sunlight and turns these diminutive creatures into sparkling jewels.
I’ll even welcome the whiplash that happens when one whizzes across my line of vision. (It’s so worth it.)
When it comes to going all out to attract the greatest numbers of hummingbirds to your yard, garden, and feeders, what you do to attract a few is what you can do to attract flocks of them…
You just do a lot more of it!
Add More Nectar Feeders
The more feeders you make available, the more successful you will be attracting hummingbirds to your yard. You’re only limited by the size of your space and the number of safe places for the birds to perch.
Hummingbird aficionados will tell you that the placement of feeders is critical to whether you attract more hummingbirds. Some advocate grouping feeders together. Others support spreading them out.
To Group or Not to Group
You may be surprised to learn that the petite hummingbird can be down-right nasty when competing for food and defending its territory.
To minimize the bickering, keep your feeders about 20 feet apart. You can also place them so feeding birds can’t see each other. Using window feeders on different sides of your house is a perfect solution.
All that said, I’m sure you’ve seen live bird cams streaming images of dozens of birds coming and going faster than planes at LAX with no air traffic controller. Nearly everyone seems to be getting along.
Still there are several universal suggestions for where to hang your hummingbird feeders. They include:
- placing them in shade
- hanging them high enough to deter predators
- ensuring there is sufficient cover to escape
- allowing for adequate space so the birds can hover
- supplying plenty of places for them to perch
Provide a Supply of Protein
Hummingbirds have a broader palate than many realize. They don’t live solely on nectar.
They also need fat, protein, minerals, and vitamins. This is especially true while they are molting and growing rapidly from hatchling to adult bird.
That means bugs, bugs, and more bugs!
Small insects, gnats, insect eggs, larvae, aphids, mosquitoes, and spiders are all on the menu.
You can’t be pro-hummingbird and anti-bug at the same time.
You can help provide a supply of protein- and fat-rich bugs to your garden in several ways:
- Dedicate a portion of your garden to growing weeds. A mixture of broad-leaf plants and taller weeds is a natural habitat for bugs. If you’re not into au naturel, then consider planting a border or use a decorative fence to demarcate the area.
- Add fruit and vegetables to your compost pile. Overripe fruit and veggies will help to cultivate fruit flies, which hummingbirds eat by the hundreds. However, leave the onions, garlic, and citrus peels out. The natural chemicals and acidity of these foods will kill the microorganisms needed to create compost.
- Provide a protein feeder. Some manufacturers offer a product meant to house rotting fruit as a way of cultivating fruit flies and attracting hummingbirds. You can achieve the same result by breaking up a banana and placing it along with the peel close to your nectar feeder.
And about spiders… leave their webs in place. Hummingbirds use spider webbing to build their nests. Its special properties allow the nest to expand as the baby hummers grow.
See also: All About Hummingbird Nests
Use More Red
“Are hummingbirds attracted to red?” is a question I often hear.
While it’s true that hummers have a heightened sensitivity to reds and yellows, in at least one experiment it was the nectar of the flower and not its color that made the difference.
Others have suggested that hummingbirds have been conditioned to respond to red and that where the food is placed is more of a consideration.
Whatever the reason, red seems to work. So, if you want to attract more hummingbirds, then use more red when planning your hummingbird garden oasis.
Decorating with Red
Grow native plants that produce red, preferably tubular, flowers. Audubon’s Native Plant Database is an easy-to-use online tool for finding native plants in your area with the best flowers for hummingbirds. You can use the tool to search for annuals, perennials, and other flora that will attract hummingbirds.
Red ribbon on trees will entice curious hummingbirds to look and when they do, they’ll find your feeders. Red lawn ornaments will perform a similar function. Red garden furniture or accents are another possibility.
And you can always use a variety of bird feeders with different colors and shapes to attract more hummingbirds. Whatever the shape or design, make sure it’s easy to clean.
See also: Flower Colors that Attract Birds
Offer Lots of Shallow Water
Attracting hummingbirds with water is not as simple as installing a few bird baths. The typical bird bath is too deep for these tiny birds and they’ll avoid them. Hummers need a shallow water supply.
Use as many of the following as you can to bring hordes of hummers to your garden or yard:
- Misters: Place these around your flowers, near plants with broad leaves, or wrap them around a tree with small twigs on which hummingbirds can perch. Keep the mist fine, and the noise and glistening of the water will attract them to fly through or sit for a spell. Some lawn sprinklers have a misting setting. If yours does, use it for the same effect.
- Fountains: A fountain can be magical when attracting hummingbirds. The bubbling provides sound and shimmer, while the rim where the water runs over the edge is perfect because it’s shallow.
- Drippers: The drip-drip-drip of a leaking faucet that would drive you and me crazy has the opposite effect with hummingbirds. Place a dripper where the droplets can splash against rocks or broad leaves. Your hummingbirds will rub up against the wetness or allow a few drops a direct hit.
Think Vertically When Planning Your Landscape
The experts at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden advise fans of hummers to “think vertically” when laying out your landscape or planning a hummingbird garden.
Trees are, of course, vertical and hummingbirds require them for nesting, resting, and escape cover.
Consider growing climbing, flowering vines on trellises, trees, along fences, or even a garden shed.
You can use window boxes, ceramic pots, wooden tubs, and hanging baskets to grow a variety of plants that attract hummingbirds. Arrange them to produce a terraced effect with brightly colored flowers and you’ll get compliments from hummingbirds and neighbors alike.
And look to add places where hummingbirds can perch.
You can image how teeny-tiny the feet of a hummingbird are. The ruby-throated hummingbird’s feet are so small they can’t use them to walk. They hop, hover, and fly, but they don’t walk. Their perches need to be thin enough so they can hang on.
When it comes to attracting more hummingbirds to your yard, garden, and feeders, it truly is a matter of more is better. Stephen W. Kress, who has written several books published by the Audubon Society, summarizes this point well:
Once hummingbirds discover your property, the same individuals are likely to return each year at about the same time; they are remarkable creatures of habit. The number of hummingbirds that frequent your yard is closely linked to the abundance of food, water, nesting sites, and perches.
You can get more information about attracting hummingbirds from Cornell’s Ornithology Lab—the undisputed experts on all things birds. You can download their free guide to attracting hummingbirds here.