Attracting Hummingbirds: Hummer-Friendly Habitat in a NW Garden
Create a Garden with Feeders and Flowers To Attract Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds! One of the most amazing of God's creatures, and one of my favorites, . . . if not favorite of birds. They are such fun to watch and bring such energy to a garden. Who wouldn't want hummingbird visitors!
For help, tips, and information on creating your own happy hummer-friendly-habitat, look below for more on hummingbirds favorite plants that grow well in the Pacific NW. You don't live in this region? Don't despair, as some of the plants placed on my list of hummingbird plants can be suitably grown in many other plant zones, too.
I hope you'll enjoy the additional hummingbird information, books for reference, photos, good feeder recommendations, plus a hummingbird nectar recipe; all to ensure success in making your hummers at home. Soon, you'll be watching hummingbirds while sitting amongst the flowers and trees. Beautiful! Enjoy!
Hummingbird Feeding at Crocosmia
Create a beautiful Hummingbird Habitat, Their "Home Away from Home"
By providing a hummingbird-friendly habitat in your backyard, or larger acreage, you will not only attract a greater number of species of hummingbirds and other birds, but have a beautiful outdoor area you will enjoy.
Hummingbird habitats don't have to be large if you have limited space, energy, or mobility. Arrange some pots and planters on a patio or balcony. Designate a corner of your backyard for a hummingbird garden. More people are using space in their small front yards or side yards making a courtyard retreat. Bring hummingbirds to your retreat. They are such fun!
To keep visiting hummers happy in their new-found habitat, plant an assortment of flowering plants with overlapping blooming periods. This will insure there will be nectar producing plants readily available whenever hungry hummers need to satisfy their sweet nectar craze.
Hummingbirds have such a high metabolism that they eat 3 to 5 times in an hours time. One-fourth of their diet is insects, the rest comes from nectar-producing flowering plants, running tree sap, and/or nectar from hummingbird feeders. Trees and shrubs nearby feeders (within 20-40 feet) will give hummers a place to rest in between their frequent trips to the feeder.
Make your hummingbird sanctuary a beautiful mix of shrubs, trees, flowering plants (annuals and perennials), and flowering vines. If you have space include an evergreen conifer or several, as these provide protection from storms.
You may want to leave a dead snag or refrain from cutting all bare dead limbs as hummingbirds and other birds love to perch and look over their territory. It is amazing to spot a tiny male hummingbird at the top of a tall tree or on a very high bare branch looking over the scene and his territory.
Many times, hummingbirds tend to prefer flowers with a tubular or trumpet shape. (See the foxglove photo above.) Tubular and trumpet shapes seem natural for them to fit their bill into. Colors don't have to be only red, it's probably their favorite color, but they will visit pink, orange, lavender to violet/blue, to purple shades, and white. If you draw them near with red, they are more apt to try the other colored flowers nearby. Fragrance isn't a factor to draw them. In fact, scents draw many bees, but hummingbirds frequently like flowers that have no scent.
As you are preparing a bed of flowers consider that the hummingbird hovers and roams about from blossom to blossom so they need maneuvering room for their fast beating wings. One idea is to layer the drift of flowers so as short are in front, and taller in back. The flower blossoms will be up front in the hummingbirds view and easily accessible to feed upon. Another suggestion is to stagger plants strategically so shorter plants are spaced between taller groups. A trellis, arbor, and hanging baskets are other ways to show off and grow flowering vines and flowers making them convenient to hummingbirds. Trumpet creeper vines (Bignonia radicans) are a great source of nectar but like other vines, need support of an arbor, strong trellis, or wall.
Don't use pesticides around your feeders and flowers as it is dangerous for the hummers to ingest toxic chemicals and may kill the insects which are part of their protein diet. It may be detrimental to nesting females who may lose their close protein source.
Note: The Hummingbird Plant List (see below) gives you many choices of plants to attract hummingbirds. The list states the season that flowering plants are blooming, but flowers often overlap seasons, and there's many factors in a microclimate besides weather and your climate zone that influence or change bloom time.
Balcony and Patio Planters for Small Space Gardening - Add Beauty and Functionality to your Small Hummingbird Space
Small space gardening can be achieved using containers and planters. Try a row of identical containers making a low wall or grouping pots and containers of different sizes and heights. Add a whimsical or special focal point of garden décor or art. Perhaps, use hanging pots or flowers that trail over the sides of a containers or a balcony rail.
Lure hummingbirds with annual flowers and vines in your patio or deck pots and planters. Check out the Hummingbird Plant List.
