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Attracting, photographing and feeding hummingbirds
Posted By: Marc Langille, 08-10-2009, 07:46 PM

I will add to this section as time permits. Please post additional information if you have some = it is welcome!

Attracting Hummingbirds

The best way to encourage activity (not including my tips on the solution care/handling) is to plant flowering plants AND small bushes in your garden. A great example is the purple sand cherry bush: grows quickly, beautiful leaves and great for them to perch on. Also have some others including an umbrella plant (potted, simply put outside in the summer time) and similar tree like bushes that don't grow much over 6 feet.

Flowering plants- they can include the following - pretty much any brightly colored and/or tubular flower:
Autumn Sage
Bee Balm (Bergamot)
Bleeding Heart
Day Lilies
Snap Dragons
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia)

Butterfly bush
Flowering Quince
Weigela (Cardinal Shrub)

Morning Glory
Trumpet Creepers

Flowering Crabapple
Siberian Pea Tree

The above is a very short list, it's just for starters....

Try this book(let): Enjoying Hummingbirds, by Nancy Newfield. There are more than a few out there.

Photographing Hummingbirds:

HPA... Hummingbird Photographing Addiction... Seriously, they are tough little acrobats to photograph.

I am totally old school on photographing them. Minimal movement, right out in the open with them. I could and should use a blind to really nail the shots, but they are not afraid of the dummy behind the camera...

You can also use focus trap, which is presetting the lens to MF and a certain area of activity to fire the shutter. This can be done via remote or wired cable release. So long as you don't move much, it's relatively easy for them to become used to you. Hummingbirds tend to spook and flee readily when they see movement.

Deterring bees the safe way - non-toxic method:

I also had to put vegetable oil around the feeder openings to discourage the small honeybees that were swarming the feeders. Just apply it with a cotton swab. Now the bees go and drink water from the ant moats above the feeders. Much better, since it's not a toxic deterrent for bees or hummingbirds.

Feeding Hummingbirds:

Activity levels: as a reference, in front of my house we easily have 14-16 of them on just two feeders in the evening, when activity is highest. That does not include the other 3 feeders. Normally I refill the five - 32 oz feeders every 2-3 days. We have an exceptionally high level of traffic in my front garden. Of course the garden is designed in mind with attracting the hummers. To keep the activity levels up, all that's needed is a ratio of 1 to 3 on the sugar to water mix. Once they start coming, keeping a bit below half on the ratio ensures more activity on the feeders...

I am sure people are aware of this part, but just in case someone who is not familiar with hummingbirds: it's very, very important to monitor the clarity of the solution in the feeders - if you see any cloudiness, change it. That means the solution is contaminated (often by dead insects); high heat + humidity levels = mold/mould and it's a problem if left unaddressed... this is a potentially serious health risk for the birds (long term) - mold/mould can kill them. Empty the feeder, wash/scrub with soapy water and rinse it carefully, then restock the solution. If the mold/mould is bad, a bucket with a small amount of bleach+water to soak the feeder parts in will be beneficial in removing. Then do the same washing technique aforementioned.

The population of hummers has doubled in the last couple of years and they are very used to my presence moving about, etc. because I am responsible for their well being. They do return to locales they've been to before during their migrations from Mexico. I have collectively nicknamed them "my kids", because I take the hummingbird feeder duties very seriously, including rotation, washing/replenishing, etc. I cannot imagine not having my kids swooping around in my front garden every year...


UPDATE: now in 2011, the activity levels have burgeoned beyond any of my expectations. I'm watching seven 32oz feeders be refilled every 24 hrs during late June, July/August and the first half of September!

Last edited by Marc Langille; 09-18-2011 at 05:31 PM. Reason: added information
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10-12-2009, 07:53 PM   #2
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I love these birds, and you have encouraged me to install some feeders. We have many flowers and bushes, and I often see a few here and there, but would love to see more.

A more elusive beauty rarely exists.
01-06-2010, 06:48 AM   #3
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My mother-in-law was an avid gardener, and she planted a 6-foot diameter circle of bee balm which the hummers loved. I discovered that when I wore a red shirt and stood right next to the red bee balm that they hummers weren't terribly worried about me. (They would be leery if I wore other colors.) I could even move around slowly and carefully to follow the birds as they prospected for nectar. I photographed them with a 55mm macro lens and got wonderful photographs. Unfortunately, those photos are on slides, and I haven't found a cost effective way to digitize them.

The bottom line? Try wearing red when you want to get close to hummingbirds. They love the color and often came right over to me to see if I had any nectar to offer!
01-07-2010, 03:23 PM   #4
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Hi,I've shared your passion in regards to these birds,for a long long time.
I tried to respond a little bit ago but was'nt logged in... oops. Anyway if you plant,
try to plant native spieces as opposed to non-indiginous, as mutually reliant(symbiotic)
relationships exist that works its way through the food chain up to and including this
captivating bird.I'd walk thru the pasture on our family farm in the ozarks from time
to time, these things would follow along with me and grab bugs that I kicked up with
each footstep.Hummers are not vegans ,they're omnivores.
Probably more important than a food source, is water.I'm sure a pro would say the same thing. On our farm, water was abundently available and a major attractor.
Try a birdbath with a bubbler,I use an old trashcan lid (pvc) cleaned and stacked
on two milk crates,works just fine.A number of times I've put the sprinkler on the lawn and seen hummers come and take an imprompto shower.With this K20d I have now, I should be able to back that up by next june.Right now with temperature at -2f and
wind at 30+ mph I cant wait. thanks

07-30-2011, 12:18 PM   #5
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Original Poster
Bill, I wanted to say thank you and everyone else for the comments and input - most appreciated!

I've added some additional information to the article.


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