Feeders Bring Hummers, So Do Flowers

For many people, hummingbirds are their first introduction to bird watching. One or two hummingbird feeders will attract these tiny jewels of the bird kingdom to the patio or garden.

When filling your feeders, use a simple colorless sugar solution. Research has shown this to be preferable to commercial mixtures that contain red dye, which can harm the livers of these tiny birds.

And because hummingbird feeders are usually red, it isn't necessary to color the feeding solution as the birds are drawn to the colored feeders.

Add one cup of white sugar to four cups of boiled water and cool before filling feeder. Store the remainder in the refrigerator.

Hummers are very territorial and pugnacious. If you want to lure more than one, place several feeders at various locations in your yard.

The feeders should be cleaned weekly with a dilute vinegar and hot water solution to remove any mold or fungal growth. If ants are attracted to the feeder, coat the feeder wire with oil or Vaseline as a deterrent.

Some people prefer to plant flowers to attract hummingbirds instead of using feeders.

"Since hummingbirds are so easily attracted to tubular flowers, I prefer to plant the flowers they like instead of giving them a sugar solution," said Pamela Ingram, owner of Sassafras Nursery in Topanga Canyon. "We have a hummingbird haven here because we carry so many of the plants they prefer, like delphinium, foxgloves and penstemon."

John Fermin, of Altadena, also likes using natural plants to attract hummingbirds. He and Tom Carruth, a professional rose hybridizer, have created their garden to showcase roses, rare and exotic perennials, and, as an added benefit, attract numerous hummingbirds.

"We planted a grouping of six different types of Kangaroo paws, a plant especially attractive to hummingbirds, and the garden is always filled with them," Fermin said.

Hummingbirds are also fond of insects. Up to 50% of their diet consists of gnats, spiders and other small insects.

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