Attracting NW Hummingbirds
The Big Four Hummingbirds of the NW USA
Drum roll, please! . . .
The big four Hummingbird species most common to the NW United States, specifically Oregon and Washington state are:
Rufous and Anna's are most common, while to see many Calliope or Black-Chinned hummingbirds is rare west of the Cascade Mt. range.
In the Puget Sound and Williamette Valleys of Washington and Oregon the Anna's hummingbird can stay year around, as long as it can survive with insects and care from hummingbird enthusiasts who may keep nectar and water thawed during winter weather.
Hummingbirds of the Pacific Northwest
Much More To Follow
This is just a part of the useful Information. This article is fairly long but there's still lots more to learn past the first set of comments. I hope you will continue on through the ending if you find this interesting and informative. Enjoy!
"Rufous Hummingbird Midst his Habitat"
Hummer-voted Favorite Plant Attractions Grown in My Bird habitat
Plant Flowers Close Enough for Bird Watching
When the Rufous hummingbirds arrive to my yard's hummingbird habitat it is in March around St. Patrick's Day. I have my feeders up a week or so earlier anticipating their arrival.
Below, I've highlighted several of many hummingbird plant attractions I have grown. I grow other notable hummingbird flowers, but these seem to attract the most traffic. Many other hummingbird plants are listed in the Hummingbird Plant List.
An Italian plum tree gets white blossoms with pale pink centers in the spring which the bees love, followed by burgundy and green thick foliage. The hummingbirds like to perch on it's branches and hide it it's thick foliage. One year I heard chirping and buzzing sounds of nesting young hummers.
Note: Look closely at the photo. Can you spot the content-looking Rufous hummingbird in his habitat?
A few years ago we planted a Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanquineum), a deciduous shrub, as it is one of the first bushes to bloom in the spring and a hummingbird favorite. The color of mine is more deep pink than red. It blooms soon after the hummingbirds arrival.
Often times, at least two Rufous males are aggressively defending their new territory trying to win a female. They dive-bomb and dart about so quickly, it's hard to tell which flowers they drink from. So, the feeders are used constantly during this busy time when the males need quick "pit stops".
Spring continues and varieties of Columbine (Aquilegia) bloom.
This year I had planted native Red Western Columbine (Aquilega formosa) which bloomed, also. Columbine are very pretty and attract the hummers.
(Note: A photo below of a potted pink columbine above Creeping Jenny.)
Foxglove (Digitalis) in pinkish-purple, white, or light pink grow wild in our area. They can grow quite tall (5-6 feet some years) and are a hummingbird staple for the time they are in bloom.Their flowers have spikes of perfectly shaped tubular blooms to satisfy hummers. It's cute to see a hummingbird bury his head into a "foxglove" blossom to drink from it. We also have native lupines although I haven't noticed their popularity being as strong with hummers.
The most favored, summer hummingbird attraction in our habitat is Crocosmia. Crocosmia x crocosmiliflora has narrow arching sword-shaped foliage with dainty flowers. Choices include a hybrid such as the popular cultivar, bright red 'Lucifer', a taller plant that sways in the breeze with larger blossoms, and 'Constance', a shorter, orange favorite. Both kinds bear blossoms in sprays, with a tropical look (in my opinion). Hummingbirds love them. The more dominate male especially likes to perch on the taller 'Lucifer' even after it's finished blooming. Crocosmia are grown from corms or sold as plants in pots to transplant. They like sun and bloom for 6-8 weeks. They have no pests, not even deer bother them. That's a help as we have 3 or more deer who regularly think we plant new delicacies just for them to sample.
A Hardy Fuchsia bush with the single red blooms brings hummingbird traffic. It is a "hardy" perennial bush, that blooms in our garden in mid-summer. Hummingbirds are, of course, also attracted to hanging fuchsias (annuals) and prefer single blooms over double blooms because they can get their narrow bill in the single bloom varieties. They are first attracted to red and bright pink flowers but may go to others.
Another popular attraction for hummingbirds is the Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii). Butterfly bushes have been taboo in some regions as they can spread wildly, even along roadsides, but there's hybrid cultivars more well-behaved. The cultivar 'Black Knight' is one my hummingbirds frequent. There's other varieties to try, even miniature butterfly bushes for smaller yards, and as the name implies, butterflies love them, too.
A new plant specimen to my garden is a perennial, Pineapple Sage (S. elegans). It has delicate, scarlet red spike blooms; and I hear that autumn is the time it's really in bloom, possibly up until November if a freeze doesn't kill it first. (Incidentally, the leaves can be used in cool drinks and fruit salad.) I'm looking forward to seeing how it will extend the blooming season to feed hummingbirds.
