Everything Guide to Hummingbirds

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Want to attract hummingbirds to your garden? Let’s start with 10 fascinating hummingbird facts and then we will move into how to attract them to your garden and get them to stay.

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10 Fascinating Hummingbird Facts

  1. With over 350 different species of hummingbirds, this group is the second largest family of birds in the world. The most common species in the mid-atlantic is the ruby-throated hummingbird.
  2. A hummingbird’s heart beats over 1200 times per minute! 
  3. Hummingbirds can flap their wings at a rate of up to 200 times per second, depending on the species. On average, they fly at 25 to 30 mph – but can hit speeds of 50 mph during a dive!
  4. Hummingbirds have an amazing memory. They can remember every flower they have ever visited, and also know how long it takes for the flower to refill with nectar. 
  5. In addition to flowers, hummingbirds also have the ability to remember and recognize people. They will pay special attention to the person who changes out their hummingbird feeder, and will even get sassy with you as a reminder that the feeder needs a refill! Hummingbirds also remember where the good feeders and gardens are, and will return to them year-after-year!
  6. Hummingbirds do not mate for life. The female hummingbird does the work of building a nest, tending to eggs, and raising the young. A hummingbird nest is about the size of a walnut shell, the eggs the size of a large jelly bean, and a newborn hummingbird is around the size of a penny!
  7. While hummingbirds do not have a sense of smell, they are attracted to bright colors. Red is their favorite. 
  8. A very specialized tongue lives within that long beak! Hummingbirds long narrow beak and tongue are perfectly designed to access nectar deep within flowers. They use their slender straw-like tongue to suck up nectar at over 20 laps per second. Hundreds of plant species rely on pollination by hummingbirds to produce or survive.
  9. Hummingbirds’ feet are tiny and weak. They cannot walk or hop, but they do perch and rest! 
  10. In fact, rather than traditional sleep, hummingbirds can enter a deep resting period called “torpor”. In this state, their metabolism will slow down to ⅕ of normal, conserving energy in cold weather and when food is more scarce.
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How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden

Use Red in Your Garden

The color red attracts hummingbirds. Like most birds, hummingbirds do not have a good sense of smell.  So color is what attracts them to your yard.  And hummingbirds love red. In fact, the red doesn’t have to be on a flower to attract hummingbirds.

Tie red ribbons on trees, use bright red garden art, or hang red bird feeders and you can get a hummingbird to be interested in your yard. Of course, you will need food, water and cover available in your yard if you want to keep them there.

Plant Brightly Colored Tubular Flowers

The best hummingbird flowers are tubular, brightly colored, and grow where it’s easy for the birds to hover and sip. The tubular shapes hold more nectar in them than flatter shapes. Hummingbirds love to eat a variety of salvia, lavender, nasturtium, agastache, bee balm, and penstemon flowers in the garden. 

Truth be told, they visit the flowers more than the feeder. And the bright colors (especially red) attract the bird’s attention. The bonus is that a lot of these plants also attract butterflies. For more ideas of hummingbird-friendly flowers, see this article: Plants that Attract Hummingbirds

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Plant a Continuous Blooming Garden

In order to provide natural food for your hummingbirds all season long, plan your garden so that you will have flowers blooming all summer. Adding some hummingbird-friendly annuals to your garden will help to bridge any gaps.

Deadhead Flowers to Promote Re-Blooms

To extend the bloom time of your plants, make sure you remove the flowers immediately after they have finished blooming. That will encourage your plants to put out another set of flowers, and give your hummingbirds food for a longer period of time.

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Plant Native Plants

Native plants like trumpet honeysuckle, bee balm, and hummingbird sage provide much more nectar than hybrids and exotics. That means you can pack more hummingbird food into the same amount of space.

As an added benefit, native plants are also well-suited for their climate….so they usually need less maintenance in order to thrive.

Note: Some of the plants that hummingbirds love can be aggressive so you might want to check with nurseries and gardeners in your area before planting them. Or put them in an area of your yard where they can expand without causing problems.

Add a Mister

A fountain or mister provides water for hummingbird baths. Hummingbirds do like to take baths but they prefer to fly through moving water than to splash around in a bird bath. Provide a fountain that has small amounts of flowing water or a mister and you will have some happy hummingbirds!

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Encourage Spider Webs

Don’t get rid of the spider webs in your yard if you want to encourage hummingbirds. Spider webs provide both nesting materials and food for hummingbirds. They like to weave the web into their nests to help make it a soft place for the baby hummingbirds. Insects that have been caught in the web also provide easy-to-access food for hummingbirds…the bugs provide their protein, and they don’t have to work very hard to get these ones!

Don’t Use Pesticides

Since hummingbirds eat bugs, the next logical conclusion is that using pesticide in your yard could be harmful to the birds. If they eat any of the insects that have ingested pesticide, the hummingbirds will also be poisoned…which isn’t very good for encouraging them to stay in your yard.

Provide Resting Places

With all of the energy that hummingbirds use flitting from flower to flower, they do like rest occasionally.  Providing them with some protected resting spots near your feeder gives them a comfortable place to stop.

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Hang Hummingbird Feeders

This next way to attract hummingbirds seems like a no-brainer…hanging hummingbird feeders.

Adding a hummingbird feeder to your garden, balcony, or other outdoor space is one excellent way to provide hummingbirds with a steady supply of food. Made of only sugar and water, our simple homemade hummingbird food recipe closely mimics natural flower nectar. Nectar provides hummingbirds with essential carbohydrates, but is not all they eat. Hummingbirds also eat tiny insects and spiders for protein and other nutrients, and are also known to eat tree sap! The small amounts of pollen they inadvertently consume while sipping on nectar also provides a little protein to their diet as well. 

Hummingbird feeders are the alternative to using natural sources (ie. flowers) for feeding your hummingbirds. Read Everything About Hummingbird Feeders to learn more.

Hummingbirds are fascinating and a wonderful addition to your garden. They require very little attention but will be something that you search for every spring. Hunter loves our hummingbirds so much that when we travel he always makes sure someone is going to watch them. We love hummingbirds so much that we named our blog and homestead after them, you can read about that in Our Story

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