Friendly Visitors: How To Draw Hummingbirds To Your Yard

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 (also known as “hummies”) hovering a few inches away from you.

They’ll likely be hanging around a flower basket, window box or feeder where they happily feast on nectar.

They are the very small (just 3″ – 5″) and can fly backwards too! If you have a few regularly visiting your yard, you can’t help but feel part of something special.

They 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 (journeynorth.org).

When To Get Ready For Them: 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 garden, the rest of us will be a little later (I’m looking at May).

What Hummies Are Looking For: Food, Water & Flowers. It’s that simple.

If you’re consistent in caring for them and have their treats ready and waiting, these little charmers will remember you and visit your property year after year!

How To Get Started: I’ve put together a tip sheet outlining everything you need to know to care for hummingbirds and ways to encourage them to hang around.

I’ve also included some good online resources for more in-depth, expert information if you’d like to dig a little deeper and learn something more authoritative.

Don’t Miss ‘Em: I’ve tucked in a few DIY projects just for fun, you’ll find those towards the bottom of this article. Plenty here, enjoy!

Recipe: Simple Food Formula

1 part white cane sugar
4 parts hot water

Just combine the ingredients and once the granules are dissolved and solution has cooled, away you go! Although some suggest it, there’s no need to boil first or “cook” the nectar.

This is the best, optimal recipe since it closely resembles the nectar of many wildflowers and is recommended by all the experts. If anyone suggests tweaking it with any kind of “special additives” or recommends buying “enhanced” nectar…be skeptical.

See this page for 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. 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?

Tips:

  • Store unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  • If you don’t have the budget for cane sugar, regular white granulated is fine.
  • If you have a lot of activity in your yard and want to make a bulk batch, the ratio is 1:4 (sugar:water). Keep in mind the shelf life is limited as noted above (even refrigerated).
  • Do not “top up” the syrup, drain the old batch completely before adding fresh stuff.

Did You Know: Hummies will 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 syrup recipe.

Don’t Forget: Along with their sips of the homemade nectar, they’ll need a good, steady supply of fresh water.

If you want to pamper them, add a “misting” feature to your garden, they love them!

Maintenance:

  • Clean feeder every time you refill it by flushing well with hot water–do not use soap. A bottle brush can come in handy here.
  • Empty, wash then refresh with new formula a couple times a week (hot weather deteriorates the food more quickly so you may have to do this every other day). When it gets cloudy or smells funny, you know it’s overdue.
  • Deep clean every couple weeks by flushing with regular household vinegar and rinse well (at least 2 or 3 times). If it’s especially dirty, add a handful of uncooked rice…vigorously shaking/swirling this around will add some scouring muscle to the job.
  • By being diligent in cleaning, you are avoiding bacteria and black mold…both of which can seriously harm and kill hummies.
  • Find more details for cleaning here.
  • If ants are a problem, try smearing Vaseline or Vicks VapoRub in a section around the hanger pole, they’ll avoid crossing that goop. Remember to check to see if you need to reapply after each rain.

DIY Feeders:

Put these up a couple weeks before expecting them to migrate from the south. You can take them down in the Fall about 2 or 3 weeks AFTER spotting the last bird, just in case a few stragglers show up.

  • 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.
  • Modern: A simple DIY from HGTV using a corn cob feeder (for squirrels), a clear soda bottle, razor blade, red spray paint, twine and a tube.
  • Transform/Reuse Prescription Vials: Mother Earth News has a quick & easy DIY that costs just a few cents! This is a great, economical method if you want to place several around the garden.
  • Baby Food Jars: Another recycle project that costs only a few pennies, features a clever ant trap underneath that’s made with an empty tuna can.

Bonus: Super sweet! This is a dear perch for your little friend that you can make, I’m sure he’ll put it to good use!

Flowers That Attract Them:

If regularly washing out feeders and mixing up recipes is too high maintenance for you, try a nice hanging basket of bright red or deep pink fuchsia–I’ve been lucky and it’s always worked for me! More plant suggestions are found here.

Some recommended perennials that draw their attention:

  • Bee Balm (I have good luck growing this, even in zone 3 winters!)
  • Honeysuckle
  • Salvia
  • Hollyhock
  • Trumpet Vine
  • Lupine
  • Columbine

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

A great, in-depth resource from the National Audubon Society: How to Create a Hummingbird-Friendly Yard: A little water, a few flowers, and a few perches will bring these tiny dynamos to visit.

