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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog
 MG 2609

Getting Ready for Your Friends


The weather is getting nicer; the rain is falling, even if it is not April yet; and the birds are singing in the morning. This means that it is time to start thinking about attracting some of the more colorful friends to your yard. Hummingbirds are fun and exciting to watch. Seeing a bird come to a complete stop in mid-air is so much fun. The Ruby-throated hummingbird has begun its migration and should be here soon. This is the time to get your yard prepared for these guests. When you are looking to attract hummingbirds to your yard, here are a few things to take into consideration.

  1. Choose the right plants- Choosing the right plants will increase the chance of getting hummingbird to visit your yard. Tubular flowers are required to attract hummingbirds. Hummingbirds, like most birds, have excellent color vision so choosing colors that will attract them is important. Hummingbirds prefer to visit flowers that are in the red, orange, and yellow spectrum of colors. Though they do not feed exclusively on flowers in these color ranges, you are likely to have more success in attracting hummingbirds if you use these colors primarily. Native plants provide many benefits and can reduce some of the work that is needed to attract hummingbirds. Choose a wide variety of plants so that there are flowers available throughout the spring, summer, and early fall. Some excellent choices would be Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Royal Catchfly (Silene regia), Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans), and Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).
  2. Keep your hummingbird feeders clean and full- Hummingbird feeders are a great way to supplement your hummingbird feeding. They are an excellent way to provide needed food for the hummingbirds as they begin to show up and when your flowers are still just starting to bloom. Make sure that your feeder is clean by cleaning it with a mild detergent and warm water. You should clean your feeder at least once a week. This ensures that the feeder is providing high quality food for the hummingbirds. You do not need to buy a hummingbird mix, you can create your own at home. Simply boil four parts water to one part white sugar. Do not add food coloring to the sugar water. Food coloring has been linked to some potentially deadly health problems for the hummingbirds. The water should be changed every week when you clean your feeder. Because of the high sugar content in the water, there is potential for it to ferment in the feeder and we do not want drunken hummingbirds.
  3. Keep unwanted visitors away from your hummingbird feeders- There are more than just hummingbirds that will want to visit your feeders. Most are not undesirable, but some are just annoying. Keeping ants away from your feeders is as simple as purchasing a hummingbird feeder ant guard. They are very effective at keeping ants away from your sugar water and preventing them from clogging up the feeder and keeping hummingbirds away.

If you have any other questions about attracting hummingbirds, please contact Jason Haupt (jdhaupt@illinois.edu).



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