There’s something magical about the shimmery movement of hummingbirds as they busily search for energy sources to fuel their tiny bodies. These fascinating birds are a natural wonder, and setting up a hummingbird feeder can be an exciting project.
Unfortunately, not every feeder is immediately noticed by local hummingbirds, which can be disappointing. However, there are several things that you can do to attract hummingbirds to a feeder.
How to attract hummingbirds to feeder:
- Set the environment
- Add red
- Add perches
- Hang many feeders
- Keep nectar fresh
- Clean feeders
- Deter insects
- Provide protein
- Feed consistently
- Provide water
- Start early in season
- Plant flowers
- Provide nesting habitat
- Ban pesticides
From the time you put up a hummingbird feeder, the wait is on. You wait in excited anticipation to spot the tiny flecks darting about your yard.
And while it is unlikely that your offering will be found and appreciated on the same day that you hang it, there are some things that you can do to attract hummingbirds. You may soon need to add more feeders to keep up with all the visitors.
1 – With a Friendly Environment
Before you decide to hang a hummingbird feeder in your yard, take a look around and consider the entire environment. While energy-giving nectar is always welcome for a quick drink, these tiny birds are far more likely to move into an area where they can thrive long-term.
While it may take a few days or even weeks for the first hummingbirds to start using your feeder, they will return season after season once they realize that it is a consistent source of fresh nectar. If you set it up correctly the first time, you won’t have to wait long.
It is good to place the feeder in a quiet area where it is visible to hummingbirds but won’t hang directly in the sun. If the feeder is in direct sunlight, you will need to change the nectar more often.
Once hummingbirds become used to an environment, they can become quite bold. However, to begin with, station your feeder away from areas where there will be frequent movement and loud noises that could frighten them.
Planting a colorful garden and encouraging your neighbors to do the same will undoubtedly create a more conducive habitat for hummingbirds. Unlike insects which are attracted by scents, hummingbirds are primarily attracted by color.
When assessing your garden, try to imagine it from above and what hummingbirds see as they move around in their never-ending search for energy sources. A landscape filled with shrubs and dense cover for nesting and brightly colored flowers, along with a consistent supply of clean nectar, will soon make your yard the hummingbird capital of the area.
2 – With the Color Red
Almost all hummingbird feeders that you purchase are red. This is because the favorite natural food of hummingbirds is red or orange tubular flowers, so they pay attention when they see something red.
Once the hummingbirds know that your feeder is there, they will keep coming, but you may need to provide some bright color signals to get their attention. If you have a homemade hummingbird feeder or one that doesn’t have a lot of red, you can easily add some color with red ribbons or hang a bright red hanging ornament nearby.
The only thing on your feeder that should never be red is the nectar. There has been a popular trend of adding red food dye to sugar water before adding it to the feeder to make it more attractive to hummingbirds.
While the additional red color may draw them to the feeder, food dye is not natural or healthy for the tiny systems of hummingbirds. There is no reason to add it, so make the feeder red, but keep the nectar colorless.
3 – By Providing Perches
While it may look like hummingbirds do nothing other than flying between food sources, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. Between energy-filled feeds, they need to rest, establish territory, build nests, and sleep.
If the hummingbirds in your yard love the feeder you have provided for them, then in all likelihood, they will also like a few perches set up nearby where they can keep an eye on it. These sweet little birds can also be fiercely territorial.
Once they have established themselves in an area, they appreciate having safe places to perch between feeds. If you don’t have natural trees that provide natural open perches, you can hang some extra bird perches in the vicinity of the feeders.
Besides open perches where they can survey their territory, hummingbirds also appreciate sheltered areas where they can shelter and hide overnight. Thick shrubs and hedges will keep them out of sight and shield them from cool overnight temperatures.
4 – By Adding Feeders
To attract more hummingbirds, you might need more than one hummingbird feeder. This will also make your backyard zone more noticeable to these little birds.
Besides just having a better chance of being identified as a hummingbird oasis, once you have hummingbirds visiting your feeder, the established birds may not take kindly to sharing. These territorial little birds may even bully visiting hummers, but this can easily be resolved by adding additional feeders.
Your spunky little hummingbird boss bird won’t be able to chase visitors away from more than one feeder. If you notice some hostile activity at your hummingbird feeder, the simple solution is to hang another feeder at least 10ft away.
Creating an area with multiple hummingbird feeders can look attractive, and at the same time, it ensures that peace is maintained and visitors will also get to drink.
5 – By Keeping Nectar Fresh
Keeping the nectar in your hummingbird feeder fresh is vitally important. These tiny birds must eat every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day to keep their metabolisms charged.
