Attracting Hummingbirds

I am fortunate to have hummingbirds return every year to my backyard. They usually arrive mid to late spring for those of us in Northern New England. In anticipation and readiness for their arrival, one can follow the migration maps. If you don’t have hummingbirds and would like to attract them, there are things you can do to increase your success.

Female Hummingbird

Ruby-throat Hummingbird – female

Spider Webs:

Many of us who clean up our yards sweep away old spider webs. Leave them up. Insects often get caught in spider webs; if there is anything hummers love to do, it is to snatch bugs from the webs. Insects provide a good source of protein for them. Spider webs have a dual purpose for hummers: Not only do they provide an easy meal, but the material is important for the construction of their nests.

Hummingbird nests are made from a variety of materials such as lichen, moss, lint, leaf hairs, soft plant pieces, etc., but the glue that holds the nest together is spider webs. They have a certain amount of stretch ability that allows for expansion when the babies grow. Who would ever think of a spider web as being this strong? On the other hand, the babies are as light as a feather.


Go to your local hardware store and buy bright red or orange surveyor’s tape. Tie foot-long pieces of tape to bushes, trees, deck railings, plants, or feeders. Hummingbirds have incredible long-distance vision and find their food by sight. Bright colors oftentimes will lure migrant hummingbirds down from the sky for a closer look.

They look for reddish flowers because these have a higher content of nectar. Hummingbirds can tell while in mid-flight if there’s a bright red plant down there, and if it’s the right one for them. Knowing which flowers to plant in your garden saves the hummingbird a great deal of energy in searching for a food source. Bees are a great competitor of hummingbirds, but they are unable to see the red end of the spectrum, unlike the hummingbirds.

Replace Old Feeders:

Spruce up or replace old feeders. If your feeders are a bit faded, you can paint them with red nail polish. The shiny finish will catch the eye of a hungry hummer. Remember, he/she can see this from afar. In anticipation of their arrival, have your feeders ready. If you plan to buy new feeders, pick one that can be cleaned and refilled with ease. Many diseases can be spread through dirty bird feeders. It’s a good practice to clean them every three days.

Perched on a snag

Ruby-throat hummingbird -male  sitting on a perch


A snag is a branch that is dead on the end, or really, any dead branch is a snag. I put snags up on the deck. Simply tie the branch to the rail or anywhere in your yard and sink it in the ground fairly close to your bird feeder. Many birds like to perch on a branch. It gives them an opportunity to rest, preen, and most of all, hunt.

Hummingbirds are no different. One thing that may happen is that a territorial male might become a bully, making it his watch tower and defending the feeder solely for himself. In this case, you can counteract by adding two or more feeders in the vicinity, attracting many other hummers and leaving him no choice but to give up his dominance.


There are many plants that attract and keep hummingbirds in your yard. If you are thinking of adding to your gardens with the idea of keeping hummingbirds, choose plants with different blooming periods.

Ask your local gardening center for advice. I plant many annuals alongside my perennials because, usually, they bloom all summer, and it’s a good reason for birds and bees to stay around. Another way to have more blooms in the yard is to deadhead flowers after they have wilted. This tricks the plant into thinking their work is not done yet, and they will start reproducing again.

Late in the season, flower production is down, but hummer numbers are up with all the recently fledged youngsters. One plant that I’ve found to be great at this time is the giant Zinnia. It is well established by then and blooms right through October, or until a killing frost.

Final advice on attracting hummingbirds

Pollinating a flowering Maple Tree

Pollinating a flowering Maple Tree

Once you are successful in attracting hummingbirds to your yard, they will usually return every year. “Hummingbirds are ranked as one of the highest bird pollinators in North America.”  All birds, not just hummingbirds, are a major component in your backyard habitat. They play a crucial role in the natural management of the larger environment and your own yard. They do this by pollinating flowering trees and plants, eating insects, eating seeds, which contributes to the natural checks and balances built into our environment. Last but not least, they give a great deal of pleasure to us, the facilitator or observer.

