Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Attract Hummingbirds To Your Yard

 “I’ve never seen a Hummingbird.” Those words almost bring tears to my eyes. Tell me that you’ve never been in love or that you haven’t visited Disneyland, but PLEASE don’t tell me that you haven’t seen a Hummingbird.

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Let not your heart be troubled – I am here to solve your problems. I can’t do anything about love, or Disneyland, but I will not rest until you have seen your first Hummingbird. While Hummingbirds can be found all across North America, there are only a few areas where they can be found year-round. Unless you live along the Pacific Ocean or in Southern Arizona where Hummingbirds are hard to miss, your best chance is to find one of these feathered jewels is during migration. There are lots of great articles about planting flowers and such, but I want to make absolutely sure that you attract the most birds with the least cost and effort.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
A Hummingbird may migrate over 1,000 miles twice a year, which takes a lot of energy. The don’t fly very high, but they do fly fast, and they are always on the lookout for food. Most Hummingbirds know exactly what a feeder looks like – some sort of red container with bright yellow flowers full of sugar water. Nothing fancy. Fancy can be confusing. Last summer, I went to Arizona to photograph Hummingbirds and took a small feeder with me that cost $5.00. Other photographers laughed at my “toy” until they saw the birds swarming it.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Chances are, you’re going to get two shots at attracting Hummingbirds to your yard. Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter where you live; the timing is pretty much the same. For the most part, the northbound migration runs from about mid-April through the end of May, while the southbound migration begins in early August and ends in mid-September. Birds in spring tend to be in a hurry to get to their breeding grounds, so unless you are lucky, they might not stay long. The southbound migration, however, is a much more leisurely journey. Birds will often linger for a day or two before moving on.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Take a trip to your local garden center and pick up two or three feeders. Remember – red with bright yellow flowers. (note: I prefer Perkey Pet Feeders - they are the most widely-used and recognized by Hummingbirds as a source of food).  Forget about fancy mixes or red coloring. All you need is sugar and water (recipe below). When placing your feeders, be bold! Put them in the middle of the yard, on the corner of your deck or on a hook in the garden. Keep in mind that you are trying to get the attention of a bird flying past your yard at full speed. The easier the feeders are to see, the more birds will stop for a drink.

Rufous Hummingbird
Mark your calendars – seriously. If you are going to see your first Hummingbird (or maybe the first one in your yard), you have to plan ahead. Don’t let me down. As for falling in love, or visiting Disneyland, drop me a line and maybe I can give you some advice there too.

Lucifer Hummingbird
Make Your Own Hummingbird Food

Hummingbird food is inexpensive and easy to make. Place ¼ cup of sugar in a measuring cup and add enough very hot tap water to bring the level to 1 cup. Stir to dissolve and let cool. There is no need to add coloring which some people think might be harmful to Hummingbirds.You can use a bit more sugar if it is cold enough where you are that freezing might be a problem or a bit less if bees become a problem. Discard about once a week or if you notice the liquid getting cloudy. Simple red feeders with yellow flowers are probably the most easily recognized by the birds as they are used all across north america.

Violet-crowned Hummingbird
You can see thousands of my photos at http://www.stevebyland.com/  They are all available for sale as prints or licence. I have a section where you can find birds by species or hard-to-find vertical shots for your next magazine cover.

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