Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hummingbird Photography Part 2 Attracting Hummingbirds.

Hummingbird photography Rufous on shrub

We see Hummingbirds at different stages in there lives, during migration when there passing through, when there setting up there territories for the breeding season, nesting time and when fledglings leave the nest and go out on there own.

Depending where you live can make a big difference on how many you see, if your on a migration route you will see lots at certain times of the year, if you are in a nesting area there will peaks when they first show up and then when they fledge.

Once you start feeding them you will get an idea of when there numbers are the greatest, more Hummingbirds around easier it is to get some good pictures.

Its a good idea to find out when Hummingbirds show up in your area and put the feeders out a week before, when they first show up can be a good time for pictures, they will be in good shape and there will be more  once they start nesting and work out there territories.

Some basics on Hummingbird behavior, the males are here for the females, they show first set up a nice area with a good food supply and go look for females, they have a courtship dive that is different for each species of Hummingbird, its a good thing to watch out for and is pretty interesting, the male will go straight up about a hundred feed then come straight down and just before he reaches the ground he turns in a "J" shape, making a noise at this point, the noise is actually caused by feathers, once he has impressed her they go off and do there thing, he will carry on looking for other females and she will build a nest and lay a couple of eggs and raise the young by herself.

Diet is small insects, nectar from flowers and sap from trees, the migration of the sapsucker is around the same time as the Rufous migration and its an important food source when they first show up in there breeding grounds.

The young are mostly fed insects so you don't see the females at the feeders much when she is raising them, but when they fledge the population increases in a short time and you will see a lot more action at the feeders.

The adults migrate first leaving the juveniles to find there way back to the wintering grounds on there own.

Now that we know a bit about are subject we can start to figure out how to attract them, the basics is food, water and shelter, just like any other bird.
Hummingbird photography Anna's at feeder


Hummingbird feeders with 4:1 mixture water and sugar, just plane white sugar, no coloring is needed, anything different and your risking the birds health. Keep the feeders clean and change the mixture often, every three days once the weather warms up.

Insects, fruit flies from composting kitchen scraps is good especially Banana peels.

Flowers, this is a big subject some crazy people will re-landscape there whole yard for attracting hummingbirds, I would go with a combination of Native plants for your area and proven Hummingbird favorites like Bee Balm, Chilean Glory Vine, Honeysuckle, Nasturtiums, these are some of my favorites but what will grow well in your are may be different, plant some in pots so you can move them around for good position when you want to take pictures with the Hummingbirds. Since this is about photography think about the direction of the light and the backgrounds when you plant, that way you can get nice pictures of the birds at the plants.

A good place for plant info is the Hummingbird Forum


Hummingbirds get there fluids from nectar but they love to bathe, running water and water sprays is what they seem to like best, if the spray is on some foliage they will bathe in that also.

A water feature with shallow spots and splashing water is liked by them.
Hummingbird Photography Rufous bathing in waterfall.

Some more feeder info as it pertains to taking pictures, single port feeder is the best, one with a thin spout, you want the bird coming in from one direction and not going to the farthest feeding spout and looking around the corner at you, no perch since since were trying for flight shots, if you have a multi port feeder you can tape over the ports not being used and remove the perch, but they are creatures of habit and will continue to try and perch and feed out of the other ports so its good to get them used to a single port feeder with no perch.

Another method is when you have a well established feeder, set up your camera and flashes, have a flash on a background that will blur out nicely, have one, two or more flashes on where the feeder is, now take down the feeder and hide it, replace in the exact same spot a flower with some sugar water placed into it. The hummingbird will come around the corner go to the exact spot the feeder was, not seeing the feeder the hummer will pause and look around, spot the flower and check it for nectar, if it gets a good feed it will keep coming back, change up the flowers for variety.

Hummingbirds will try to protect the feeders from other Hummingbirds you can put out more feeders out of site of each other so they will get a chance to feed, but keep one were you want to take pictures so they are used to going to that one.

They remember where the food is and fly straight back to were it was last time, you can move the feeder around a bit and the females will find it right away, after hovering in the spot that it was in, but the males will get confused and will take longer to learn the new location.


Except when migrating, Hummingbirds spend most of there time perched, usually up in a tree, if its cold and wet and windy they will seek a protected area, a bit of rain doesn't seem to bother then and they seem to enjoy it.

They like a vantage point watching over the food supply so they can chase away any other birds that get near there food, there very protective and not only chase other Hummingbirds but I have seen them chase ducks, Pileateds and Red Winged Blackbirds.

A lot of times you will see them on a bare branch were they get a good view of there surrounding area, hawking bugs and coming down to feed every twenty minutes or so, other times you don't even know there around till you go near their feeder and all of a sudden there in your face checking you out because you went near their feeder.
Rufous Hummingbird perched on Coneflower, Hummingbird Photography

Knowing your subject.

I went into behavior because its good know your subject, it helps for attracting and for taking pictures, for example if you know what native plants they use in your area then you would be able to do a set up including the native plant for a more natural picture.

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