Work with nature to attract and protect these magnificent pollinators.

They can fly backwards, weigh less than a nickel, and build nests of moss and spiderwebs. Hummingbirds are not only beautiful creatures, they are some of the most interesting and pugnacious birds in North America. It’s no wonder they have played starring roles in Indigenous stories for thousands of years. Their impressive feats and dazzling appearance capture our imaginations wherever they appear.

Why attract hummingbirds?

Attracting hummingbirds to your garden is a good idea for many reasons. Providing a safe haven for one of nature’s pollinators has benefits for your plants and their ability to flourish. Some plants are specifically adapted for hummingbird pollination and do best when visited by these buzzing birds.

Additionally, urbanization has reduced hummingbird habitat to the point where every plant matters. Why? Hummingbirds have a super-fast metabolism that needs fuelling approximately every 15 minutes. The National Audubon Society estimates that hummingbirds visit up to 2,000 flowers a day to fuel their needs. With fewer and fewer native spaces available, hummingbirds need all the help we can provide. Adding their favorite flowers to your raised beds or borders is a beautiful way to help them thrive.

Related: How Do Birds Help or Hinder in the Garden

What types of hummingbirds live near you?

There are more than a dozen types of hummingbirds in North America and over 300 worldwide. Some of these trek more than 3,500 miles in their annual migration looking for places to feed, shelter and rest along the way. Where you live will depend on which hummingbirds visit or inhabit your area. Some common species glimpsed in the US include:

ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

These beautiful hummingbirds are common to eastern North America from May to September. Males have the characteristic ruby-red throat with an iridescent green back that makes them a sight to behold. Females have light green iridescent, pale undersides, and a predominantly black tail with white, rounded tips. Despite their size, these birds migrate all the way to Mexico to spend the winter season.

rufous hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

Known for their long migration from the Pacific Northwest to Mexico, these birds can often be seen in mountain meadows and coastal areas, though reports have placed them farther east as the climate changes. Males appear mostly orange with some green on the back and an iridescent red throat, while females are green with rufous sides. Known for their feisty temperament, rufous hummingbirds will vigorously defend their favorite flowers from other birds

black-chinned hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)

This species is prevalent in the western United States from spring through fall, particularly at low elevations, though they may move to higher elevations after breeding. Males have a black chin with a flash of iridescent purple beneath, along with a green back and white underparts. Females are a subdued metallic green with a whitish throat, similar to female ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Anna's hummingbird female

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

This year-round resident of the Pacific coast is often seen in urban gardens and parks. Males have a shimmering rose-pink throat and crown and an iridescent green back, while females have a light, iridescent green back and grayish belly with small patches of rose on the throat. Compared to other hummingbirds, the Anna’s are more vociferous, with a buzzing call followed by what sounds like a squeaky whistle.

broad-tailed hummingbird young male

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)

These hummingbirds are found between May and August in the Rocky Mountains and surrounding areas, frequenting high-altitude meadows, gardens, and along river courses. Males have an iridescent rose throat, light green back, and white underparts, with a distinctive metallic trill in flight. Females have a green back and buff-colored sides.

What attracts hummingbirds?

Attracting hummingbirds involves understanding their basic needs and creating the right environment for them to thrive. Like us, hummingbirds require enough food, water, and shelter. They also like places to perch and rest. Here’s what to consider when making your yard or garden hummingbird-perfect.


Hummingbirds primarily feed on flower nectar, small insects and spiders. Offering nectar-rich plants and feeders filled with homemade nectar will help ensure they have ample food sources (more on that below). Avoiding pesticides and maintaining a healthy garden ecosystem will naturally attract a diverse population of insects.


Water is another crucial element for hummingbirds. Used for drinking and bathing, water is best delivered via shallow birdbaths, misters, and small fountains. If you can fit a small fountain in your space, that’s the best option, since hummingbirds are attracted to moving water.


Hummingbirds need safe places to rest and nest, such as trees, shrubs and vines. The clothesline stretched across our backyard is a favorite hummingbird perch, perhaps because it crosses our elevated planter filled with flowers. Creating a layered garden with different heights and dense foliage helps offer cover and nesting spots for these tiny birds.

