As the Ruby-throats start moving north across the Eastern half of the United States, they'll be searching for fuel to keep their high octane systems moving. That fuel is found in flowers and feeders, which both provide primarily sucrose. Some people feel guilt in giving hummingbirds something that they can find in flowers, but 70 years or more of nectar feeders have proven that our efforts in feeding them hasn't hindered their existence. The reality is that hummingbirds are much like other living things. They'll search out all sources of food and then choose the one that requires the least amount of effort. What this does is stop them from expending a lot of energy in searching out food sources that may be very limited or non-existent in many areas. Our help hasn't hindered them, but allowed them to flourish over the past several decades.
As the birds move north, these mature birds now know plenty to recognize the value of a feeder filled with sweet fuel. So if you are wondering which is better to attract hummingbirds, remember feeders before flowers. Adult birds will spot a feeder across a field, like a starving man will spot the golden arches across the desert. Feeders are a MUST in Spring. Flowers are a MUST in Summer.
Later in the season when young leave the nest, flowers are necessary as they know nothing more than their instinctive attraction to naturally looking flowers. Those flowers in mass amounts will keep the young around long enough to learn what the mature birds have been protecting from them, feeders. So don't be overly concerned about a lack of flowers in your garden as they're moving north, and don't feel guilty about providing an abundance of feeders, but rather spend your efforts in building up a blast of color for when the young leave the nest. Time and maturity will determine when the young graduate from primarily flowers to a mixed diet.
This youngster got a bit carried away in the pollen, and had a serious case of sugar overload. August 9, 2019. N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.