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House with native plants and animalsGoing Native: Urban Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants
Home > How to Go Native > Step Three - Design a Native Plant Landscape > Design to Meet Wildlife Needs > Attracting Hummingbirds

Attracting Hummingbirds

Ruby-Tthroated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are common in suburban gardens.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only species of hummingbird that breeds in North Carolina. Generally, ruby-throated hummingbirds are abundant in a range of habitat types across the southeast region of the country.  They build small nests of lichens and spider webs on the top of horizontal tree limbs 10 to 30 feet off of the ground.

Red Buckeye Flower
Red buckeye provides nectar for hummingbirds in the early spring.

Diversity of Nectar Plants – Ruby-throated hummingbirds feed on small insects and nectar.  To attract hummingbirds, include a variety of flowering plants that provide nectar throughout the warmer months. Ruby-throated hummingbirds prefer the nectar from bright, tubular flowers, such as crossvine, Carolina jessamine, and red buckeye.


Hummingbird Feeders
– Hummingbird feeders are good artificial sources of nectar and should be filled with a boiled solution of four parts water and one part white sugar. 

• Honey and red food coloring are not recommended. 

• Feeders can be left up year round.  Ruby-throated hummingbirds are neotropical migrants that will migrate even if feeders are left up, and some individuals or other unusual hummingbird species (e.g., rufous hummingbird) may visit a feeder during the winter.  Most ruby-throats leave North Carolina and other southern states by mid October and don’t return until late March.

• If bees, wasps, or other insects are a problem at hummingbird feeders, try a five-to-one water-to-sugar mix, and avoid feeders with yellow in them (insects are attracted to the color yellow).  Also, many feeders come with bee and wasp guards that may help prevent problems with insects.

• Hang a feeder below an open container filled with water to deter ants; this acts as a moat that keeps ants out.  Some feeder designs include the ant moat.

• Change sugar water at least every three to five days to prevent mold and deadly fermentation. Clean feeders at least once a week with hot water and a bottle brush. Don't use soap or a detergent. You can also clean hummingbird feeders by filling with a dilute bleach solution, but make sure to rinse them very thoroughly and allow them to air dry completely before refilling.

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