Gardening - How to Attract Hummingbirds. Hummingbird feeding on a flower
Hummingbird feeding on flower

One of the many joys of spring is the return of hummingbirds from their wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

These small birds, weighing no more than a few ounces, migrate across the Gulf of Mexico and travel as far north as Canada. Dining on flower nectar and small insects, they follow the progression of blooming plants as spring progresses.

Many years ago I owned and operated a retail nursery. Every spring, I knew we'd be deluged with requests for plants that attract hummingbirds. Flowering plants such as salvias, honeysuckle, trumpet vine, agastache, and monarda are all hummingbird favorites.

If your garden lacks the floral enticements hummingbirds crave, a feeder will also do the trick. These are readily available on the market, but it's more fun to make your own. Rachel Holbert from the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, R.I., visited "Cultivating Life" to show us how (See the video below).

For materials, you'll need a recycled baby food jar, sandpaper, red spray paint, a 3-ounce recycled metal tin (the size of a tuna can; this will be filled with water to make an ant trap), green spray paint, clear caulking, some 20-gage copper wire, waxed twine and a small twig.

The tools you'll need are a drill and 1/4-inch and 1/32- inch bits, some wire clippers and a small pliers.

On the inside of the jar lid, drill a cluster of holes with 1/32-inch bit, then enlarge the holes with a 1/4-inch bit. Sand the lid lightly and then spray paint it red.

Now for the ant trap. Drill four holes in the bottom of the tuna tin with the 1/32-inch bit; sand the can and spray paint it green.

Cut two 20-inch pieces of copper wire and fold the wires in half. Twist the wires several times to make a loop at the fold that you will hang the feeder from. Make the loop large enough to hang from a garden hook.

Put the four wire ends into the four holes in the bottom of the tuna tin, and fold them back the so the bottom of the tin can rest flat on the table. Squeeze clear caulk into the tin covering its bottom to seal holes. When the caulk is dry, twist the wires together in pairs all the way down their length, then bend the wires up to make a deep hook. (Later, when hanging the feeder, fill this tin with water to prevent ants from reaching the sugar water.)

Cut a length of wire about 15 inches long and wrap the wire around the mouth of the jar. Twist the wire tightly together to secure it. Continue twisting the wire until you have about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of twist. Splay open the wires and twist either end around a small twig to make a perch.

Cut a long length of waxed twine. Along the length of the twine tie two long loops (of equal length) about 1/2 inch apart. Tie the ends of the twine around the mouth of the jar, make a double knot and trim the ends.

Screw on the lid and attach the loops to the wire hooks. Fill the feeder and hang it.

Make your own sugar water by dissolving 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Whatever kind of feeder you use, change the sugar water every two to three days or it will spoil and be unhealthy for the birds.


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