Hummingbirds never cease to fascinate us with their tiny size, acrobatic aerial feats, and curiosity. The tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds are frequent backyard visitors in many areas throughout Ontario … right up to Thunder Bay. They visit Altona Forest and your backyards from early May until late September each year.
If you want to invite hummingbirds to your space and feed them, it’s easy but does require commitment. You will need to keep your feeders very clean. Mold or old sugar-water can make them ill or kill them. The red store-bought solutions are not only full of preservatives but the red colouring has been proven to damage their eggs and also cause deaths in their chicks. The great news is that you can make your own feed inexpensively, easily and naturally – and it’s a great family project.
Here’s how to make nectar:
- Pot & Spoon (very clean with no residues of any kind)
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 cups water
- Clean glass bottle
Mix water and sugar over heat and bring the solution to a boil on the stove, stirring frequently. Once it boils for one minute, turn off the stove. Let cool naturally. Pour into the clean glass bottle for storage in your fridge for up to a month. This nectar can be used in any hummingbird feeder and will need to be changed at least every 3 days to avoid bacterial build-up. Put just a little in the feeder so you don’t waste nectar… it’s better to put less out and change it more frequently.
It might take a month or two to draw hummingbirds to your yard, but once you convince a hummingbird to visit, they are very loyal and will continue to return and feed with you… even over years and generations! The hummingbird you feed in the fall on his migration route to warmer climates, can be the same one at your feeder in the spring!
Here are some tips for drawing and feeding hummingbirds:
- Choose a feeder with red on it. Hummingbirds are drawn to the colour red, which is why some commercial sellers add colouring to their nectar. The red on the feeder is like an invitation to them… but the red food colouring is a health hazard.
- Choose the feeder carefully – would the design drip, would it let in ants, does it come apart easily for 3 cleanings per week, is it glass (less chemicals leaching into the sugar-water). Picture washing it… will it be easy to clean all areas where mold can grow? Does it come apart easily?
- Keep your feeder clean by washing it weekly with hot water and a TINY bit of dish soap. Rise very well, and multiple times.
- Buy and keep a clean toothbrush just for the cleaning your feeder. Residues of things that don’t affect us can kill them. While bleach kills bacteria and mold, never use this on your hummingbird feeders. It will harm the birds.
- Late April to late May is the spring migration though the Altona Forest area, and early September to early October is the fall or southward migration. These are great times to offer food and have your first hummingbirds visit.
The Easier Way
If the process above feels like too much for you, don’t worry! You can invite these tiniest of feathered friends to your garden by planting flowers that provide them with natural nectar. Here is a list of some annual and perennial flowers (the * means it’s a native to the Altona Forest area) which draw hummingbirds:
- Bleeding Hearts
- Trumpet Vine*
- Cardinal Flower*
- Hosta flowers
- Bee Balm/ Bergamot*
- Carpet Bugle
- Rose of Sharon
- Butterfly Bush
A variety of favoured colourful flowers will draw hummingbirds. They are drawn to red, so simply place a red ornament hanging in your garden as a ‘welcome’ sign. They will feed from any colour flower and are drawn to trumpet-shaped blooms. This year Rose of Sharon (northern-growing shrub hibiscus) and fuscias (an annual in our area) have been very popular with my hummingbirds. Happy planting! Let me know what flowers they enjoy in your yard.
Once you meet these summer visitors, I know you will be fascinated and perhaps just a little addicted. Good luck… and happy watching!
How to Draw Hummingbirds © 2013 Natasha G