What to Know About Hummingbird Feeders

Attract hummingbirds to your backyard with these tips for choosing and maintaining a hummingbird feeder.

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Hummingbirds have universal appeal. They are common and widespread, but elusive enough to bring excitement every time you see one. The shimmering iridescent feathers sparkling in the sunlight are almost magical. Whether they’re hovering in place or zipping across the sky, attracting hummingbirds to your yard provides hours of entertainment.

What Is a Hummingbird Feeder?

Hummingbird feeders offer up sugar water to these energetic fliers. Most hold a cup or two of sweet liquid. And while you can buy hummingbird nectar by the gallon, most folks make their own. The recipe is four parts water to one part sugar. Avoid these common mistakes when making your nectar.

Types of Hummingbird Feeders

Hummingbird feeders come in numerous shapes and sizes. Be sure to find a hummingbird feeder that is easy to clean and fill.

Wild Birds Unlimited offers up a few unique designs for hummingbird feeders including the rectangular Pagoda High Perch feeder and the Decorative Window feeder. And while the Perky-Pet Pinch Waist feeder is a common choice, this green antique bottle feeder brings a little nostalgic charm to the backyard. Feeders like this Muse Gardens hand-blown glass feeder bring an artistic element to your feeder station.

Where to Hang a Hummingbird Feeder

Placing hummingbird feeders requires balancing a number of factors. They are territorial birds, especially the males, defending feeders and chasing off intruders. One solution is to hang multiple feeders spaced well apart. A shady spot will help prevent sugar water from fermenting quickly, but hummingbirds prefer more open areas for feeding.

How to Attract Hummingbirds

Placing a hummingbird feeder in your yard is just one step in attracting hummingbirds. We recommend planting flowers that hummingbirds like.

University of Delaware professor Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, is a big proponent growing native plants to increase value for wildlife, including hummingbirds. Strategic planning and planting can keep blooms in your yard throughout the seasons. Try columbines for spring, bee balms for summer and blazing stars for fall. Or you can pick from this list of 30 species to attract hummingbirds to your lawn.

Adding moving water such as a fountain or mister can also attract hummingbirds.

How Often to Change Hummingbird Feeder Nectar

Experts at the National Audubon Society recommend changing hummingbird nectar multiple times per week. In hotter climates, you should increase the frequency to daily. Don’t be tempted to just top off the feeder. Replace the sugar water completely each time you refill.

How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder

Besides frequently refreshing the sugar water, hummingbird feeders need to be disinfected and cleaned regularly. Before you add fresh nectar, feeders should be soaped-up, washed and rinsed every time. A more thorough disinfecting needs to happen monthly. A toothbrush makes the perfect tool for scrubbing hummingbird feeders and other hard-to-clean containers.

How to Keep Bees and Ants Away From a Hummingbird Feeder

Bees and ants are attracted to the same sweet nectar that brings the hummers in, but excluding these uninvited guests is possible with bee guards and ant moats. Bee guards function as mini-extenders. Long billed (and tongued) hummingbirds can still slurp up the juice, while bees can’t reach the rewards.

To keep ants away, you can hang your feeder from a separate ant moat. Many feeders have them built in. Either way, a pool of water is impenetrable for unwelcome ants.