8 Tips for Feeding Hummingbirds

Feeding hummingbirds can be an extremely rewarding experience. Watching these tiny, colorful birds flutter up to your feeder and sip nectar is fascinating. With a few simple tips, you can attract hummingbirds to your yard and keep them returning all season. Here are 8 tips for successfully feeding hummingbirds.

Choose the Right Feeder

The most important thing you can do to attract hummingbirds to your yard is offer them a good feeder. There are a few features you’ll want to look for when selecting a hummingbird feeder:

  • Red color – Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, so choose a red feeder. Bright red feeders are ideal.
  • Nectar reservoirs – Look for a feeder with a large nectar reservoir that is easy to clean and fill. Models that hold at least 16 ounces are preferred so you don’t have to refill as often.
  • Perches – Consider a feeder with multiple perches so more than one hummingbird can feed at a time. Perches allow the birds to comfortably rest while feeding.
  • Ant moats – Many feeders feature built-in ant moats or protective barriers to keep insects out of the nectar. Look for this feature if ants are a problem.
  • Easy cleaning – It’s crucial to clean your feeder regularly to prevent mold, bacteria, and other contaminants. Opt for a feeder that comes apart easily for thorough cleaning and has no hard-to-reach areas.

When hanging your feeder, place it in a shady area and position it so it hangs freely and doesn’t blow in the wind or bump against walls or branches. Hummingbirds feel more secure when they have open space around them as they feed.

Use the Proper Nectar

Filling your feeder with homemade nectar is the best option. It’s easy to make by mixing 1 part white granulated sugar with 4 parts water. You’ll want to avoid honey, brown sugar, artificial sweeteners, and food coloring, as these can be harmful to hummingbirds.

Do not use red food coloring in nectar. The red feeder is enough to attract the birds. Red dye can be toxic to hummingbirds.

When making nectar, bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve the sugar completely, then let it cool before filling your feeder. Unused portions can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks. Remember to change the nectar every 2-3 days (or more often in hot weather) to prevent spoilage.

Choose the Right Location

Place your feeder in a quiet area away from noisy machinery and other disturbances. Hummingbirds are shy, so they prefer secluded spaces with nearby small trees or shrubs where they can perch and watch for danger.

Choose a spot near natural flowers, trees, and gardens that provide shelter and additional nectar sources. Situate the feeder out of direct sunlight and strong winds for the birds’ comfort.

Avoid areas near exterior lights, which may attract nocturnal insects that could drown in the nectar. Also, place the feeder at least 10 feet away from heavily used doors, walkways, etc. to minimize disruptions.

Don’t Use Pesticides

Hummingbirds are highly sensitive to chemicals and pesticides. These toxins can be transferred to the birds if sprayed on or near the feeder. Even weed killers and insecticides applied in your lawn or garden can make their way into nectar supplies.

Use natural gardening methods and avoid chemical pest control around hummingbird feeders. If chemicals have been used, thoroughly wash feeders and allow 2-3 weeks before refilling them to avoid contamination. Create a safe haven for hummingbirds by eliminating pesticides.

Offer Multiple Feeders

Consider placing several feeders around your yard to reduce competition and give more hummingbirds a chance to feed. Feeding multiple sites prevents dominant males from monopolizing one feeder. It also allows species that are intimidated by aggressive species to access nectar.

Space additional feeders at least 10-15 feet apart to disperse the birds. Having multiple feeders also ensures you can continue feeding hummers if something happens to one feeder. Clean and rotate feeders regularly to keep nectar fresh.

Provide a Water Source

Hummingbirds appreciate having a water source available, especially on hot summer days. The moving water attracts them and allows them to bathe. This is important since hummingbirds don’t bathe in birdbaths like many other species.

Place a mister, dripper, or fountain near your feeder and keep the water clean. Add stones or branches for perching, but avoid letting the water become stagnant due to health hazards. The sound and motion of moving water will invite hummingbirds to visit.

Let Some Flowers Bloom

In addition to feeders, hummingbirds rely on natural nectar sources like flowers and trees. Allow some flowering plants in your yard to bloom for the birds to forage. Good choices include bee balm, cardinal flower, columbine, salvia, petunias, and native honeysuckles.