For more selection of the plants used by hummingbirds for nectar and insect hunting; shelter and protection; or possibly nesting, read the Hummingbird Plant List..
Pink Columbine-Hummingbirds love it and Western Red Columbine
Hummingbird Habitat Needs
Designing Your Garden with Food Sources, Shelter, Water
I started feeding hummingbirds with just a basic hummingbird feeder. You can start out this way too, then watch when the hummingbirds magically navigate to your bright red feeder. Most hummingbirds have migrated more than a thousand miles (if you live in the NW United States and other northern regions), but. . . they found YOUR feeder. How they find your feeder so easily seems a mystery. After all, not everyone in your neighborhood even has a feeder. Right? Amazing!
Hummingbirds are so fascinating. They're easy to get hooked on. Once I saw them, I was hooked. Being high-energy burners, these little birds are like addicts in the way they need their sugar water. I soon began getting more serious in considering their needs for a "homey" hummingbird-friendly habitat. I'd think . . . "What if I got so busy, I neglected keeping their feeder full of nectar." Or, . . . "What if I was away a few days during hot weather, the hummingbirds drank more nectar than usual at the feeder, and it ran dry." Those scenarios could cause the hummers to dart away looking for new territory and a full feeder. Yet, that could be especially hard for them if the female hummingbirds have a nest nearby with babies to feed. Besides, I enjoyed them so much I couldn't risk losing the joy of seeing them each day at my feeder and watching their antics.
(See more on why I've chosen favorite feeders, plus a quick nectar recipe, and more tips further down.)
So, I started learning what flowers hummingbirds are attracted to. Which flowers have nectar that may even be a healthier alternative than prepared nectar made with sugar water. I could supplement the feeder's home-prepared nectar with additional flowering plants nearby. Then, the hummingbirds could always find their favorite high-energy nectar drink.
Hummingbirds have another need of trees and shrubs to protect them from the weather, and to provide them a place to rest. They really do stop beating their little wings to sit awhile. Plants, bushes, and trees are likely places for the hummingbirds to hunt for small insects and little spiders that make up their protein meal. From plant materials, such as lichen, and spiderweb silk, females build their nests. Hummingbirds need safe places to nest. (If they don't find trees in your small yard they possibly fly to close neighbors trees, yet still feed at your feeder. They have territories but not yard boundaries made by humans.
I decided I couldn't landscape my yard completely to suit hummingbirds in just one season. So, I started with a smaller goal of adding one or more new hummingbird plants each year. Eventually, I'd have plants in blossom overlapping each month the seasonal hummingbirds were visiting here. Although, now they are staying over the winter sometimes so we have to use feeders only. I don't know of any winter plants that provide nectar in the cold months.
Learn More About Perennials in a Book For The Pacific NW
A MIx of Plants and Trees Will Provide For The Hummingbirds Natural Needs
To create a hummingbird habitat that will make happy hummers want to return to their new found paradise, consider adding:
1. Native plants- those indigenous to the region or specific habitat. Because they are naturally adapted to the climate of the region, they grow without much tending, needing little additional water and they are usually more disease resistant. It would make sense that the areas where hummingbirds naturally migrate to, have their own native plants, trees, shrubs, or vines that hummingbirds find beneficial. The vegetation itself will be beneficial for weather cover; nesting sites; and to provide food in the form of nectar or insects.
2. Perennial flowers- those that live 2 or more years. They usually die down at the end of their blooming season and go dormant until re-emerging with new foliage the next growing season (usually spring). They may be advantageous as they may return many years so are less expensive over all, and less work except a seldom need of dividing. Perennial blooming times are often shorter than annuals so it takes some planning to have a continuous succession of blooming plants in a bed.
3. Annual flowers- flowers that put all their energy into "blooming their hearts out" in one season. Their life cycle completes in just one growing season and they don't return as perennials do. They make seeds and then die or get killed by frost. They're good for displays in beds, boxes, and hanging baskets, and to fill in between perennials for added color or texture.
The Hummingbird Plant List
Hummingbird Plant List - Plants That Attract Hummingbirds
Western Red Columbine(Aquilegia formosa) (native, perennial)
Columbine (Aquilegia) ( perennial)
Coral Bells (Heuchera) (perennial)
Bleeding Heart (dicentria formosa), (native, or perennial)
Penstemon (Penstemon spp.) (red, purple, perennial, native, late spring-summer)
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) (perennial)
Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) (evergreen, self-seeds, annual late spring-summer)
Foxglove (digitalis spp.) (native, perennial/biennial or annual, late spring-early summer)
Crocosmia (Iridaceae) (corms)
Bee Balm (Monarda)
Phlox (Polemoniaceae) (annual, perennial)
Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) (annuals, tubular flowers)
Red-Hot Poker (Kniphofia uvaria)
Anise Sage (Salvia guarantica) (blue)
Salvia (Sage) (many different kinds)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Million Bells Petunia (annual)
Fuchsia (fuchsias spp.) (annual, spring until frost kill) (Try single blooms over double blooms.)
