All birds have basic needs of food, water, shelter, and space. A well-planned hummingbird garden will fulfill these needs and in turn, provide you with hours of enjoyment, entertainment, and connection with nature.
There are eight different kinds of hummingbirds that live in Oregon, but there are two species that we see in the Portland metropolitan area: Anna’s and Rufous. The Anna’s hummingbird is a year-round resident all along the west coast and inland to southwest Arizona. It is one of the earliest breeding birds, often laying its eggs as early as December and as late as June (a hummingbird egg is about half the size of a jellybean). It is larger and greener than the Rufous; the male has a bright, iridescent red forehead and throat. Rufous hummingbirds migrate to Mexico in winter and return to our area each summer around June.
Male Anna’s Hummingbird
Male Rufous Hummingbird
Female Anna’s Hummingbird
Female Rufous Hummingbird
It’s best to avoid using pesticides and herbicides—these can eliminate insects (a major food source), and hummingbirds are extremely sensitive to chemicals!
Flowers & Nectar
It is critical to have something flowering at all times of the year to support a large, healthy hummingbird population. Hummingbirds are captivated by red, orange, purple, and white flowers. They prefer tubular, funnel-shaped, or cup-shaped flowers for easier access to nectar—perch support is a bonus.
In addition to nectar, insects account for a great deal of hummingbird diets during winter, early spring, and blooming lulls. Insects are also important during the nesting season. Most of a nestling’s diet consists of insects, which provide vital protein and fat critical for growth. Eventually, nectar brought by the mother becomes the bulk of the diet. Lastly, insects help sustain the Rufous during its long migration back to Mexico, filling in gaps between nectar stops.
The average hummingbird consumes half its weight in sugar each day! Feeders can help sustain them through the year. Never use honey or artificial sweeteners in your feeder—only use white sugar. Food coloring is also unnecessary! Use 1 part white sugar with 4 parts water. Bring water to a boil and stir sugar until dissolved. Let cool; add to feeder. Store extra in refrigerator 1–2 weeks. Change and clean your feeder at least once per week. Keep nectar from freezing in winter by wrapping feeder with holiday lights, taping a hand-warmer to side, or bringing it in at night.
Water features like shallow bird baths, fountains, ponds, streams, and sprinklers, help support local hummingbirds. Hummingbirds do not have knees—they can’t walk or crouch down into deeper bird baths, nor can they swim. They prefer to wet their feathers by flying through falling water or gentle sprays, and often dart through wet shrubs for a quick “shower”.
Shelter & Habitat
Evergreen, coniferous plants including thickets, hedges, and dense shrubs provide critical habitat for nesting, while tall, deciduous trees and shrubs offer places to perch for safety and rest. Tomato cages are a favorite perching spot, as well.
A successful hummingbird garden has layering and diversity. A well-layered garden with various types of plants is not only aesthetically pleasing; it’s more attractive and accessible to hummingbirds. Despite being precise flyers, these tiny birds still need space to maneuver through foliage. It’s also best to use native plants in your garden when possible!
*indicates PNW-native plants
Azalea*, Butterfly Bush, Camellia sasanqua, Ceanothus*, Flowering Quince, Hardy Fuchsia, Hibiscus, Lilac, Oregon Grape* (Berberis/Mahonia), Pieris japonica, Red-Flowering Currant* (flowers and berries), Spiraea*, Weigela
Scarlet Runner Bean (annual), Morning Glory (annual), Trumpet Vine, Jasmine, Honeysuckle*
Abutilon (Flowering Maple), Agastache, Bee Balm, Bleeding Heart*, Cape Fuchsia, Catmint, Columbine*, Coral Bells*, Hosta, Hardy Fuchsia, Lavender, Lobelia, Oregano, Penstemon*, Pulmonaria, Salvia (Hot Lips, Black & Blue)
Annuals & Tender Perennials
Calendula, Cerinthe, Cuphea, Fuchsia, Lantana, Nicotiana, Zinnias, and so much more!
This list is just a starting point and mentions many of our favorites at Dennis’ 7 Dees!