Plant varieties of different colors and blossom times to provide nectar all season. Tubular blooms and red flowers are hummingbird favorites. Just make sure to avoid pesticides and chemicals on the plants as previously mentioned.

Be Patient

It takes time for hummingbirds to discover new feeders. You may not see many birds initially, but keep your feeder filled with fresh nectar. As word spreads, traffic at your feeder will gradually pick up.

Peak activity typically occurs between May and September, but by providing a consistent food source you can extend that well into fall. With patience and persistence, you’ll eventually view a flurry of hummingbird activity.

Troubleshooting Common Hummingbird Feeding Problems

Attracting hummingbirds to your feeder requires some finesse. Here are solutions to a few common issues that can arise:

Problem: Ants in the feeder

Solution: Use an ant moat or coat the feeder’s hanging wire with petroleum jelly to block their path. Move the feeder away from foliage touching it.

Problem: Bees and wasps frequenting the feeder

Solution: Move the feeder to a different area away from insect nests. Avoid overflowing the feeder which attracts bees and wasps.

Problem: Fermenting nectar

Solution: Change the nectar every 2-3 days in hot weather when fermentation happens faster. Make sure to thoroughly clean the feeder each time.

Problem: Moldy nectar

Solution: Avoid fillers that promote mold like honey, juices or fruit. Change the nectar often and scrub the feeder with a bottle brush and diluted bleach weekly.

Problem: Cloudy nectar

Solution: Use pure cane or beet sugar when making nectar instead of organic sugar which can cause cloudiness. Or replace the nectar if it looks contaminated.

Problem: Leaking feeder

Solution: Replace any leaking seals, caps or gaskets. Check that everything is tightened properly and the base is securely attached.

Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Hummingbirds

Hummingbird enthusiasts often have additional questions about properly caring for these remarkable birds. Here are answers to some of the most common FAQs.

Should I provide additional food besides nectar for hummingbirds?

No, there is no need to offer additional food sources. Providing nectar in the feeder gives hummingbirds all the energy they need. They get other nutrients by eating small insects.

How often should I clean my feeder?

Wash the feeder with hot water and scrub it with a bottle brush once a week. This prevents mold, bacteria and yeast from accumulating inside. Change the nectar every 2-3 days.

Can I use raw or brown sugar in my nectar recipe?

No, avoid any sugars other than white refined sucrose or beet sugar. Brown sugar and raw sugars contain levels of iron that can be dangerous for hummingbirds.

Is it okay to mix artificial sweeteners into the nectar?

Never use artificial sweeteners, honey or fruit juices in nectar. They lack nutrients hummingbirds need and may even be toxic. Use only plain white granulated sugar.

Should I use organic sugar instead of regular white sugar?

Organic sugar is not recommended since it tends to be less refined. This can result in nectar fermentation or cloudiness which hummingbirds avoid. Stick with pure cane or beet sugar.

Can I leave my hummingbird feeder up year-round?

In temperate regions, take down and clean feeders by early-to-mid October before freezing weather arrives. Leaving sugar water to freeze will damage the feeder. In warmer climates, you can leave feeders up year-round.

How often should hummingbird nectar be changed in hot weather?

Nectar ferments faster in hot conditions. During summer months, swap the nectar every 2 days or even daily to ensure freshness. Check that it hasn’t spoiled before refilling.

What ratio of sugar to water is best for hummingbird nectar?

Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water. This creates a 20% sugar solution which provides ideal nutrition for hummingbirds. Higher concentrations are dangerous. Always avoid red dye.


With the right practices, feeding hummingbirds can be an incredibly rewarding hobby. Choose quality feeders in optimal locations and keep them filled with fresh homemade nectar. Avoid pesticides and let some flowers bloom naturally. If hummingbird care is new for you, be patient – the birds will find the feeder. Address problems quickly and cleanliness will be rewarded with active feeders all season long. Following these 8 tips will help you successfully attract hummingbirds to your outdoor space.

8 Tips for Feeding Hummingbirds

Feeding hummingbirds is an enjoyable way to help these energetic little birds while bringing color and activity to your yard. With a few simple tips, you can supplement their natural diet with nutritious nectar and provide a safe feeding environment. Here are 8 recommendations for successfully feeding hummingbirds.