Fuchsia (Fuchsia triphylla) ('Gartenmeister Bonstedt', shrubby plant, protect from frost, long-tubed flowers)
Foxglove (digitalis spp) (perennial/biennials, late spring-summer)
Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) (annual)
Trumpet Creeper Vine (Campsis radicans) (orange/red)
Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera ciliosa) (light shade, tubular flower cluster)
Scarlet Runner Bean (vine)
Morning Glory (vine)
Trumpet Creeper Vine
(Flowers still blooming from summer)
Pineapple Sage (summer to frost, tender perennial)
Zinnia (annual, summer to frost)
Dahlia (summer to fall)
SHRUBS and TREES
Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanquineum) (native, spring)
Weigela (Caprifoliaceae) (deciduous shrub)
Lilac (Springa) (spring, deciduous)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) (herb, evergreen shrub)
Jasmine (Jasminium floridum) (shrub)
Cape fuchsia (Phygelius) (perennial, woody based, drooping flowers)
Butterfly Bush (shrub)
Oregon Grape (shrub, evergreen)
Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis, Native)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parvifloraHolodiscus discolor) (shrub, native, white penduolus blooms)
Flowering Crabapple Tree
Elderberry (tree, red, blue berries)
Black Locust (tree)
Birdbaths & Water Features Hummingbirds May Enjoy - Shallow Birdbaths, Fountains, and Misters
Hummingbirds love to flit through misters and play and bathe in shallow birdbaths. People, also, have an attraction to running water and water features, as they add beauty and action to your outdoor scene.
Feeders and Nectar
My Favorite Picks of Hummingbird Feeders - Criteria I Look For in Choosing the Best Hummingbird Feeders
Below I've included some favorite picks of hummingbird feeders and brushes. The challenge is to purchase feeders which are easy to clean, and made with safe materials which are glass or non-toxic plastics such as BPA-free. Be a smart consumer and pick the feeders manufactured closest to your ideals. Also, look for leak-proof feeders. Choosing feeders with the color red, will attract hummers.
Some feeders have yellow flowers, but I have found these aren't necessary, and are often another pesky part to clean. Don't use red dyes in making your homemade nectar, or use commercial nectar products that contain dyes.
If you have a feeder hung out without protection from an eave, the dome-covered feeder would keep the hummingbirds out of the rain while feeding.
I've used the flying saucer-shaped feeders and love the ease of lifting the top off and easily rinsing them out, with hot water and a paper towel, then using the little brushes if needed to clean the ports. I do this every time before I change and fill them, with homemade nectar.
If more cleaning is necessary to rid feeders of mold, a very small amount of vinegar can be added to water to clean the feeder. Use 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. and rinse thoroughly with water. If the feeder comes with a center cup which acts as an ant and insect moat, fill it with water.
The glass jar feeder recommended is one of the few I've seen with a wide-mouth to the jar making them an easy-to-clean feeder. I appreciate this company being innovative and making their feeder easier to clean. (Currently, unavailable).
Feeder With A Dome
V0TE: Do yellow flowers on a hummingbird feeder attract bees & wasps?
Some say yellow plastic flowers on hummingbird feeders attracts bees or wasps? Is this true?
Nectar Recipe Tips
Yummy Nectar and Clean Feeders will Keep the Hummers Humming.
To save effort and time, make enough sugar-water nectar to refrigerate some extra. Cool the nectar and then store it in a glass, or food-grade (preferably BPA-free) plastic bottle. It should keep up to 2 weeks refrigerated.
Below is a simple recipe for high-energy hummingbird nectar!
The ratio for making nectar is 4 parts water to 1 part granulated table sugar.
(DO NOT USE HONEY OR SWEETENERS!)
Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
You can make any amount you need by using this 4-1 ratio.
(4 parts water to 1 part sugar)
Boil 4 c. water 1-2 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Add 1 cup sugar, and stir until dissolved.(A wire whip works well.)
Important: Cool nectar to at least room temperature before filling feeders.
