Marianne Canada

Marianne Canada

Growing up in the South, we always had hummingbird feeders adorning the eaves of our house. After all, what better show is there than watching these tiny, frantic birds in their pursuit of sweet nectar?

As an adult, my fascination with hummingbirds goes beyond the red plastic feeders of my youth. Now I’m more interested in knowing what kinds of plants attract hummingbirds, so that I’m sure to have them visit even if I forget to fill my feeder with hummingbird food.

I took my hummingbird questions to an expert, Peg Beute from Ijam’s Nature Center, a 275-acre wildlife sanctuary and environmental learning center.

What do hummingbirds like to eat?

Hummingbirds are nectar drinkers, and get the bulk of their sustenance from nectar producing flowers and hummingbird feeders. However, they also eat small insects — people ask me a lot how to keep ants out of their feeders and I encourage them to leave them be. Hummingbirds love an ant appetizer before their meal of nectar!

How do you make hummingbird food?

It’s a 4:1 sugar:water ratio — heat the water just until the sugar melts. Boiling the sugar water actually reduces some of the energy it provides, so try to not over-heat.

Do hummingbirds live in nests? Can you put a “hummingbird house” in your yard?

When mating or raising their young, hummingbirds make a very tiny nest, the size of a ping pong ball. These nests are incredibly intricate, using spider webs, lichens, ferns and other small plants. They may be fragile looking, but they are very strong. As far as birdhouses go, hummingbirds aren’t “cavity nesters” like bluebirds and woodpeckers; they build their nests out on a limb. What really attracts hummingbirds are the feeders.

Besides feeders, how can you best attract hummingbirds? Are there plants or flowers they like best?

Hummingbirds flock to anything that creates nectar and is the color red. Even red flowers that don’t produce nectar will attract them to feeders placed nearby. Some nectar producing flowers they love are trumpet flowers and cross vines. There are also some vegetables that attract hummingbirds — scarlet runner beans have a beautiful red bloom and snap peas bloom pink or purple. They feed the hummingbird while in bloom, and then you can reap the rewards later on.

Armed with this information, I’m ready to welcome spring with a charm of hummingbirds. That’s right, a group of hummingbirds is called a charm. Isn’t that, well … charming?

4 Comments About this Article

  • Jean McMahon
    What are 'crossvines'?

    Posted 2 years ago

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  • Marjorie Lloyd
    Excellent information. However, please do not place feeders close to bushes where a praying mantis can attack them. A local family observed this one summer and sent photos to our newspaper.

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • anonymous
    Should I hang the feeder in the shade or sun or does it matter to the hummingbirds?

    Posted 2 months ago

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  • anonymous
    Anonymous, I would hang it in the sun. However, mine are in the sun most of the day but shaded the last couple hours of the day. I get birds most anytime during the day, especially morning and evening. The morning birds are braver, they stay around a little longer, perch nearby, and visit more frequently than those 2 hours that the feeders are shaded. Maybe that's coincidence, maybe they like sun better than shade ? But that's my experience. They WILL fight over just 1 feeder, so why not hang one in the sun AND shade and see the difference ? I'm pretty sure they will visit them no matter where you hang them. And by the way, I am an amateur photographer, and if you want to take pictures or just be able to get close to the hummingbirds, wear bright colored clothing. I once lived at my sisters house where I was recovering from a motorcycle wreck and when wearing red or yellow t-shirts, I could get the hummingbirds to feed while I was 6" away with my camera pointed at the feeder, and have even had them land on me

    Posted 1 month ago

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