attract hummingbirds

If you love hummingbirds and would like to see more in your garden, there are a of couple easy steps to attract them and convince them to stick around. Create a hummingbird haven and have them coming back all season long!

Step One:

Grow plants that naturally attract hummingbirds. Flowers with long throats or large amounts of nectar are their favorites. Some of their favorites?

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Penstemon
  • Fuchsia
  • Bee Balm
  • Honeysuckle
  • Hollyhocks

Β Step Two:

Provide feeders. If you want the hummingbirds to return to your garden on a regular basis, providing feeders makes sure that even when your plants are out of bloom, your birds can depend on the food supply. Here at TGG we aren’t big fans of most commercially produced hummingbird nectar. Instead, we choose simple feeders that already have a red spout, and make our own food. Here’s our hummingbird food recipe!

1 Cup White Sugar

4 Cups Water

Bring water to boil, then turn off and add sugar. Stir till well dissolved. Cool completely. We do not add red food coloring to our hummingbird food. While there is a controversy surrounding both its effectiveness and safety, we are firmly on the side of less is more. It just seems wrong to offer artificial ingredients to wild animals. Also, there is a lot of evidence that hummingbirds prefer food that does not have coloring.

attract hummingbirds

Step Three:

Add water! Shallow dishes of water are appreciated by these little wonders that are in near constant motion. If you are a budding photographer, providing water also gives you the opportunity to get photos of the birds at rest… usually not an easy task!

Tips:

  • Provide some open space in your yard, hummingbirds like to be in the open to protect themselves against predators.
  • Replace the hummingbird food every three days to keep it fresh.
  • Remember, just like any bird feeder, it can take a little while for them to learn to trust you and your garden. Keep replacing the food, and eventually, they will come.
  • To get good photos, learn your birds’ routine and have a tripod set up ahead of time with a remote shutter release. Or, a really fast telephoto lens!

What are your experiences with hummingbirds, and how do you feel about the food coloring controversy?



16 Comments

  1. Carol February 2, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Re: red food coloring for Hummingbirds: NO!
    Red food dye is not safe and is NOT necessary for the birds to literally flock to feeders. WHY add something that is completely unnecessary and could actually cause harm?
    I have never added it, and Hummingbirds are always attracted via the red in the feeder itself, but my guess is that they would find the food even if there were no red colors anywhere anyway. I only use non GMO cane sugar, as well. Why give these tiny beauties GMO’s?
    thanks for the list of Hummingbirds’ favorite flowers! they will be on my list of things to plant!~

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard February 3, 2014 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks Carol. I’m glad you agree! That is what we were saying as well. DO NOT use red food coloring!

      Reply
      1. Stephanie Brenner May 20, 2014 at 12:32 pm

        Kind of proof that people will listen to anything.. Definitely no dye and nothing with gmos. Wonder if municipal water would hurt them long term with the fluoride?

        Reply
  2. Sue Thompson May 16, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Please add Salvias to your list of favorite hummingbird plants. They like ALL kinds of salvias, but a few of their most FAVORITE varieties are Hot Lips, Black & Blue, and Pineapple Sage!

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard May 20, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Absolutely, consider it added!

      Reply
  3. Lynn August 21, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Remember to try and keep your feeders out of the direct sun…water heats up and definitely NO to red dye

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard August 29, 2014 at 10:23 am

      We agree, no dye! Ours work great without dye, and we have never added it!

      Reply
  4. Barbara K February 22, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I “do” use the commercial mix, BUT, only the kind that has the extra minerals in it. If I can’t find that later in the season, I do go back to your recipe of the sugar and water only mixture. Love your site.

    Reply
  5. Lori July 9, 2015 at 2:31 am

    I really enjoy all the hummingbirds, I currently have 10 feeders and have to fill them daily. I keep adding new plants yearly to my garden just for them. They really love the sprinkler and I think some of my neatest photos are of them might be taking baths. Also they really enjoy our ash pile. I think they visit it almost daily. It is amazing to watch them, especially when the babies arrive, and when I’m wearing bright colors they are always flying right by me. In the past couple of years some orioles have been visiting as well. I need to invest in some feeders for them, they try to take over the hummers feeders and boy they make a mess.

    Reply
  6. Deborah Hale July 9, 2015 at 8:05 am

    I’m also against red food coloring! One of my favorite plants for attracting hummingbirds is actually a tree – a mimosa tree! If you’ve seen them alongside the highway and interstate where you live you can be assured of growing them in your own yard with success. (Officially they are hardy in Zones 6-9.) I had two large mimosas that I had grown from seed in my yard at my last house and it broke my heart when I had to move. The hummingbirds all flocked to my yard every summer and the dark pink blossoms smelled very similar to roses.