Cleaning Hummingbird Feeders
How Often to Change Hummingbird Nectar
To keep your hummingbird feeders clean, change the nectar every few days . Pour the old nectar down the drain and clean your feeder first before you refill it. In cool weather (60 degrees and under), the feeder can probably be cleaned and refilled once a week. As the weather gets warmer clean and fill more often, every 3-4 days. If you see the nectar level is low or cloudy, change it. Cloudy nectar may make the hummers sick. In hot weather over 85 degrees, change it more regularly, daily or every other day, if needed. This schedule isn't very scientific, but if you watch how much nectar your hummingbirds are going through, you can plan a maintenance schedule. Use reminders . . .marking on the calendar, writing to-do lists, using sticky notes online.
I really like the flying saucer shaped feeders because of the easy cleaning, usually with just hot water. Wipe out with a paper towel and use the small cleaning brushes to clean the ports. Done! In one minute! No other parts to clean, just the dish and lid. Fill the ant moat with plain water.
If you use a bottle type feeder, fill the feeder with 1 part vinegar to 4 parts hot water. If it is hard to clean add some uncooked rice (try 1/3 cup) and shake it hard. Then rinse very well. You can buy bottle brushes also just made for feeders.
Don't use detergents or cleaning products.
I recommend you having a set of small brushes to clean the feeding ports that hummingbird drink from. These little brushes remove black mold and other dirt. If you do this each time you replace water it won't have time to build up, making it fast and easy.
Hummingbird Notes 2014 Season
December, 2014: We had no snow yet except a couple inches last month. It's gotten cold in the 20's overnight a few times. Two or three hummingbirds are still using the feeders. Sometimes, they disappear for a few days in worst weather and return. This is the first year I've seen regular black-chinned hummingbirds, male and female, wintering over here. They arrived after the rufous left in late August.
May, 2014. I was surprised to see a male calliope hummingbird at a feeder, then making himself at home, perching on a small limb of a nearby potted Japanese maple tree outside my window. This little bird was so beautiful, his rosy purple gorget gleamed. These feathers on his upper breast beneath his chin were elongated and flaring in the shape of a triangle, without the pointed top. Later, I saw at least one female or immature bird that looked like another calliope. Unfortunately, they only stayed a day or two. It must have been a stop-over on migration? The male rufous hummingbirds were being territorial, chasing the male calliope from the feeders.
March 11, 2014. We watch a couple male Rufous hummingbirds. I love to hear them, they hum louder than the Annas, are more territorial and fight over their feeders and flowers possessively, although now is a bit early for flowers. The males chatter at each other, dive bomb and dart around at super speeds. Males show up so beautifully with their bright orange gorget puffed up.
March 10, 2014.The Rufous Return. The first male Rufous hummingbird returned for this spring/summer season. He was antagonizing the Annas, staking his claim over the feeders. A male Rufous hummingbird was hovering in front of one of our front windows, as if to say, "Look, I am back." Rufous' are fascinating and a welcome to spring. We are glad they are back.
March 9, 2014. First sight of a Rufous hummingbird return on their migration north. A few usually stay here several months. It is always exciting to me to have them back for the season. They are cute little characters.
March 5, 2014. March is coming in like a lion, miserable weather and we have noticed the hummingbirds being scarce at times. Last year the Annas left before the Rufous came back. One may have stayed. So maybe, it is what they do.
February 5, 2014. An Annas "wintering-over" hummingbird is still seen at our feeders. It got into the teens overnight, and is only 20 degrees today. I have been replenishing the feeders with thawed homemade nectar so they have nourishment. It is amazing a couple are staying with such cold temperatures.
Hummingbird Notes - 2013
December 31, 2013. We still have two and sometimes three hummingbirds (Annas) staying over the winter here, using our feeders. One we named Rubberneck. This bird sticks its neck up high and darts his head back and forth looking for trouble. Doesn't stay long at the feeder, darts back to the trees after each little short drink or two.
Another hummingbird just sits and gulps, it appears, with no care in the world. I think it is a female.
~March 16, 2013. Welcome back, Rufous! Two or three male Rufous hummingbirds buzzing around flashing their bright iridescent orange gorret (throat feathers). Welcome back!
~March 5, 2013. Anna's hummingbird back again after being gone for a stretch.
~January 26, 2013. Hummer returns after being absent a few days.
~January 19, 2013. Anna's hummingbird still here. Under 20 degrees overnight.
~January 12, 2013. We have a resident Anna's hummingbird who has stayed here through the winter so far. It is 22 degrees F. overnight, so it is amazing it puts up with the cold. We keep a feeder with thawed homemade nectar ready which the hummingbird feeds from.