This entry was posted in Bird watching, Birds, Gardens, How-to, Insects, Migration, Nature, Scenic New England, Spring, Spring Migration, Vermont, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Mike Blanchette April 15, 2013 at 08:32 #

    Great advice, Jane!

  2. Tina McManus April 16, 2013 at 11:03 #

    Very insightful and helpful article to one who is dying to attract them to her yard. I plan to follow many of Jane’s suggestions. Happy birding!

    • Jane Ogilvie April 16, 2013 at 13:49 #

      Tina, I think you may succeed in attracting hummers this yr. esp since your neighbor has them.

      • Jane Ogilvie April 16, 2013 at 13:50 #

        Jim you rock with your photography.. I’m holding you to some great Hummer shots this summer… :)J

  3. Jim Gasco April 16, 2013 at 11:11 #

    Incredible article with a plethora of fantastic information on the habits of these sometimes elusive birds. I say elusive because they certainly are adept at eluding my photography set up at times. I plan on using Jane’s well written and informative article to increase my chances.

  4. Patricia Davis April 16, 2013 at 12:54 #

    Fine article and very helpful for Hummingbird lovers ! Thanks, Jane !

    • Jane Ogilvie April 16, 2013 at 13:52 #

      My pleasure… A million thank yous for all your support/words of wisdom, most of all the friendship we’ve had all these yrs. :)J

  5. George April 16, 2013 at 17:12 #

    Great article. I’m getting a Zinia to go with my new feeder! Thanks for this common sense approach to bummers!

    • j April 17, 2013 at 11:42 #

      Your hummers will love them.:)

  6. Ellen Powell April 16, 2013 at 19:16 #

    What a great article- so glad to have been pointed to it. Hummers are on my photography bucket list, and I’ve already decided to get serious about checking that one off this summer. This article couldn’t have come at a better time! Thank you, Jane!

  7. Kathy April 17, 2013 at 00:06 #

    Great article Jane. I love hummers so was glad to have been told about this article. Love the info about the snags. I wouldn’t have thought of that but since my feeder is hanging above my deck, I think it would work great there on the railing. Can’t wait to try it!!

  8. Candace Adams April 17, 2013 at 07:16 #

    Fantastic article and Photos Jane.Great tips!

  9. Jane Ogilvie April 17, 2013 at 11:43 #

    Ellen I wish you lots of luck and am hoping to see some beautiful photos from you:)J

  10. Esmerelda April 17, 2013 at 12:54 #

    Great stuff!! Easy inexpensive ways to keep these delightful creatures coming back !

    Nicely done Jane!

    • Jane Ogilvie April 18, 2013 at 12:05 #

      Esmerelda, really is an easy way to try and attract hummingbirds to you yard. Your gardens lure them in —they are in heaven when they get your house:)

  11. Jeff Sinon April 17, 2013 at 21:13 #

    Great article Jane, thanks!

  12. Dan Maglione April 18, 2013 at 11:42 #

    Jane You have presented a lot of great knowlegde in your article. I enjoyed reading and learning more about Humming Birds. I have always wanted to do more work with them as subjects but now have a new and expanded insight to be more sucssesfull in capturing these beautiful yet amazing birds. Thank You!

    • Jane Ogilvie April 18, 2013 at 12:08 #

      Dan I wish you luck this year..Once you have them the fun/ challenge begins… I will give you some tips this summer on how to photograph them.

  13. Christine Cude April 21, 2013 at 13:34 #

    Great article and beautiful pictures!!

  14. bill wakeham October 19, 2013 at 07:31 #

    Good morning Jane….I’m relatively new to exploring NEphotgraphyguild….great site.
    I just read this article on HBs and thought your ideas about nail polish and surveyors tape are great….I will use both ideas in preparation for next season.
    I’m an avid (natural light) HB photographer in northern MA and if I may add 2 more suggestions; add water sounds to your garden, e.g. a mister or a small fountain, 2 other great attractors for HBs.
    And for HB photography; single port feeders….predictable feeding location to focus your camera on….easier for photographers just getting into capturing HBs.

  15. seo November 8, 2015 at 21:29 #

    Your story-telling style is darn out cool, keep up the good work.