To avoid hummingbirds rejecting your feeder or, even worse, becoming ill from drinking spoiled nectar, it needs to be replaced regularly. It is a good idea to set up a schedule to remember to change the nectar regularly, even if you have a busy schedule.
Nectar needs to be replaced at least twice each week during mild weather conditions. When the daytime temperature exceeds 80F, you will need to replace the nectar every other day.
Nectar is easy to make, and batches can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. All you need is ¼ cup of white sugar per 1 cup of hot water.
Do not be tempted to use any other ingredients besides white sugar and water in the exact 1-4 ratio. Honey, sweet fizzy drinks, or sweeteners are not safe substitutes and should never be used.
The nectar in your hummingbird feeder will also stay fresher for longer if the feeder is not hung in direct sunlight. Choose an area that is open and visible to passing hummingbirds but will be shaded most of the day.
6 – By Keeping It Clean
Bacteria and mold can develop very quickly in moist, sticky environments. Keeping your feeders clean and filled with fresh nectar will attract more hummingbirds.
When selecting hummingbird feeders, it is not only the color that is important. Check how easy it is to take apart and reassemble to clean the unit.
The safest way to wash and sterilize hummingbird feeders is with 1part vinegar mixed with four parts water. While bleach is often used to clean other types of bird feeders, it is not suitable for nectar feeders because chemical residue could leech into the nectar.
Mild dishwashing liquid can also be used but ensure that the unit is thoroughly rinsed and dried before refilling it with nectar.
While you don’t have to wash your feeder every time you top up the nectar, it is recommended. Make a habit of giving your feeder a proper wash at least every few days, particularly in hot weather.
7 – By Deterring Bugs
Bees and ants may welcome also love sugary sweet nectar. These insects can, however, deter hummingbirds from visiting the feeder.
There are some ways that you can keep these raiders away from your hummingbird feeder.
How to Keep Ants Away from Your Hummingbird Feeder
To access the nectar in your feeder, ants need to climb down from where it is hanging. Keeping them out can be done easily by making it impossible to move onto the feeder.
Specially designed ant moat hangers are available. These are hooks that fit between the hummingbird feeder and whatever it is hanging from. By filling the catchment moat with water, ants are unable to move across to the feeder.
A practical and inexpensive way to keep ants off your feeder is to suspend using a strong piece of fishing line. The thin nylon is difficult for ants to climb.
How to Keep Bees Away from Your Hummingbird Feeder
It is a little trickier to keep bees away from your hummingbird feeders because, like the birds, they can fly. While it is always wonderful to share your garden with bees, and they should never be harmed, hummingbirds may not be too eager to land on a bee-covered feeder.
The best way to deter bees from your feeder is to use a dish-shaped type of feeder. Hummingbirds have long tongues inside those needle-like beaks, so once they have their beaks in, they can slurp up the nectar below.
Bottle feeders are beautiful, but the nectar inside remains at a level that bees can access even with their short mandibles. They, therefore, tend to crowd around the openings on bottle feeders because they can reach the sweet nectar inside.
If you already have bottle feeders and are experiencing problems with bees, tiny flexible plastic attachments called nectar guards are available that fit into the feeding ports of most types of hummingbird feeders. These clever little devices allow birds to insert their beaks but are inaccessible to bees.
Some commercially available hummingbird feeders come with built-in bee guards. If you do have a lot of bees in your area, look out for feeders that feature a small yellow crisscross-type pattern over the feeding ports. These guards allow hummingbirds to inset their long beaks but keep bees from feeding, and they soon give up.
Another method to keep bees off away from your hummingbird feeders is to move them around and try to keep them in shaded spots. Bees prefer to remain in the sun and favor natural flowers out in the open rather than fly into shaded areas to feed.
The color of your hummingbird feeder may also be attracting bees instead of hummingbirds. While hummingbirds love red, bees love yellow. So if your hummingbird feeder features a lot of yellow, it may be wise to cover or remove those areas to make it less attractive to bees.
8 – By Providing Protein
While hummingbirds love nectar, which is valuable to fuel their high metabolic rate, they also need to eat insects to survive. These tiny birds eat hundreds of insects each day. In addition, they need to provide insects to their chicks while nesting.
The more valuable insects you can keep in the vicinity, the more likely it is that hummingbirds will be attracted to your nectar feeder. Fruit flies are a favorite treat for hummingbirds, and fortunately, they are easy to provide.
By simply saving overripe fruit and banana peels and placing them in an inconspicuous place in your garden, fruit flies will soon begin swarming, which will be a great source of protein for tiny hummingbirds.
If you live in a very dry area, place the peels in a semi-sealed container so they don’t dry out before the flies set in. You can also hang them in a basket near your hummingbird feeder. Be sure to replace the fruit periodically to keep attracting fruit flies.