Favorite hummingbird flowers

Hummingbirds are well-adapted to feed on native vegetation, so native plants are the best choice when planting habitat for these pollinators. For more information on the best selection for your area, visit Planting Guides by and enter your zip code.

For general suggestions, here are some common native plant favorites with a wide geographical range that produce plentiful nectar.

Beebalm (Monarda spp.)

bee balm

Wild bee balm comes in a variety of hues appealing to hummingbirds.

Various species of beebalm are native to North America, including Monarda fistulosa, Monarda didyma, and Monarda punctata. Native Monarda features vibrant, tubular flowers in shades of red, pink, and purple that thrive in sunny locations with well-drained soil. It is known for its aromatic foliage and resistance to mildew.

Sage (Salvia spp.)

Salvia farinacea (mealy blue sage). Photo by Linh San.

Native salvias, or sages, are known for tubular flowers that come in a variety of colors including red, blue and purple. These hardy perennials prefer sunny, well-drained locations and are prized for their aromatic foliage and drought tolerance.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.)

Western trumpet honeysuckle

Western trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa). Photo by Eartheasy.

Not to be confused with invasive honeysuckle imports, native North American honeysuckles provide nectar for hummingbirds without taking over other niches. Recommended varieties include coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) for the southeastern, eastern and midwestern US; and trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa) for west of the Cascades and the Idaho panhandle into Montana.

What about hummingbird feeders?

Hummingbird feeders are a useful addition to any garden, providing a reliable source of nectar that attracts and supports hummingbirds, especially during migration and when natural food sources are scarce.

To maximize their benefits, place feeders away from window glass in shaded areas to prevent nectar from spoiling. Clean them weekly using a rinse of diluted vinegar (not soap) to prevent mold and bacteria. While some microbes may grow in your feeder, these are not likely to be harmful to its visitors if you maintain this routine. Filling feeders with a simple homemade nectar solution of four parts water to one part sugar is both safe and effective (recipe below). The Audubon Society also recommends placing over ripe fruit or fruit peelings near the feeders to attract fruit flies, another hummingbird favorite.

hummingbird at red feeder
Hummingbird feeder recipe

2 cups water
1/2 cup white sugar

Boil water in a saucepan for two to four minutes. Remove from heat and mix in sugar, stirring until dissolved. Let cool before placing in the feeder. Do not use honey, artificial sweeteners, or red dye.

Frequently asked questions

How often should I clean my hummingbird feeders?
Clean feeders weekly, or more frequently in hot weather, to prevent mold and bacteria. Use a solution of hot water and vinegar and rinse thoroughly before refilling with nectar.

What time of year are hummingbirds most likely to visit my garden?
Hummingbird activity peaks during spring and fall migration seasons. However, in some regions, such as the southern United States and coastal California, certain species can be seen year-round.

What should I do if I find a hummingbird nest?
If you find a nest, avoid disturbing it. Keep a safe distance, minimize activity in the area, and do not touch the nest or the young birds.

Are there any common plants or substances that are harmful to hummingbirds?
Avoid using pesticides and insecticides, as they can be toxic to hummingbirds.

Can I attract hummingbirds if I live in an urban area?
Yes, urban gardeners can attract hummingbirds by creating small green spaces with flowering plants, installing feeders, and providing water sources. Add tubular flowers to your raised beds and planters to provide a plentiful supply of nectar.
hummingbird in flight

What other birds or wildlife might be attracted to my garden if I create a hummingbird-friendly environment?
A hummingbird-friendly garden can also attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. Additionally, you may see a variety of other bird species that are drawn to the flowers and feeders.

Helping hummingbirds thrive

With nearly 15% of hummingbirds threatened or endangered across the globe, providing a safe, nourishing environment for these friendly pollinators is a proactive step any gardener can take. By understanding and catering to their needs, you can enjoy their vibrant presence while contributing to their conservation.

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