Dr. Leonard P. Perry of the University of Vermont notes that although many hummingbirds weigh less than a penny, the tiny birds fly at an average speed of 50 miles per hour with a heart rate of up to 1,200 beats per minutes. To maintain this extreme output of energy, hummingbirds eat every few minutes all day long -- kind of like your growing kids. The best way to attract hummingbirds to your garden for you and your family to enjoy is to meet their food requirements and to provide places for bathing, perching, nesting and resting.
Plant a variety of flowers to provide continual blooms and sweet nectar from spring until autumn. Include annuals and perennials as well as blooming shrubs and vines. Hummingbirds are especially attracted to red, pink and orange blooms. Tube-shaped flowers are best, because the hummingbird's bill fits into the long, narrow tube. Don't crowd the plants; hummingbirds require space to maneuver.
Attract insects to your garden by planting wildflowers such as bee balm (Monarda didyma), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8; hummingbird sage (Salvia subrotunda ), hardy in zones 1 through 11; or purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), hardy in zones 4 through 9. Hummingbirds require protein and fat in addition to nectar. According to the University of Kentucky Extension, female hummingbirds catch as many as 2,000 small insects in a single day, many of which are used to feed baby birds. A piece of ripe fruit placed next to a feeder will attract gnats and other small insects.
Supplement flowers with a hummingbird feeder, but don't use feeders exclusively because flowers provide a more balanced diet. Clean the feeder every two to three days to prevent fermented nectar, which is dangerous and sometimes deadly for hummingbirds. Put it in a shady area to slow growth of bacteria. Don't fill the feeder with artificial sweeteners, honey or red food coloring, which may cause health problems for the birds.
Plant trees in or near your garden to provide protection and areas for resting and nesting.
Provide a source of water, such as a birdbath or waterfall. Hummingbirds bathe at least once every day to keep their wings clean.
Avoid pesticides. Hummingbirds are often killed when they eat poisoned insects.