1. Use Feeders Designed for Hummingbirds

Use feeders made specifically for hummingbirds, with an appropriate nectar reservoir, feeding ports, and perches. Look for bright colored, easy to clean feeders that are either made of glass or dishwasher-safe plastic. Red is especially attractive to hummingbirds.

2. Choose the Right Nectar

Fill feeders with homemade nectar using 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. Boil the mixture for one minute to dissolve the sugar. Do not add honey, artificial sweeteners, food coloring or anything besides plain sugar and water. Keep unused portions refrigerated for up to two weeks.

3. Prevent Fermentation and Spoilage

During warm weather, empty and clean the feeder thoroughly every 2-3 days. This prevents buildup of mold, bacteria, and yeast that can sicken hummingbirds. Always check the nectar for cloudiness or foul odors before refilling.

4. Position Feeders Properly

Hang feeders from tree branches, porches, or poles, positioning them in light shade. Keep them out of direct sunlight and away from areas of high activity. Place multiple feeders at least 10 feet apart to reduce territorial squabbles.

5. Don’t Use Pesticides and Chemicals

Avoid spraying pesticides or using chemical treatments near the hummingbird feeding area. These toxins can leach into nectar or poison the birds. Practice natural gardening methods to prevent chemicals from impacting hummingbirds.

6. Offer Supplemental Food Sources

Provide additional blooming plants that offer natural sources of nectar. Choose tubular red flowers and native plants. Let some weeds like dandelions grow to diversify food supplies. Avoid treated plants.

7. Include a Water Source

Hummingbirds drink and bathe in water. Install a mister, dripper, or fountain near feeders. Move water gently to avoid breeding mosquitoes. Add perches and keep the water very clean.

8. Be Patient

It takes time for hummingbirds to find new feeders. Consistently fill feeders with fresh nectar and maintain them properly. Over time, hummingbirds will discover this reliable food source and traffic will increase. Peak activity occurs May through September.

By following these 8 tips for feeding hummingbirds, you can create an inviting and safe environment. With a quality feeder, proper nectar mixes, strategic placement, and plenty of patience, you are sure to have active and healthy hummingbirds visiting your yard.

Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Hummingbirds

Here are answers to some common questions about attracting and caring for hummingbirds around your home:

How often should hummingbird nectar be changed?

  • In hot summer months, nectar should be changed every 2-3 days. In cooler weather, every 4-5 days is sufficient. Always check the nectar’s appearance before refilling.

What’s the ideal ratio of sugar to water in hummingbird nectar?

  • Mix 1 part white sugar with 4 parts water. This 20% solution provides essential nutrition without being overly concentrated. Never exceed a 1:4 sugar to water ratio.

Why is red food coloring bad for hummingbird nectar?

  • Red dye can be toxic to hummingbirds. The bright color of the feeder alone is enough to attract them. Avoid any food coloring and stick to only sugar and water.

Should I take down my feeders in winter?

  • In temperate climates, take down feeders by mid-October before freezing occurs so water won’t damage the feeder. In warmer regions, leave feeders up year-round.

How often should hummingbird feeders be cleaned?

  • Clean the feeders thoroughly at least once per week. Use hot water mixed with a little bleach, scrubbing with a bottle brush. This prevents dangerous mold and bacteria growth.

What natural food sources can I provide for hummingbirds?

  • Plant brightly colored, tubular flowers which provide supplemental nectar. Examples include cardinal flowers, columbine, honeysuckle, lantana, fuchsia, and native wildflowers.

How close together should I hang multiple hummingbird feeders?

  • When putting out more than one feeder, space them at least 10-15 feet apart. This reduces squabbling over feeders and allows room for flight maneuvers.

Should I supply anything besides nectar for hummingbirds?

  • There is no need to offer fruit, insects, suet, or other food sources. Nectar provides all of the nutrition hummingbirds need. They get minerals from flower pollen.

How can I deter bees and wasps from my hummingbird feeder?

  • Move the feeder to a different spot away from insect nests. Avoid dripping and clean up spilled nectar which attracts insects. Consider a feeder with bee guards.


Attracting gorgeous, hovering hummingbirds to your outdoor space is simple when you follow a few basic tips. Use the proper feeders and nectar mixes. Position feeders out of direct sun and change nectar frequently. Avoid pesticides and chemicals in the area. With ideal feeding conditions, hummingbirds will return repeatedly to nourish themselves at your feeders as they supplement their natural diet.