Hummingbird Basics

No other bird is quite like a hummingbird. Unique to the Americas, these tiny treasures zip from flower to flower, dazzling us with their vibrant colors and aerial acrobatics. With a little time and effort, you can attract hummingbirds to your backyard to enjoy throughout the season.


What Are Hummingbirds?

More than three hundred hummingbird species are found throughout the Americas, ranging in size from the tiny, two-inch-long bee hummingbird of Cuba to the appropriately named, nine-inch-long giant hummingbird of the Andes mountains.

Hummingbird species

About fourteen hummingbird species are regularly found in the United States and Canada. In eastern North America, the only common species is ruby-throated hummingbird. In western North America, the most common species are black-chinned hummingbird, Anna’s hummingbird, and rufous hummingbird. Some regions, such as southeastern Arizona, are home to many more species.


How Can I Attract Hummingbirds to My Backyard?

Hummingbirds are like all birds in that they need three basic things to survive and thrive: food, water, and shelter. Each of these can be provided in your backyard to ensure that hummingbirds not only visit, but stick around. Hummingbirds feed on nectar, mostly from tubular flowers, but also from backyard feeders. They commonly supplement their diet with protein-providing insects, snatching them from midair or gleaning them from plants and spider webs.

A mix of native, flowering plants and quality nectar feeders is the key to attracting a lot of hummingbirds to your backyard. Making your own hummingbird nectar is as easy as combining four parts water to one part table sugar (never use honey or artificial sweeteners). Adding red dye to the nectar is unnecessary and may even be harmful to the birds: The red parts of the feeder itself will attract the hummingbirds. Remember to hang your feeder in a place that is easy to see and enjoy from your favorite window.

Remember to keep your hummingbird feeder clean and the nectar fresh. This is where the Allura feeders really make things easy: Take each feed pod out of the feeder, discard the old nectar, and use your fingertip or a damp towel to wipe out the feed pod. Then, replace the feed pod and refill with fresh nectar. The primary reason hummingbirds stop visiting backyards is spoiled nectar in feeders. Keep your nectar fresh and the birds should relish your backyard as a reliable food source.

You can make things even more interesting by providing a source of water for drinking and bathing. One popular method is to attach a mister to your garden hose. Hummingbirds love to fly through the mist, and you will enjoy watching their antics!

Hummingbirds build tiny nests, usually from plant materials and spider silk, typically on the branch of a deciduous tree. If your backyard has trees, you may be lucky enough to host a nesting female. Watch for an increase in hummingbird activity in late summer when the young ones join the adults at your feeders.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on Nest


How Do I Deal with Bully Hummingbirds?

Though tiny, hummingbirds are about the most aggressive birds you will ever encounter. This sometimes leads to bullying problems at feeders, where one male will attempt to keep all other birds from feeding at his feeder. If you experience this problem, try one of two things. First, place multiple feeders in a tight cluster. The dominant male is usually not able to defend multiple feeders at once and gives up. Second, you can try distributing multiple feeders throughout your yard, such as one on each side of your house. The dominant male will not be able to cover such a large area, and he may not even be able to see all the feeders at once, allowing the other birds to relax and feed in peace.

Another problem that backyard birders sometimes encounter is ants taking over their hummingbird feeders. Fortunately, the Allura feeders are equipped with an ant moat, which, when filled with water, prevents pesky insects from accessing the feed pods.


Do Hummingbirds Migrate?

It depends on the species, but most hummingbirds that breed in the United States and Canada do indeed migrate. Some ruby-throated and rufous hummingbirds spend the winter in the southeastern United States but most go to Central America. Among the exceptions is Anna’s hummingbird, which can be found along the Pacific Coast throughout the seasons.

A commonly believed and repeated myth is that hummingbirds become dependent on backyard feeders and will fail to migrate if feeders are left up late into the season. The truth is that hummingbirds know when they need to migrate whether or not you leave your feeders up. In fact, you should keep your feeders up for about two weeks after you see your last hummingbird. This way, you can attract and feed late migrants as they pass through your backyard in late fall.


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