By Carly Hatfield
The beloved Ruby-Throated Hummingbird will be back very soon to capture our attention for yet another season. This small bird is a wonderful guest in any garden. Migrating to the south from October through April to escape the harsh winters, this bird is always a sign that favorable weather is on its way. One can provide a reliable food source and shelter for these small wonders with just a few steps.
Installing a hummingbird feeder is a sure way to attract these birds. Keep the hummingbird feeder clean by using a simple vinegar and warm water mixture to sanitize. I like to rinse mine well every time I refill with nectar because mold and bacteria can grow quite easily.
Boiling four cups of water and stirring in one cup of refined white sugar until it is dissolved is a simple and safe recipe for making nectar. It is safe, inexpensive and convenient. Never use honey as a sweetener, it promotes dangerous fungal growth which can harm these sweet seeking birds. Hummingbirds are bold and inquisitive and will surely find the feeder, no matter the color. It is widely known that hummingbirds are attracted to reds and pinks but more so vibrant colors are what they are looking for, as well as a tubular flower shape. It is unnecessary to add red dye to the feeders. Red food dye is a known carcinogen according to the FDA. It also has been linked to thinning of beaks and eggshells as well as loss of kidney functions. If one is adamant on attracting hummingbirds with the color red, choose a hummingbird feeder that is made of red glass or plastic. Many feeders have red accents on them to lure the hummingbirds.
It is important to place the hummingbird feeder in an easily accessible area because one will remember to refill it more often. Placing the feeder near a porch, window or deck will provide much enjoyment as they energetically zip by for a sip. Keeping other critters away from your feeder may be a challenge, as racoons and opossums love a sweet treat too. Hanging your feeder 10-15 feet high could be your best solution. Wrought iron hooks are useful and some are available with double hooks which allow one to add a bird feeder or hanging basket to really attract the birds. Hummingbirds eat insects as well, so having a chemical free yard will increase hummingbird traffic. Keeping a yard as organic as possible can provide a sort of refuge for many types of wildlife as many of our neighborhoods have chemically treated yards.
Planting a pollinator garden is simple and rewarding. A few trees to choose from would be the Northern Catalpa, English Hawthorn, Eastern Redbud and the Red Buckeye which is downright breathtaking. Adding Cardinal Lobelia, Columbine, Bee Balm and Hollyhocks to your garden will bring hummingbirds your way. A few annuals to add are the gorgeous Fuchsia as well as the drought tolerant Lantana. These add seasonal color and are widely available. Morning Glory vine is a wonderful plant that is simple to grow from seed and fills in quickly.
For more information on attracting hummingbirds and other types of wildlife, The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and The Audubon Society are informative resources.