Knowing how to attract nesting hummingbirds can help you entice these precious creatures to raise their delicate families in your yard. This can give you an unparalleled opportunity to witness these amazing birds’ growth and the nurturing a hummingbird mother offers her chicks.
To make your yard attractive to nesting hummingbirds, such as popular ruby-throated hummingbirds, it is important to understand what the birds need to nest and how to make your yard a safe place for the babies.
Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backward.
Hummingbird Nesting Habits
Hummingbirds are not cavity-nesters, and they will not use birdhouses, no matter what the dimensions, shape, or color of the house. Instead, hummingbird nests are built out of a variety of materials including moss, lichen, plant down, feathers, and spider silk. Nests are typically built high up off the ground, between 10 to 40 feet—and even as high as 90 feet—and located in shrubs and trees.
It helps to be observant. Hummingbird nests are well-camouflaged and can be difficult to see. If you suspect you have a nest nearby, watch for the female to track her back to her nest, taking care not to disturb her or her chicks.
Depending on the hummingbird species and the general climate, a nest may be used for just one brood or for several broods in the same season, but nests are not frequently reused from year to year. If your yard is safe and attractive, however, you can easily encourage hummingbirds to nest nearby for many years.
Making Your Yard Attractive
The first step toward attracting nesting hummingbirds is to be sure your yard is hummingbird-friendly. To do so, your yard should include the right types of food and drink, shelter, and even the perfect colors to welcome them in. Don't worry about the fragrance of your flowers attracting hummingbirds because these birds don't have any sense of smell.
Hummingbirds have very high metabolism rates, so they are quite hungry. In fact, they can feed every 10 to 15 minutes, visiting a thousand or more flowers per day, and eating up to half their weight in bugs. To satisfy their needs, nectar-producing flowers (try bee balm, sage, and honeysuckle) and hummingbird feeders are great options. They also love spiders and other insects; not only is spider silk a critical building material hummingbird nests, the insects also provide necessary protein for the mother bird to feed her growing chicks.
Make simple hummingbird nectar by mixing 1/4 cup plain white table sugar with 1 cup boiling water. Let the mixture cool, then pour it into a hummingbird feeder. Do not use honey or raw sugar because they contain harmful ingredients for a hummingbird's delicate system.
Hummingbirds may seem to be always on the go, but adequate perching spots, sheltered trees, and shrubs will help them feel safe and secure. Plants that provide shelter from the sun, wind, and rain are also ideal spots for a hummingbird nest. Thorny plants are another great option that can provide protection from hummingbird predators as well.
Hummingbirds prefer misters and bubblers for water sources, and providing one or more of these in your yard will make the area attractive to the birds. Ideally, position a mister or dripper so the water collects on a broad leaf, and hummingbirds may rub against the leaf for a quick bath.
Hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors like red. Plant red flowers, add a red gazing ball, or place other decorative accents in your garden to catch their attention. Other bright colors, such as orange, pink, or purple, can also help attract hummingbirds. For example, grow nectar-rich, tubular flowers in these colors to attract hummingbirds.
Making Your Yard Safe
Even the most enticing yard can still be unsafe for these tiny birds, and a dangerous area is not a place where hummingbirds will choose to nest. Fortunately, there are easy steps to take to keep your yard safe for nesting hummingbirds.
Reduce the Number of Feeders
While having one or two hummingbird feeders will provide needed nourishment for the birds, too many feeders will attract a large crowd and can discourage nesting. Similarly, avoid too many feeders with seed or suet for other larger bird species that hummingbirds might see as threatening, such as sparrows or finches, or position feeding areas for the other birds far away from prime hummingbird nesting spots.
Avoid Pesticides or Insecticides
Not only will these products eliminate necessary food sources, but the toxins can be deadly to birds. Similarly, avoid spraying too many chemicals, including fertilizers and herbicides, on the lawn or garden. Any chemical buildup, even if they are intended to be beneficial, can be harmful to these tiny birds if the products are applied incorrectly.
Control Harmful Insects
Small insects can be a nutritious meal for hummingbirds, but wasp or hornet nests can be dangerous for these tiny birds. Praying mantises can also attack hummingbirds, so relocate these large insects away from hummingbird-friendly areas.
Cats, dogs, snakes, and other predators threaten nesting hummingbirds. If signs of predators are evident in your yard, hummingbirds will avoid the area when they look for nesting sites.
More Tips to Attract Nesting Hummingbirds
To increase your chances of attracting nesting hummingbirds:
- Offer nesting material such as natural cotton fibers in dedicated hangers.
- Put hummingbird feeders out early to attract the first seasonal migrants.
- Minimize yard activities, especially loud ones, in spots where nests are likely to avoid disrupting birds.
- Keep loud barking dogs away from the yard if you'd like to see hummingbirds.
- Remove flowers hummingbirds don't like, like lilacs and roses, and replace them with nectar-rich blooms.