Attracting Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds have excellent eyesight and have great fidelity to established feeding stops along their migration route. Attracting hummers to your yard will require a bright splash of color. This can be accomplished by selective plantings or by artificial means such as surveyor's ribbon or silk flowers. These methods will attract the hummers to your yard making it easier for them to find your feeders. See the list of the HBSG favorite plants for hummers.

Caring For Feeders

Food - Older literature indicates that hummingbirds primarily feed on flowers and your feeders for the sugar water (nectar). However, more recent observational studies strongly suggest they also feed on small soft-bodied insects in much the same manner as flycatchers do. We believe that perhaps one-half of their diet is made up of small arthropods such as fruit flies, gnats, mosquitoes, aphids, spiders, caterpillars and insect eggs.

Hummers are capable of living for extended periods without nectar as a component of their diet. They can quickly convert fat reserves and recently ingested arthropods to energy when deprived of nectar. Foraging is done by "hawking" from an exposed perch, gleaning bark and leaves and robbing sapsucker wells. The ratio for your feeder is one part sugar to four parts water.

Please NO food coloring. It is not necessary to buy ready-made nectar because the birds get all the vitamins, minerals and proteins they need from the natural nectar and insects they eat. If the hummers are not emptying your feeders, just partially fill them. Definitely, NO honey or artificial sweeteners in the feeders, this may be harmful to the birds.

Cleaning - Flush the feeders every week with hot tap water and clean with a bottle brush, rinse. Do not use soap. At least once a month, clean the feeders thoroughly with a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water, let it set in this solution for about an hour then if necessary clean with a bottle brush. 

Almost all feeders can be dismantled for easier cleaning. Rinse well with running water and let the feeders air-dry completely before refilling. This can be done at night and refilled the next morning so you don't disrupt the feeding of the birds. When the temperature is over 80°F, change your feeder solution every 3 to 4 days, flushing the feeders with hot tap water and a bottle brush. We recommend clear glass or plastic feeders so you can keep track of the amount of sugar water and its condition.

Dealing with Pests

Ants: Dip a pipe cleaner in vegetable oil and wrap it around the wire from which the feeder hangs. Ants will not cross the oil. Re-oil occasionally.

Ant traps: A cup that holds water from which you hang the feeder. This makes a water barrier the ants will not cross. See Catalog

Yellow Jacket, Wasp and Hornet Trap: A plastic jar with special ports that is baited. It is an excellent way to reduce the numbers of these pests at your feeders and in your yard. See Catalog

Maintaining a Winter Hummingbird Feeder

© The Hummer/Bird Study Group, Inc. This site last updated 10/01/14