Hummer Happy Hour

OUTDOORS • DESIGN 06.02.18

AFTER SPRING BREAK in the country, many city dwellers long to create a nature vibe in their urban space. Fondly reminiscing about hummer happy hours, evenings spent watching hummingbirds flower-hopping, sucking down nectar shots, zooming by like bullets. Musing about mounds of flowers, their scent cavorting with a breeze. Pondering about pure, placid nature. Perhaps even googling something that goes like this, "ideas for making my balcony feel like nature."

HERE'S A CURATED guide.

Check your lease or CC&R.

FIRST, FIND OUT if your landlord or homeowners association allows hummingbird feeders, bird baths, potted plants, outdoor furniture and decorations.

If you're renting, your lease agreement should have a section listing all restrictions. If you're a homeowner, your homeowners association covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R) will say what's permitted.  If they don't allow bird feeders or bird baths. No problem.  Just skip to "Find flowers that attract hummers," below.  You can still make your balcony feel like nature using plants, flowers, furnishings and accents.

Learn about hummingbirds in your area.

CHECK OUT PERKY-PET.COM'S Hummingbird Migration Map to see hummers spotted migrating near your area.

The interactive map shows sightings in the US by month, state, zip code and hummer species.

You can submit photos of your own sightings, too!

Get a hummingbird feeder.

THERE ARE TWO basic types of hummingbird feeders:  vacuum and saucer. Vacuum feeders have a bottle or tube that drains the nectar into a reservoir with feeding ports. They can drip on hot and windy days. Saucer feeders are shaped like a saucer, with ports on the cover of the reservoir. They are drip free and are a better choice for windy balconies.

Choose a feeder that's easy to clean, durable, transparent, has perches and bee guards.  Best to start out with a smaller one so you can change the nectar more often, which is better for the hummers. Large feeders can lead to nectar spoilage if there aren't enough hummers feeding.
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Here's a list of the best feeders for 2018 from Birdwatchingbliss.com. The overall winner is the AspectsHummZinger.

Pick-up or make some nectar.

THERE ARE TWO options:  store-bought or make your own.  Many enthusiasts eschew store-bought nectar, especially if it contains red dye and preservatives.

If you don't have time to make your own, best to get clear, store-bought nectar with no red dye. Get it at most hardware stores, nurseries, some big box stores and online.

Both homemade and store-bought nectars can spoil. It's important to choose a transparent feeder to detect cloudiness, floating particles or insects in the reservoir.  Replace the nectar and clean out the feeder one to three times per week.  These tiny treasures are every bit worth the effort.

Here's an Easy Hummingbird Nectar recipe from the Audubon Shop Blog.

Hang and care for your feeder.

HUMMERS CAN FLY as high as 500 feet. Hang your feeder high where hummers can see it, away from pets and children, above the balcony line, in a shady area. Arrange plants and flowers with V-shaped branches near it so they can take a  load off.

Don't crowd them. Give them enough space to cascade freely around the feeder and make sure they have a clear view of the general vicinity so they can spot and evade predators. Get advice and tips at Birdwatchingbliss.com.

Feeders need to be cleaned regularly — especially in hot weather — to prevent  mold and bacteria growing.

Clean it one to three times per week with hot top water.  Daily if it's above 90F.  Clean it every time the hummers empty it.

Clean the inside and the feeding ports. Don't use dish soap. It's okay to use a weak vinegar solution, but plain hot water and wiping down with a clean towel is fine.

Get advice on Audobon's Hummingbird FAQ's page.

Choose a bird bath and water wiggler.

ALL BIRDS ARE attracted to the sound of splashing water. Hummers need water for bathing and drinking. They prefer misters and often fly through yard sprinklers.  Your balcony might not be conducive to installing a mister, but you can still attract them with a bird bath and water wigglers. They won't submerge themselves, but they'll dive and skim the surface.

The Audobon Shop Hanging Bird Bath has a neutral, classic style with a hand applied, weathered stone finish.

The Audobon Shop Solar Water Wiggler has rotating paddles powered by the sun that agitate the water. Not only does it attract hummers and other birds, but it also prevents mosquito eggs. Place it in the birdbath and let it run itself.

Find flowers that attract hummers.

HUMMERS ARE ATTRACTED to bright, red, orange, tubular flowers that hug their long beaks.

 Audobon's native plants database helps you find native plants in your area for attracting birds. Just enter your email and  zip code.

Find your garden zone at Seedsnow.com.

Select outdoor furniture.

RELAX IN A Valencia Eucalyptus Chair from VivaTerra.com.

An updated version of the classic Barcelona chair. It's made of fine-grained eucalyptus, sustainably grown and harvested in monitored plantations.

Bonus.  It folds flat and is all-climate.

NOW, SOME SHIMMER with these Vivaterra.com Silver Hammered Drum Accent Tables.  Made from recycled materials with a hand-embossed top. They play nicely with the chairs.

Add some candles.

CANDLELIGHT REFLECTS OFF the sides of the silver drum tables. Gorgeous!

The Large French Copper Rim Scented Candle from Vivaterrra.com is hand poured, made with a blend of essential, mineral and vegetable oils, entirely of recycled glass with a copper rim.

Tie it all together with rugs and a throw.

THE LIGHTHOUSE AND Diamond rugs from Ecochic.com are made from 100% recycled fibers, hand-loomed by artisans in fair-labour, fair-trade workshops. Get both in light blue for a cool, clean look that will play well with lots of bright-colored flowers.

WARM UP ON cool nights with a Larkspur Linen Throw from Coyuchi, stonewashed for softness, woven of linen made from French-grown flax.

Mid-gray is a nice contrast for the chairs and plays well with the silver drum accent tables.

NICE JOB DONE.  Enjoy!

Elaine Sarduy is a freelance writer and content developer @Listing Debuts