Breeding fruit flies is more effective during late summer when the weather is hot. This is, however, also when hummingbirds breed, so providing additional protein sources will keep hummingbirds in your area, and they will spend more time at your feeder.
9 – By Feeding Consistently
Having an inconsistent nectar supply is not ideal. Hummingbirds need to continually top up throughout the day to meet their energy requirements.
To keep hummingbirds at the feeder, ensure that the nectar supply is fresh and steady. While you may get birds that are just visiting, particularly when migrating during early spring and fall, most of the hummingbirds that visit your feeder will be regulars.
The bright red color of a hummingbird feeder may immediately attract interest from these sharp-eyed little birds. But they are unlikely to stick around if they find that the feeder is frequently empty.
If you have a hummingbird feeder, it is a good idea to get into the habit of checking it daily and topping up if necessary. While you are out at work during the week, the tiny green gems in your garden will still be expecting their sweet nectar from the feeder.
10 – By Providing Water
You have probably never seen a hummingbird enjoying a bath at your regular birdbath. The reason for this is because they don’t use that type of pond dipping method to clean that many other birds love.
Hummingbirds love staying clean, and adding a misting water feature near your feeder will enable your hummer friends to enjoy your nectar feeder and immediately clean any sticky residue off their feathers. The sheer delight displayed as they splish-splash under the fine showers of falling water is a joy to watch.
Any type of fountain that will enable your hummingbirds to stand below a fine trickle of water is perfect. You can often even see them congregating under a leaking garden tap. Keeping a suitable water source close to your feeder will keep hummingbirds in the vicinity.
11 – By Setting Up in Early Spring
Hummingbirds follow warmer weather so if you want to attract hummingbirds to your feeder, put the feeders out ahead of their arrival back in your region. If you are not sure when to expect the return of hummingbirds in your area, you can check on Ebird.
To attract hummingbirds to your feeder, be ready when they start arriving in spring. If conditions are favorable in your garden, they are far more likely to move in if they arrive to find a feeder ready and waiting for them.
At the end of the season, keep your feeders filled until at least two weeks after you observe the last hummingbird. This act of kindness could provide a much-needed energy feed for any tail-enders on the long migration to warmer areas.
12 – By Planting Flowers
The long beaks of hummingbirds are specialized to probe flowers in search of sweet nectar. Even though you provide a feeder, you will attract more hummingbirds if you also plant suitable flowers.
When selecting colorful flowers for the garden to surround your hummingbird feeder, keep in mind that native plants provide far more benefit to the hummingbirds than exotics.
Select red or orange plants that have tubular flowers, like trumpet honeysuckle. Grouping plants with types of flowers and ensuring that flowers bloom throughout the season is also helpful to keep hummingbirds in your area.
The practice of regularly ‘deadheading’ flowers on your flowering plants provides more blooms for a more extended period. Deadheading simply involves cutting off the head of the bloom as soon as it has started to fade. Seed production is thereby halted, and the plant quickly begins to push up a new bud.
If you are unsure what native plants will grow well in your area, you can check on the native plants’ database. Besides attracting birdlife, native plants are usually easier to grow and require less care than exotics.
13 – By Providing Nesting Habitat
To attract hummingbirds to your feeder, make your garden a 1-stop habitat. Hummingbirds build tiny nests about the size of an average golf ball in thick shrubs or other dense, sheltered areas.
The tiny, expandable nests are constructed from spider webs and lichens, and they frequently build their nests near a ready supply of nectar. Planting suitable shrubs and allowing some parts of your property to get a little overgrown will provide places for these little birds to build their nests and raise their chicks.
14 – By Avoiding Pesticides
Besides the nectar in your feeder, hummingbirds will be attracted to your garden if there is an abundant supply of protein-giving insects. The ecosystem in your garden should therefore be kept as natural as possible.
Spiders and insects form a large part of a hummingbird’s diet. Besides just eating them, spider webs are the primary building material for hummingbird nests. Pesticides usually eliminate insects non-selectively and wipe out the natural food that hummingbirds depend on.
Keeping your yard around the hummingbird feeder teaming with natural insect life will mean more visitors at your feeder. Indigenous plants are also more likely to support a greater concentration of insects, so keep your garden natural and full of bugs to make your hummingbird feeder more popular.
Hummingbird feeders are a great addition to any garden, especially if you are living in the suburbs! These fascinating creatures need to eat every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day to provide enough energy for their supercharged metabolisms.
Adding and maintaining a colorful hummingbird feeder in your area offers these tiny birds the energy boost they need to stay healthy. By following some simple tips, your garden can quickly become a hummingbird paradise, and your feeder will soon be swarming with gorgeous shiny hummingbirds.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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