How To Feed & Attract Hummingbirds

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Why are these little birds so popular? There’s something so charming about washing your dishes at the kitchen sink or sitting at a table and looking out the window to see a hummingbird a few inches away from you, hovering and feeding from a hanging flower basket or feeder. They are the very small (just 3″ – 5″) and can fly backwards too! If you have a few regularly visit your yard, you can’t help but feel lucky.

Occupied FeederThey are spotted in the southern U.S. as early as March as they migrate north. You can follow their movement each year by watching the the map here.

If you’re way down south, the first half of March is normally when you want to get your feeders up so you can attract them to your yard, the rest of us will be a little later (I’m looking at May).

Simple Food Formula:

1 part white cane sugar
4 parts water

Store unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. This is in optimal recipe since it closely resembles the nectar of many wildflowers.

See this page. A cautionary note:

Please, do not put honey, Jell-O, brown sugar, fruit, or red food coloring in your feeder! Honey ferments rapidly when diluted with water and can kill hummingbirds. The effects of red dye have not been not scientifically tested, and it is not necessary to color the water to attract birds to your feeder. Further, there are unverified reports that red dye can cause tumors in them; this may or may not be true, but why take the chance?

Maintenance:

  • Clean feeder each time you refill it by flushing well with hot water–do not use soap. Find more details for cleaning here.

Did you know: They’ll consume up to twice their body weight in nectar every day! They also enjoy supplementing their diet with the little insects and spiders that will be drawn to the sugar solution in the feeder.

DIY Feeder: Here’s a clever project made with a wine bottle, red paint (if bottle isn’t already red), small bowl with a plastic, snap-on lid and heavy gauge wire.

Here’s another project from artsyvava.blogspot.com made with a wine bottle, copper wire and a hummingbird bottle stopper.

Flowers That Attract Them:

If a feeder is too high maintenance for you, try a nice hanging basket of bright red or deep pink fuschia–I’ve been lucky and it’s always worked for me! More plant suggestions are found here.

For beginner gardeners, I’d recommend containers or boxes filled with petunias or Impatiens (or try a mix of both!). I find them pretty low maintenance and hardy.

Good luck this year, I hope these little guys find you and choose to hang around :).

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Published: February 10, 2007
Updated: March 6, 2012

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31 Comments to “How To Feed & Attract Hummingbirds”
  1. Nancy says:

    Thanks for this info. I would have put my feeders out in May, and I just found out that some have been seen nearby already! Cool.

  2. Debbie says:

    I was so happy to see that you added the information about not using honey or red dye, they don`t need it. I love my hummies in the summer and it makes me so unhappy when people add all the stuff they don`t need, and could hurt them. Thank you for the correct info.
    Debbie

  3. Kimberli says:

    Ohh I love Hummingbirds, we get them every year all around our front porch. They are amazing little birds! I need to get my feeders ready!!!

  4. Viki says:

    I just love hummingbirds. I was surprised to learn that bats will visit feeders too. We have bats so that may be why my one feeder gets empty quicker than the other. Thanks for the great information.

  5. Monty Montano says:

    Californians need feeders up year ’round. An Allen’s hummingbird nest outside our kitchen window Christmas week and had a brood out of the nest by February. Another hummer moved into the vacated nest and is raising another pair just out of pinfeathers.

  6. Carla says:

    Hummingbirds love Morning Glorys too! They are very easy to grow.

  7. Greenriverkate says:

    Well, last year I had 3 winter over in the Seattle WA area. Have never seen it before so left feeders up, when it froze brought them in at night and took them out early. Must have lost one as this jan, I only saw 2. As of March, I have 6. Amazed me and they are going through the syrup daily. Usually I replace it every few days depending on weather but find I must refill at least every other day. Well, this fall, I will keep the feeders up, just in case. I so worry when it freezes.

  8. Becky says:

    Make sure there aren’t any spider webs around the feeder that they can get caught in! (The lil’ thing did manage to get free but unfortunately landed on the ground where the cat was :(

  9. Susan says:

    Has any one heard of putting out a dish of sugar for Himming birds? I was in Aruba and they had a dish on the back of the bar and the little birds where all over it.

