Hummingbirds are relatively easy to attract to your yard with native plants and special feeders that provide nectar. And they are amazing little creatures, with the ability to fly backwards and forwards (this video has a slow-motion of one that whirls about in 360 degrees before returning to the perch.)
Here in South Carolina, the most common hummingbird we see is the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, which nests here. Most of our birds migrate south in the deep winter, but a few hang around through the whole year. There has even been a black-chinned hummingbird at a feeder here in Charleston in winter. My birds return in April, and if I haven’t gotten the feeders up yet, they look in the windows as if to encourage me to hurry up!
Attract Hummingbirds with Tubular flowers
One of the easiest ways to attract hummingbirds to your yard is with red and pink tubular flowers, preferably from native plants. Coral Honeysuckle, Trumpet Creeper, Coral Bean, and Monarda species are all native to the southeast. You can get them at Roots and Shoots Nursery, and I am on a mission to learn to propagate or grow these in my own yard.
One of my favorites is Spotted Bee Balm or Horsemint, Monarda Punctata. You can grow this from seed or plants, and besides being beautiful and interesting, you can see that the hummingbirds love it.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds eat Insects too
They’ll eat fruit flies, mosquitoes, even spiders from webs. They feed their young by regurgitation at first, but as the chicks get older they’ll bring back small insects for them to eat. Leaving fruit near your feeding station may attract fruit flies for them. There is even a specialized feeder that is designed to attract both fruit flies and hummingbirds. If you notice fewer hummingbirds during the breeding season, don’t worry~ they’re probably bringing insects back to their youngsters.
Following the Sapsuckers
If you have yellow-bellied Sapsuckers visit your yard in winter, you could also plant some tulip poplar and red maple. There is evidence that the hummingbirds actually follow the sapsuckers and sip from the sap wells the woodpeckers leave.
You can feed hummingbirds in your backyard by using specialized feeders that mimic the experience of sipping nectar from flowers. Hummingbirds are naturally attracted to red flowers and for years, people thought they should dye the nectar red. This is a mistake, though~ the dye can be toxic and the red lids on the feeders serve as the “flowers” that attract the birds. My most popular feeder is this one from our local Wild Birds Unlimited. Here’s a little video about making nectar.