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Hummingbirds are truly remarkable and fascinating creatures. A diverse family, hummingbirds include the world's smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird of Cuba, and some of the strongest migrants. The Rufous Hummingbird undertakes the longest avian migration in the world, if based upon distance traveled in proportion to body size. To sustain their supercharged metabolisms, hummingbirds must eat once every 10 to 15 minutes and visit between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers per day.
Those hefty appetites were the focus of Hummingbirds at Home, a community science program run by Audubon from 2013 to 2021. Wanting to help these amazing birds, participants in Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home observed hummingbirds and their insatiable feeding, and reported their observations to the program.
One goal of Hummingbirds at Home was to learn more about hummingbird feeding habits from a variety of nectar sources. From this, Audubon scientists studied how this reflects the changing climate’s impacts on hummingbirds and their habitats. As plant bloom times change in response to climate change, do hummingbirds adapt to feed from other nectar plants?
We received thousands of feeding reports that are an important first step to understanding the important relationship between hummingbirds and their food sources. Over the program's run, 21 hummingbird species were reported to Hummingbirds at Home as well as 371 identified blooming plant species. Results from 2013 to 2018 were published in the peer-reviewed journal Landscape and Urban Planning in 2020.
Interested in some of the initial findings? Here are some of the most commonly reported native plants through Hummingbirds at Home:
Native in southwest, Pacific northwest, mountain west, southeast, east and mid-west sections of the U.S.
Native to California, southwest and southeast sections of the U.S.
Native to the Pacific northwest, east and mid-west sections of the U.S.
Native to California, New Mexico, Texas, southeast, east and mid-west sections of the U.S.
Native to the southeast, east and mid-west sections of the U.S.
Native to California, the southwest, southeast, east and mid-west sections of the country
Native to the southeast U.S.
Native to the southwest U.S.
Native to Texas
Native to California
These native plant groups can have a variety of species that span the country. You can learn about recommended native plants that attract hummingbirds here.
You can attract, feed and nourish hummingbirds in your backyard with a few easy steps. Flowers, perches, insects, and water are the key ingredients to a healthy yard that will attract these amazing jewels.
Hummingbirds are specialized for nectar-eating, evident by long bills and grooved tongues ideal for probing flowers. Sugary nectar supplies fast energy and makes up 90 percent of a hummingbird's diet. Unfortunately, due to development and climate change, hummingbird-friendly habitat may be changing across many hummingbird migration routes. You can create a healthy environment for hummingbirds with these steps:
Hummingbirds prefer to nest near a ready supply of nectar and other food, and you can encourage them to nest in your yard by maintaining some shrubbery and small deciduous trees in which they can seek protective cover, especially around the edges of your yard. They build their tiny, expandable nests on tree limbs and other small horizontal surfaces, often constructing them from lichens and spider webs.
Make sure you have plenty of safe places for hummingbirds to rest and sleep in your yard. Hummingbirds often perch to rest or survey their territory; some spots should be in the open and obvious for territorial birds, while others should be in protected areas, hidden from view and buffered from any cooler overnight temperatures.
Hummingbirds need protein from pollen and insects to maintain their bodies and grow new feathers. Like swifts, hummingbirds are specialized aerial hunters and can snatch small insects from the air. Hummingbirds also glean insects from leaves and from spider webs. To maintain a healthy ecosystem in your yard:
Hummingbirds like to bathe frequently—even in the pools of droplets that collect on leaves. Provide your yard with a constant source of water from a drip fountain attachment or a fine misting device. A misting device is an especially attractive water source for hummingbirds.
Backyard hummingbird feeders provide hummingbirds with nectar critical to their survival, especially during fall and spring migration. Follow these steps to ensure your yard is a safe and nutritious stopover for hummingbirds: