Q: Can I get away with only planting flowers to attract Hummingbirds?
A: This is a question I've come across quite often. Here's the bold truth. You won't even get a fraction of hummingbirds in comparison to those with feeders. The fact is that when a hummingbird learns about a feeder and how it's supply of nectar never seems to run out, it will never pass up a feeder again. Every living thing tends to head in the direction of the path with least resistance. Likewise, hummingbirds will choose a food source that requires little to no effort to gain the most nutrition needed to survive. They will feed from a feeder more than 90 percent of the time over a flower, if feeders are available.
Here's the good news for those who don't or can't put up feeders due to certain city laws - when young hummingbirds leave the nest, they naturally understand flowers and their value. They don't understand feeders, even though they have flowers stuck on the side of them. The unusual shape of feeders don't look enough like the natural flowers and they often times shy away.
In areas where the population of hummingbirds is very high, the young will figure out feeders very quickly, as all they have to do is show up at the swarm of hummingbirds drinking from a feeder to understand there's something special about those fancy red things.
Ultimately, if you love hummingbirds and want to draw them to your yard, feeders are a MUST. The time and effort it takes to clean and change feeders is a minor inconvenience in comparison to the massive rewards of numerous hummingbirds to your garden.
Juvenile Ruby-throat hummingbird, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta. 2015
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.