The hummingbirds never flew south a few years back. I

thought their continued presence was perhaps an indication

they knew something that we didn’t, i.e. that we would have

a mild winter. Ha! No such luck. Mild is a relative word,


While some of you dig out from under three feet of snow, I

break the occasional layer of ice on the birdbaths. That

fall the hummers had a conference and voted to stay around.

At least 70 overwintered. It is a marvel to us and to any

friends who visit and must walk among the six feeders

across the front porch and try to reach the door.

    Some friends stand out there for five minutes, stock still, watching the hummers feed and listening to the twits and continuous hum of their wings. Reluctant to enter, our friends finally ring the doorbell. The hummingbirds search for food all day long, both at the feeders and out in the winter garden. But the real spectacle is just at dusk for their regular evening feeding frenzy before they find protected roosting spots and go into a torpor for the cold night.

    In March, there is very little in the way of

typical hummingbird plants out in the garden.

Only rosemary, daffodils, a pear and a peach tree,

borage, and wild mustard are in bloom. They

must fly far and wide during the day to get

the nutrition they need.

    During their feeding times at the house, they

are now beginning to engage in mating activities,

including preening, flashing their display feathers,

and doing their graceful face-to-face up and

down air-dancing. The females are the usual

aggressors (the guys don’t mind). All of this

eventually leads to attached flying in tandem,

then separating and blithely heading back to

feed some more.

    Around here, there is plenty of moss,  lichen

and spider webs for their nests. I hang a wire

basket filled with dryer “fluff” out near the

feeders.They have been pulling it through the

mesh and heading off with a bill full of fluff

to line their nests. Babies must be on the way!

    To the right is a lichen-covered nest in a rose

bush with mom sitting on her eggs (2010 photo).

Below that is a miniature nest holding two tiny

hummer babies waiting to be fed. This is a March

2011 photo taken in  S. Calif. where their

seasons are a month or two ahead of us here in

the north end of the state.

    Later in the spring when my perennial and

native plants grow and push out their blooms, the

hummingbirds will have plenty of natural nectar.

Right now I make about a half-gallon of sugar-

water every day; the hummers fly about to seek

nectar and tiny insects for protein during the day.

    It’s easy to create your own hummingbird

garden. Red means food. Though it seems to be the most

reliable color that attracts them, you don’t need to have an

all-red garden. Once they find food in your garden, they will

seek nectar in a variety of different color flowers. Plant

many varieties so that you will have nectar-filled blooms

throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

    Hummingbirds like narrow tubular or trumpet-shaped

flowers facing out--a perfect match for their long bills. Some

of their favorites include Coral bells, Four-o-clocks, Ribes,

Bee balm, Trumpet creeper, Scarlet sage, Texas sage,

Red hot poker, Cape fuchsia, Cardinal flower, Scarlet

monkey flower, Penstemon, Delphinium, Pineapple guava,

Cleome, Petunias, and many others. The Anna’s below feeds

on Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage); purple works, too.

Do not be discouraged because you think you don’t have

enough space; even the right plants in containers

will attract hummingbirds.

    The home-made nectar: mix 4 parts water

and 1 part white sugar in a pan. Stir to

dissolve the sugar and boil for two minutes.

Cool and fill your feeders. Store the rest in

the fridge. Clean your feeders at least every

three days, using a bottle brush and a splash of

white vinegar. Rinse well.

    The hummingbirds that visit our gardens I

believe include: Anna’s, Allen’s, and perhaps the

Rufous. Males are more brilliant than the females.

     Hummers love sprinklers, the fine spray on a

hose, red hats and T-shirts. Most are curious and

friendly, hovering close to inspect your red

baseball cap or red rose on your sun hat. They will

not attack you. 

    If you have fed hummers for a long time and

stop, they will be most unhappy and boycott you

for days or a week until they can trust that you’ve

resumed. And if they do leave town for the

winter, you can be sure that when the weather

turns warm again, they will be right back in your

yard and at your feeder expecting their favorite

flowers and sugar-water. You have conditioned

them! Don’t let them down. Grab your camera and

a nearby seat and enjoy the antics of these tiny aerobatic birds--the only ones who can’t walk because their little feet are made only for perching. Click on References for further reading. See more photos in Habitat. Happy Hummingbird Gardening!

      Go to HOWIE for information on Howie’s Hungabird Dilemma.




Hummingbird Gardening Made Easy