Hummingbirds are beautiful, engaging little creatures. These energetic little birds fly like helicopters and are a welcome sight in many gardens, particularly when the flowers start to bloom. Among the smallest birds, hummingbirds are native to the Americas and are found from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. There are about 366 species of hummingbird, and around 30 of them are considered endangered.
We’ve written before about making a garden bird-friendly, but hummingbirds are a special case. There are many wonderful reasons to create a hummingbird garden, or at least put some hummingbird-friendly features in your garden. They’re beautiful birds, fun to watch, and as pollinators they do a lot to help our plants thrive. They also feed on insects, further helping maintain the natural balance in the garden. As it turns out, there are some pretty easy steps we can take to make our gardens more friendly and welcoming to hummingbirds, which in turn will help these beautiful creatures thrive.
How to Feed Hummingbirds
Creating or providing food for hummingbirds is the most important step in attracting them to your garden and supporting them in general. Hummingbirds are primarily nectarivorous, meaning that the live on the nectar they gather from flowers (although, as we said, they do eat a lot of insects too!) As such, hummingbirds like many of the same plants that bees do, so your bee-friendly gardening also helps them. Plants especially beloved by hummingbirds include the following:
- Bee balms
- Honeysuckle—this plant is especially beloved by many species of hummingbird particularly in the southeastern US!
- Cardinal Flower
- Butterfly Bush
- Trumpet Creeper
As you may have noticed, many of these flowers are garden staples and absolutely beautiful additions to your landscaping. By planting them you’ll not only make your space a visual delight, but you’ll be supporting hummingbirds, bees, and other nectar-feeding species.
We should talk, briefly, about hummingbird feeders. We’ve all seen these, the plastic feeders with plastic flower feeding stations that hold a red liquid. While the feeders themselves are easy and effective ways to feed hummingbirds in your garden, the red liquid sold as hummingbird food in many home improvement stores isn’t actually healthy for hummingbirds. It can in fact be dangerous to them, as can honey or anything containing artificial sweeteners. If you’d like to use a hummingbird feeder, we recommending making sugar water at home and using it instead. This recipe from the National Audubon Society is a wonderful, safe way to feed hummingbirds.
Water for Hummingbirds
While putting out a traditional bird bath is wonderful for many of our feathered friends, they’re less useful for the smaller, more delicate hummingbirds. A dripping water attachment for a fountain, a misting device, or just a gently dripping spigot can help keep your hummingbird friends hydrated and happy!
Creating Spaces for Hummingbirds in Your Garden
Hummingbirds, like all birds, need spaces for shelter, nesting, and rest. Most hummingbird species prefer large, established trees or larger shrubs for that purpose—a well maintained hedge can be a boon to hummingbirds. If your garden space doesn’t include these features, you may either put them in or just create a hummingbird perch by setting up some dead branches with small twigs still attached so the tiny little birds have a place to rest.
Be Patient; if You Built it They Will Come
It’s entirely possible that hummingbirds will appear in your garden the same day that your plants start to bloom or within hours of putting a feeder out. However, it may also take time for your local hummingbirds to discover the space you’ve created for them. Be patient—hummingbirds will arrive when they do and in the meantime your hummingbird garden will be supporting local bees and other pollinators while looking beautiful.
Do you garden for hummingbirds? Do you just like them? We’d love to see pics of your hummingbird gardens and your hummingbird visitors, so please send them in!