Hummingbirds are captivated by scarlet, red, orange, or white flowers. They also prefer flowers that are tubular, large funnels, or cup-shaped—perch support is an added bonus. In the Willamette Valley, we have two species of hummingbirds that live here, but only one that stays year-round. There are eight different kinds of hummingbirds that live in Oregon, but here in Portland, we mostly see Rufous hummingbirds and Anna’s hummingbirds. 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
The Basic Elements of Habitat
The average hummingbird consumes half its weight in sugar each day! Never put honey or artificial sweeteners in your feeder and only use white sugar (never brown sugar). There is no need to use food coloring, either! Use 1 part white sugar with 4 parts water; bring water to a boil and stir sugar until dissolved. Let cool, then add to feeder. Store extra in refrigerator for 1–2 weeks. Change and clean your feeder weekly or sooner if empty.
Keep nectar from freezing in winter by wrapping the feeder with strands of holiday lights, taping a handwarmer to the side, or bringing it in at night. In addition to nectar… spiders, gnats, and other small insects add protein to hummingbirds’ diets!
- Bird baths
- Water features
Hummingbirds do not have knees—they cannot walk or crouch down into regular birdbaths, nor can they swim. Instead, they prefer to fly through falling water or sprays from a sprinkler. They will often dart through wet shrubs after a rain for a quick and easy “shower”.
Cover & Shelter (and a Place to Raise Young)
- Dense shrubs
It is critical to have something flowering at all times during the year and to also supplement with a nectar feeder to support a large, healthy hummingbird population.
Shrubs for Food & Shelter
*indicates PNW-native plants
Flowers: Fall/winter-blooming Camellia sasanqua, Hardy fuchsia, Azalea*, Pieris japonica, Red-flowering currant* (flowers and berries), Oregon grape* (Berberis/Mahonia), Hibiscus, Spiraea*, Weigela, Lilac, Butterfly bush, Flowering quince, Ceanothus*
Evergreen, coniferous plants provide shelter for nesting sites, while tall, deciduous trees and shrubs offer places to perch for safety and rest—we had a hummingbird nest in a privet topiary one year, and I had one in the top of a small conifer this March! Tomato cages are always a favorite place for them to perch, as well.
Vines for Food & Shelter
Scarlet runner bean (annual), Morning glory (annual), Trumpet vine, Jasmine, Honeysuckle*
Perennials for Food & Shelter
Abutilon/flowering maple, Columbine*, Bleeding heart*, Coral bells*, Lavender, Lobelia, Bee balm, Penstemon*, Cape fuchsia, Agastache, Hosta, Hardy fuchsia, Oregano, Catmint, Salvia (Hot Lips, Black & Blue, etc.), Pulmonaria
Cuphea (Batface/Vermillionaire/Cigar plant), Fuchsia, Nicotiana, Calendula, Cerinthe, Lantana, Zinnias, and so much more!
This list is just a starting point and mentions many of our favorites at Dennis’ 7 Dees!