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.
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.
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
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.