Say… “Cheese!” … how to photograph Hummingbirds

by Staff
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In order to make hummingbirds want to stay around your place, and raise a family so you can take photos of them, you need to provide them with a source of plants for food. Sugar water is only part of the diet.


The following list includes those native plants judged by Operation RubyThroat to be the “Top Ten” plants for attracting hummingbirds.

  1. Trumpet Creeper
  2. Beebalm or Oswego Tea,
  3. Trumpet Honeysuckle
  4. Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
  5. Spotted Jewelweed
  6. Red Columbine
  7. Canada Lily
  8. Indian Pink,
  9. Red Buckeye

10. Mountain Rosebay or Catawba Rhododendron




Birds and Blooms Magazine top plant list 

Cardinal flower

Red hot poker


Flowering tobacco

Bee balm


English primrose

Sweet pea

Trumpet vine



A couple of plants that I like are red salvia, daylilies, oriental lilies, spider plants and profusion zinnias and red crepe myrtles.  Butterflies are a bonus with the zinnias and daylilies.  I know that’s six, but I’m giving a bonus.


The nests about the size of a quarter are very hard to find. I’ve been trying to find a nest in a Cascade weeping peach tree at the end of the drive for years without luck.  Females do all the work.  Mature males have a flash of red on the throat called a gorget.  Females and young males won’t have the red. Construction is mostly moss, lichen, and spider webs.


Do not use the commercial red dye Kool-Aid stuff when feeding hummers. It’s not good for them.  Think Jim Jones (if this ‘was before your time’ Google Jim Jones & grape Kool-Aid).  If you have red on your feeder, that’s all you need to get their attention. Take one part sugar and 4 parts hot to boiling water. Mix well cool and put in your feeder.  Left over’s may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. When they first start showing up I only make up a small amount and don’t fill the feeder full. I’ll use one-eighth cup of sugar and one half cup of water.  Change and clean the feeder every four days or so depending on the heat.  Don’t use detergent, instead rinse with hot water and use a 10% bleach solution to disinfect.  If you have trouble with ants getting into your feeders and spoiling the sugar water, save your spray can tops and I’ll show you later how to make a simple ant moat.


When I first started collecting pictures for this post, I thought for a while, all you were going to get was a hummingbird moth. They were too busy hitting the flowers and hardly using the feeders.  My Turkscap lilies were blooming and they were popular with the hummers. I felt like Artie Johnson German soldier peeping through the lilies, as they were always on the other side (At this point you young folks Google Laugh In).


When going bird watching, put on a dark T-shirt before heading out the door.  One thing I didn’t know as a rookie bird watcher was not to wear white. You’re more noticeable and scare off the birds. My first Audubon trip eagle trip I heard one of the seasoned members mumbling about another person on the trip wearing white.  I’m an amateur, but I’ll share what works for me when taking pictures.  A good time for me is while my hooligans (my 3 rescued Border collies) are eating. That way they aren’t walking back and forth or trying to climb a near by tree and scaring the birds off.  I used a telephoto lens on a tripod, and the camera set to sports.  Even then I’ll discard 80-90% of my shots.   I’ll autofocus on a spot near the feeder and then set the lens to manual.  That way the auto focus isn’t continuously refocusing.   When they show up in my zone I focused on, I hold down the button and let the camera click away until they fly off.   I’ve been known to take over 600 pictures this way in a single morning.


(David Rainer) The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board voted to open the 2022 turkey season on March 25 with a four-bird season bag limit



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