Week of August 19

Attracting Hummingbirds to the home garden

Stacks Image 812
hummingbird taking a bath on a leaf

Food and water source for hummingbirds

Having hummingbirds as a regular visitors in the garden is quite easy. Plant the flowers they love and there soon will be hummingbirds visiting all day long.
In El Paso hummingbirds stay from late March to late October. During the winter months they migrate further south into Mexico.
Here are some plants for El Paso region that attract hummingbirds:
  • Salvia greggii
  • Penstemons
  • Trumpet vines
  • Red bird of paradise
  • Honeysuckle
  • Ocotillos

Although hummingbirds love bright colors but they wont visit all bright flowers. Oleanders and roses which are common in El Paso are not visited by hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds also feed on small insects. Once they find their favorite flowers in the garden they explore the rest of the garden as well. They are frequently found hovering and picking on other non-flowering plants and sometimes even on the boundary walls and other house structures looking for tiny insects.

It is good to have the hummingbird friendly plants in different locations in the front and backyard. Some flowers may be planted very near or in the patio (if there are no house pets that may harm the bird). This way hummingbirds can be viewed from a very close distance and often they are not afraid to visit the patio plants.

Another hummingbird attractor to the yard and garden is a water mister or a sprinkler. If you have drip irrigation installed in your garden you could still have one small sprinkler that shoots water high to at-least 5-6 feet. Another option is to tie a small sprinkler/mister to a pole so that the water sprinkles from a height. When the timer runs the drip irrigation system this sprinkler/mister will also run at the same time. Hummingbirds will discover the water spray soon and will love to take a shower. They are too small to bathe in a bird bath so they often just shower in the mist. If the mister/sprinkler water falls on plants the hummingbird may find plant leaves to bathe in where a little water may have collected.

Have more flowers instead of the hummingbird feeders

A common suggestion is to put hummingbird feeders in the garden to attract hummingbirds and to supplement the bird’s diet.
However, it is better to provide them with natural food. Human health and physiology is the most studied health science among all species on our planet. Yet we still keep debating the science on what foods are good or bad for us. When we are not sure about how artificial food additives affect our own health how can we be so sure that artificial hummingbird nectar solution is not bad for them.
Here is the ingredient label of one of the hummingbird nectars available in market
hummingbird nectar toxicity

It highly unlikely that a hummingbird would have a liver failure due to feeding too much on the flowers in the garden. However this is a known risk on the home-made of store bought nectar if used in higher concentration. So is it safe to use it in the recommended concentration? Is an organic or homemade nectar without artificial additives better? Again, there may not be enough science to be certain about the concentration of sugar solution that may be safe for them whether it is store bought or home made. Nutrition recommendations keep changing even for humans. So can we be certain about what is recommended for birds?

Therefore it is safest to grow flowers for hummingbirds whether it is in a large garden or a small space balcony. All the plants listed above are natives of El Paso region and grow here quite easily. Hummingbirds are found all over the United States, even in Alaska. There are several native and well adapted hummingbird friendly plants for each climate region of the United States. Local libraries, nurseries and regional websites may provide more information on these plants.

Attract hummingbirds in small spaces

Even if one does not have a front or backyard space to grow flowers and there is only a small balcony or patio, hummingbirds can still be attracted without the feeders.
Grow Salvia or Penstemons in hanging basket or containers. These plants can do well even in small 1-2 gallon containers. Hummingbirds will come quite close to the ground surface as well to feed on the small height plants. During winter these plants in the balcony could be covered by a fabric sheet or frost protection fleece and watered only once in 7-10 days.
Bright red garden art could also be displayed in the balcony or patio which will attract the hummingbird from a distance and once there it will find the flowers in the containers.

hummingbird friendly flower

Salvia greggi

hummingbird in backyard

Hummingbird taking a shower in sprinkler