The National Audubon Society recently sent me a tip sheet for attracting hummingbirds. How did they know I love hummingbirds? Did you know that hummingbirds can migrate thousands of miles in search of a snack? Eating like a bird is not what we were led to believe as children. Hummingbirds need to eat several times a day, to maintain all the energy needed to keep those wings fluttering.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the species we’re most familiar with, in the Eastern U.S. This pretty, little guy winters in the area of southern Mexico to Costa Rica. Jealous? They start their trek north in March and usually reach our area in late April / early May. Have you seen any yet?
As with all of us, hummingbirds have favorite foods and planting some of them gives you a better chance of attracting them to your yard. They are not just beautiful to look at, they are also great pollinators and good at gobbling up insect pests. Hey, they need protein, too.
Audubon has a nifty native plants database that provides a list of plants by zipcode. They list plants for attracting all types of birds and you can use the filter to sort for just hummingbirds, or any type of bird you are interested in. Don’t be put off by them asking for your email. If you give it, they will send you a list of the plants you’ve selected and some other bird-attracting info. If you choose not to give your email, you can still use the database in your browser window.
You don’t need to fill your yard with a bunch of minimally attractive native plants to attract hummingbirds. You don’t even need a yard or garden. A container is enough to have one or two buzz by, as long as they are filled with nectar rich, tubular flowers that make for easy eating with hummingbirds’ long, pointed bills and grooved tongues. However, the bigger the clump and the longer the bloom period, the more attractive your yard will be. Get your neighbors to plant some hummingbird favorites and your whole neighborhood could be a hummingbird paradise.
So what plants will lure hummingbirds to your garden?
Think of flowers with narrow, elongated bell-shapes, especially old-fashioned heirlooms, that haven’t been over-bred. Flowers such as:
- Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) and (Monarda didyma)
- Bluebell-of-Scotland (Campanula rotundifolia)
- Canadian Lily (Lilium canadense)
- Cardinal-Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
- Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
- White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
- Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) Careful, this one can be aggressive.
- Even the weedy Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
- Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) has a flat, umbrel shape, but it is so rich in nectar, it’s a hummingbird favorite, too. You know, occasionally they do stop moving and need a perch to rest on.
If you want the pleasure of hummingbird company, you need to give them a reason to visit. Check out Audubon’s site, for more information on attracting hummingbirds: