Attracting hummingbirds to your yard
Hummingbirds are mesmerizing. Here in Cincinnati we have the ruby throated kind that glitter like jewels. They aren't quite here yet for the season, but I'm getting my materials ready to make sure I have a few families nesting nearby so I can enjoy their buzzing little wings.
For those who haven't tried to attract hummingbirds to your yard before, here are a few tricks that work well.
You've probably heard that hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. I have found that the best way to attract them is to plant the "knockout" variety of rosebushes. You can get them in vibrant colors and they flower early and profusely when the hummingbirds are just getting back. Place a consistently filled feeder nearby and even when the flowers dwindle, you will still have buzzers with nests nearby.
Speaking of feeders, you can buy hummingbird food but I really don't understand why people do. The ingredients are just sugar (1 part) and water (4 parts). Stir together and bring to a boil (necessary to sterilize). Then cool. Making a batch every week is a tiny hassle, so I make a large batch once a month and freeze weekly portions to pull out and thaw as needed. It lasts in the fridge about that long before it mildews. Also, don't fill the feeder full every time. You'll just attract ants and waste supplies. Only fill what the birds will drink in a few days.
You do have to change the nectar out whenever it sours (by sour I mean it will smell sour and sometimes looks cloudy). Hummingbirds won't drink spoiled nectar. If the feeder is within sight you'll see they will stop but not stay. During spring it can last up to a week or so but when it is really hot it spoils every few days. If you don't change it, the bottle will mildew and that is a hassle to clean. Also, if ants get in, it spoils quicker. I rub a little vaseline on the pole holding the feeder to discourage ants.
To get the most out of hummingbird viewing, place a feeder right next to a window. They can stop on a dime, so I have never had issues with them running into the glass like other birds (doves may be pretty but let's face it they are not the brightest birds on the planet). Plus, hummers can dart so fast, they are less skittish when they see movement inside. You kind of get used to each other. Great for photographs.
Hummingbirds are territorial and fight like warriors to defend any feeder they claim. You can help this a little by placing two feeders far enough apart so they can't defend both. However, they will still dart and dodge. Also, don't place the feeders right next to a door or you may be dodging them when you step outside.
Here's my last tip. Raccoons think hummingbird food is DEE-licious. Like it is Coca-Cola or something. I can't hang a feeder from any tree without risking a broken feeder. Shepherds hooks (plant stands) work well for hanging. Maybe the raccoons are just especially hungry in my neighborhood.
That's all the advice this novice has to share. I hope you enjoy your little humming friends this summer.