Hummingbird myths

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on December 9, 2011

Most gardeners like hummingbirds.  These pretty, colorful birds sip nectar from long beaks with even longer tongues.  Watching a tiny bird hover while drinking his fill is amazing.  Hummingbirds are territorial and fight to protect feeders, nesting areas, and mates.

When I started being interested in hummingbirds, many things were recommended that are now discredited.  I thought I would discuss three today.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird at feeder

Ruby Throated Hummingbird at feeder

First, hummingbirds won’t come to a feeder unless the sugar solution is red.  Because many of the flowers hummingbirds liked to feed at are red, the assumption was made that if it wasn’t red, they wouldn’t come.  This turned out to be not only false, but harmful.  Hummingbirds come to a solution of one part regular sugar to four parts water.  The red dye has, in some studies, been implicated in cancer in the little birds.  Since they feed just fine without it, why risk it?

Second, if you leave a feeder out all year you will not prevent the bird from migrating when it needs to.  This too, is a myth.  Birds migrate according to day length, temperature, the magnetic field, and who knows what else.  The migrating birds will appreciate the food and leave when it is time for them to do so.

Third, hummingbirds are not vegetarians.  They eat little bugs found near the nectar in the plant while they are sipping nectar.  The protein is necessary for the hummingbirds to reproduce, build fat reserves to migrate, and keep their high metabolisim in working order.  Planting things like red trumpets or butterfly bushes will allow the hummingbird to keep their diet balanced between nectar and bugs.

The bottom line on attracting and feeding hummingbirds is to grow plants they drink nectar from and can eat insects on, use pure sugar and water solution, and keep the feeder clean.  Doing these things will attract hummingbirds when they are in your area.

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Available in print or ebook from or other retailers, this book walks you from choosing the site of your garden all the way through what to do after the harvest. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend today!

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