  10. Katerina says:

    I’m not sure if anyone else has had this experience, but we have a big planter of lavender on our balcony and we get constant hummingbird visitors! During this last little cold spell in california, I’ve taken the plant indoors, but the little hummingbirds keep coming back and looking for it. I love my lavender and was pleasantly surprised that I’m not the only one :)

  11. Dorothy says:

    My husband was in the garden misting the plants on a VERY hot humid day. He started to mist the trees and all of a sudden there were three little humming birdas taking a shower. after about 5 minutes there were about 15. He sat very still and let them get all they wanted. I so wish I had a video camers, but maybe someone else could try and get a show to post. Our water bill went up but it was worth it. What a site.

  12. Dianne says:

    We have non-stop hummingbird traffic on Cape Cod in the summer, but the Orioles also love the hummingbird feeder so we always have to construct a special attachment on the bottom of the feeder so they have somewhere to land while they are feeding.

  13. Victoria says:

    I LOVE the feeder shown in the picture. Where can I find one like that?

  14. Corie says:

    I got this feeder at Walmart last Thursday!

  15. Frannie says:

    Thank you for all the information. I love seeing hummingbirds and wasn’t sure how to attract them around here. Once in awhile I will see a couple of them around but only for a few minutes and then I don’t see them anymore for along time. I bought a feeder and the hummingbird food for it but they didn’t come around after hubby hung up the feeder for them. Wasn’t sure why? Thank you again for sharing the information :) I’m going to plant some flowers that they would like in our new garden.

  16. Jean says:

    I have these exact feeders and I love them but unfortunately the hummingbirds don’t like them as much as the red plastic ones. We have two of these and they rarely will go to them they choose the other type that I consider cheesy looking. I don’t add any dyes to the food.

  17. Carol says:

    I have a hummingbird feeder hanging on a shepards hook, I always have hummingbirds around it but I also have ants climbing up the hook and into the feeder is there anything I can do to prevent the ants or do I just have to deal with it??

  18. debbie tucker says:

    I have over the last 3 years went fron 30 to almost 40 hummingbirds lots of feeders over this year I only got half that amount. My question is do the children come back where they were born or is it justluck that I get this amount of hummingbirds?

  19. Shelli says:

    Oh thank you so much for all the ant advise. I’m going to try it in the spring. I live in southern Ontario and just love watching our humming birds.

  20. Lisa says:

    Am I the only one with territorial humming birds? If one is on or near the feeder another one is diving at it. They are never on it at the same time. They are very active all day long though.

    • Sue says:

      Nope, me too! Especially the little orange ones. I set up at least 5 feeders here in the high Rocky Mountains of Colorado, so everyone gets a chance at a feeder. Sure are entertaining to watch! :)

  21. marilyn says:

    I can’t seem to attract hummingbirds I have tried everything flowers feeders,and change my suger water weekly,do you think they are go to neighbors or what,I wont give up, I have been trying for several years,I only see a few all summer,what am I doing wrong

    • Celia says:

      Marilyn, they seem to love the color red. I cook beet root in lots of water and decant the red juice into jars which I keep in the fridge. I mix a nice sweet mixture of water and sugar and then color it with the beet root water. It works very well.

  22. patti says:

    if my feeder gets low, they will come and find me either in the kitchen or at the sewing room wondow.

    • Linda says:

      I live in central Florida. Do they make their home this far south in the summer? I have only had them pass through.

  23. yvette says:

    U can also spray cooking spray on hook & hanger. I do this every year & never have trouble with ants.

  24. Sue says:

    You may want to make your sugar water a little stronger ~ I had my mom do that when she first moved here and it worked. Once they find the feeder, take it back down to the recommended (and healthier for them) recipe. Good luck!

  25. Vonda says:

    We have just started seeing one hummingbird flying around my patunias. I put out a feeder and he has been back a few times. I’m now thinking about planting some flowers that attract hummingbirds. We live in Nebraska and don’t get to many of them around here so I’d like to try a keep him coming around.

  26. Verna Holloway says:

    I only see a couple each year. I was told that bees and hornets are attracred to the feeders and hummingbirds will not come near when they see them. I put a florescent yellow trap out but it only trapped a few bees. Do hummingbirds feed early in the day and rest in the early evening? If so that could explain why i only see a few since I leave rather early for work.


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