Hummingbirds, please come to my garden!

The humming bird in the featured photo is a native Californian who visited the backyard pool of the home we were vacationing at in Palm Springs.  I was super jealous and tried to film the little darlings but they are super fast and fly out of frame quickly – temperamental actors not easily directed.  They are fascinating creatures and provided endless entertainment when they were present.  This summer I am determined to attract some to my own garden in Ontario.

ruby-throated-hummingbirdIf you see Hummingbirds in Ontario, you can be sure they are members of the Ruby Throated variety (Archilochus colubris) as they are the only species native to Eastern Canada. While most of us recognize males because of their red throats and metallic green backsides, the white-chinned females are not as easily recognized. Measuring between 7.5 and 9.5 centimetres from bill to tail, and weighing approximately three grams, ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most common hummingbird species out of the five that are found in Canada.  Hummingbirds live a relatively short time, 3 -5 years (though some have lived up to 12 years) and do not mate for life.  The male will attract as many females as he can who venture into his territory.  The female builds the nest, lays the eggs and looks after the little ones.

Hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs of all birds. Their eggs measure less than 1/2 inch long but may represent as much as 10 percent of the mother’s weight at the time the eggs are laid. A hummingbird egg is smaller than a jelly bean!

Purchase a hummingbird feeder and fill it with a solution that you can make at home. To make your own hummingbird food, mix one part white sugar to four parts water. Allow the water to boil for one minute and then add sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool thoroughly. Fill your feeder and store any excess in the fridge for up to three or four weeks.

The red on the feeder will attract hummingbirds. If, after a couple of weeks, you don’t have any takers, move the feeder to a more visible place and consider other ways to entice hummingbirds to your garden.

Please don’t use food coloring as this only adds chemicals to their diet; honey as it may cause a tongue fungus, brown sugar, unrefined sugar or sugar substitutes, as they can be harmful to hummingbirds. Under no circumstances should insecticides or other poisons be used at hummingbird feeders. Be sure to properly clean the feeder and replace the hummingbird nectar in your feeder every 3-4 days and 2-3 days in warmer climates. 

Cleaning doesn’t have to take long — swish a long brush inside and rinse with hot water. If you use soap, be sure to rinse the container very well.

The best rule of thumb for when to start feeding hummingbirds is this–it is better to put out hummingbird feeders too early rather than too late. Do not wait until the first hummingbirds have been seen before getting feeders ready, as this will likely be too late to attract the earliest migrants. These birds have amazing geographical memories for reliable food sources, and once they find your feeders they will continue to visit year after year.  At worst, putting out feeders too early may mean taking steps to keep the nectar from freezing during a late winter or early spring cold snap or replacing old, spoiled nectar once or twice before the birds arrive. Those are very small inconveniences for the joy of welcoming these flying jewels back at the first opportunity every spring.

No other bird on Earth can stunt-fly like a hummingbird. They can fly forward or backward, hover, and even fly upside-down, and they do all of this so fast we can’t even see it—beating their wings between 70 and 200 times per second.