Another beautiful migrant that makes its return to our area in early May is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Be on the lookout for this erratic, fast-flying, tiny bird as sightings have already been reported.
Hummingbirds can be found almost anywhere throughout the city from forest edges, open fields, stream sides, city parks, and backyards. They feed on nectar from flowers and also consume insects. Attracting these birds to your backyard is quite easy with the addition of the right flowers and a hummingbird feeder. It is said that hummingbirds prefer red and orange tubular flowers, but many common backyard garden plants will attract them. These consist of begonias, butterfly bush, clematis, lilac, and fuchsia to name a few. If you are looking to add native species to your garden to attract these tiny birds than Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), also know as Monarda or Bee Balm, are great choices. Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is an excellent addition to your garden. Not only is it a native flower that attracts Hummingbirds, but it is also one of the milkweeds that Monarch Butterfly caterpillars feed on. Adding this colourful orange flower will attract beautiful hummingbirds to your yard, and you’ll be helping save the Monarch Butterfly, a species of special concern in Ontario. For more on helping the Monarch Butterfly see my previous blog post here.
Hummingbirds feeders come in all shapes and sizes, and are made from different materials including glass and plastic. These along with commercial hummingbird food are available at your local neighborhood bird food retailer. These feeders are easily hung from trees, hooks on fences, or by adding a shepherd’s hook to your garden. Remember that these birds are small, so you are going to want to place the feeder within close sight where it can be easily viewed.
A cheaper alternative to buying commercial hummingbird food is to make your own using ordinary white sugar. Simply mix 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water in a pot on your stove. Bring to a boil while stirring the mixture to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and cover while it cools. Once the mixture has cooled, fill your feeder and place it outside. Many people add red food colouring to their hummingbird food to help attract the birds. Some food colouring has been known to be toxic to these small birds, so it it advised that you don’t add any colour or dye to the mixture. The bright colours on the feeder itself are all that is required to attract hummingbirds. Hummingbird food should be replaced frequently and the feeder washed to prevent mold and bacteria from growing that is harmful to the birds. Place the feeder out of the sun to keep the food fresh for longer.
With the late arrival of spring this year many flowers are behind when it comes to blooming, leaving very little nectar for hummingbirds to feed on. Adding a hummingbird feeder to your yard now will help these birds find food that is otherwise scarce.