    Reply
  7. HillaryStotter March 19, 2016 at 8:58 am

    I use Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea bags for color and added herbs! Hummingbirds also love hibiscus. You can use Badia brand hibiscus tea as well. It only contains hibiscus and is fairly inexpensive. I use one tea bag per four cup batch. Most importantly, the hummingbirds come back year after year for more!

    Reply
  8. dave April 6, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    I hate doing this and my intentions aren’t to be a jerk but….

    This whole NO RED FOOD COLORING crusade is COMPLETE NONSENSE!

    Let me explain why…
    But before that just know that I’m addressing this from a completely medical, etc… standpoint as I have 3 degrees in vet med and worked for over a decade with exotic animals such as birds. The point is I look at it clearly and not emotionally… we all love our hummers so just understand that.

    First of all “no” you don’t need it to attract the hummers So really it doesn’t serve any purpose UNLESS it’s for other reasons. Here’s an example: They love the taste of grenadine mixed in. Now usually you can make your own without the red dye but there are times when pomegranates aren’t available and store bought has some red dye in it. I have no issue with this since it’s so diluted that it’s really a non issue either way.

    But here’s the deal… back in the 60’s there was an article written about this and it was an opinion piece… nothing more, based upon a premature conclusion of dye food coloring. At the time they were linking health issues to food colorings so the article had some “merit” at the time. The conclusion was that food coloring were a health issue with all the colorings EXCEPT RED which is why it’s still available today. Anyway people freaked out prematurely and it’s never stopped.

    But here’s the problem with that conclusion… They have been trying to prove this as a fact (harmful) now for almost 50 years and yet there’s been NO evidence or conclusions to support the theory that it does harm… basically and realistically it’s an urban legend at this point.

    Of course people want what’s best for the hummers but the truth is that passing along this myth does NOTHING to help them. Really if we want whats best for them then we should take all the feeders down and let them live and feed as god intended them to (without our intervention).

    The kicker is that most of you are raving mad at me at this point but following most of the suggestions here is actually hypocritical because some of these methods are WAY worse for the hummers than the red dye.

    Examples:
    Water: if you’re using tap water and not purified water or distilled water (spring water or non-purified water doesn’t count as its tap water). Think about the tap water you’re using… It’s absolutely packed full of chemicals and more than likely overly re-used water that’s wayyyyyyyyy worse than red dye.

    Boiling the water when making nectar: This is ABSOLUTELY THE WRONG way to make nectar. When you boil the water and sugar it immidiately starts the fermintation process which not only makes it go bad faster but it also is much harder for them to break it down not to mention mold and bacteria will grow much more rapidly in boiled nectar and as soon as it’s poured into a feeder it’s immediately contaminated and if you’ve boiled the nectar then you’re giving the bad things a massive head start… which again is worse than red dye.

    Don’t boil it! mix it with cold to room temp water and just shake it and refrigerate it.

    They don’t need the extra minerals either as one poster said. Mostly nectar is used for energy to get food not food itself and as far as I was taught have a special way of processing things, nectar basically goes in and the energy is absorbed only and nearly immediately the rest is shot back out the tail pipe.

    Anyway, the bottom line is the red dye thing is a myth, nothing more and IMO people need to STOP passing on this false information and instead worry and promote more the “proper” ways to make and use nectar and for people to understand that preaching against the red while not using common sense with the rest IS ACTUALLY DOING THEM HARM.

    While I’m in no way suggesting you go fill your feeders with red dye, I’m just saying there’s a lot more to this then gets discussed and those preaching about how bad red dye is are usually the ones that are actually feeding them the most chemicals and bacteria.. think people think ;) ~

    Reply
    1. Kathy Woodard April 11, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Thx for the opinion and information Dave!

      Reply
      1. dave April 12, 2016 at 1:20 am

        Sure :)

        I shouldn’t write these so late at night… I sound so mean lol

        Reply
    2. Teresa August 12, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      thank you Dave for the real truth about our fine feathered friends the hummingbirds. thank you.

      Reply
  9. Nancy July 25, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Dave mentioned using distilled water. While I’m sure it’s better than water straight from the tap, know that if you let your tap water sit for a few days before using it, some of the chemicals in it will either settle out or evaporate. While not perfect, it seems to me it would be better than using water straight from the tap. JMHO

    Reply

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