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

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Comments

    • Barbara Sherrow
    Reply

    I’ve tried having several different type feeders and have never seen one bird, so disappointing. I make the sugar water formula you suggested but never see a humming bird. I live in Sun City Center, Fl. I live on a golf course with a pond in back yard area. I just gave my feeders away, tired of waiting and never a bird located on my lanai glass windows.

    • Cathy Bracey
    Reply

    I mix honey and water with a little Red food coloring

    • Rita
    Reply

    I live in Ga. and we have hummingbirds every year. It is not necessary to color the water, as most feeders are made with the color red some where around the feeding tube.

    Also, they feed all day long

    As far as the ant problem, the bird feeder stores sell small receptacles (a cup like device (fill with water) that is hung from a hook above the hummingbird feeder, the ants drown in it and can not reach the feeder. Some of them are just clear plastic and others are really cute, an upside down black umbrella. Plain or fancy, they all work and keep the ants from reaching the feeder.

    Also, I always boil the water and then make the sugar solution.

    Good luck with your hummingbird sightings.

    • Kris
    Reply

    Beware of praying mantis as they prey on hummers and kill them! If you see one on your feeder – remove it!

    • Cynthia
    Reply

    Cape Honeysuckle, Cigar plant, and one called Rabbit’s Foot are the plants on our balcony that they love. We’re in Southern California and are lucky enough to have them around all year. We also have a feeder out that we refill every other week. Even while sitting out on the balcony they’ll come and feed on the flowers and feeder!

    • Mary
    Reply

    Our hummingbirds didn’t leave this winter! We kept the feeder filled and spotted about 3 different
    Kinds! It’s March and they’re still coming!

    • Rhonda
    Reply

    How do you keep the bees away from the feeders? We live in Missouri and they are bad here

    • Cathy
    Reply

    I have one female that gets on the wiring where she can see both the front and back feeders and if another one comes around she goes to squawking and carrying on and sometimes flies down and runs the off… It is funny I did not realize the noise the can make…. .

    • Verna Holloway
    Reply

    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.

    • Vonda
    Reply

    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.

    • Sue
    Reply

    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!

    • yvette
    Reply

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

    • patti
    Reply

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

      • Linda
      Reply

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

    • marilyn
    Reply

    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
      Reply

      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.

    • Lisa
    Reply

    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
      Reply

      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! πŸ™‚

      • Cathy
      Reply

      I simply apply Vaseline around the metal hanger and it last all summer.

    • Shelli
    Reply

    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.

    • debbie tucker
    Reply

    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?

    • Carol
    Reply

    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??

      • debbie tucker
      Reply

      I cover my shepards hooks base (heavy coat) about 2 feet from ground up with (now don”t laugh) Vicks Vapor Rub.Works for me

        • kathy
        Reply

        Thanks for the idea Deb. I have the san problem

      • Sue
      Reply

      I use vaseline anywhere on the hook, about an inch all the way around.

    • Jean
    Reply

    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.

    • Frannie
    Reply

    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 πŸ™‚ I’m going to plant some flowers that they would like in our new garden.

      • Joy
      Reply

      My hummers have been VERY picky about feeders. I’ve been through several, looking for one I liked. Well, we don’t agree, but what’re you supposed to do? Tried a bunch of pretty ones, both commercial and home-made. It seems what matters is what the flower/sipping tube looks like. I too, have found they like the cheesy looking ones you find all over- clear bottle, red bottom w/ red 2 1/2″ (size does matter) flowers w/ yellow plastic ‘cage’ in center. PICKY !!! Size & color of the flower seem to be the most important factors.

      • danielle
      Reply

      Hummingbirds send out scouts to see where the food is in early spring. Be patient:) you’ll see them soon. Not sure about store bought feed…you can boil 4 cups of water with one cup of sugar. Boil until the sugar dissolves. Let cool, then put in feeder:)

    • Corie
    Reply

    I got this feeder at Walmart last Thursday!

    • Victoria
    Reply

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

      • Candy
      Reply

      I saw one that was similar at HomeDepot

    • Dianne
    Reply

    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.

    • Dorothy
    Reply

    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.

    • Katerina
    Reply

    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 πŸ™‚

    • Susan
    Reply

    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.

    • Becky
    Reply

    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 πŸ™

    • Greenriverkate
    Reply

    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.

    • Carla
    Reply

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

    • Monty Montano
    Reply

    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.

    • Viki
    Reply

    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.

    • Kimberli
    Reply

    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!!!

    • Debbie
    Reply

    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

    • Nancy
    Reply

    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.

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