How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Backyard

A close-up of a hummingbird mid-flight with blurred background

Among the many popular backyard birds, none attract quite as much attention or adoration as the colorful hummingbird. From its diminutive size to its rapid, eye-catching movement, there is something about these little jewels that make them charming to watch. Adding plants and hummingbird feeders are two easy ways to attract more of these birds to your yard, regardless of where you live in the country. However, since most species migrate, there is a specific seasonal window for your area. Since you need to keep these feeders clean, knowing when to put them out and take them up will reduce the workload and maximize your bird sightings.

Hummingbird Feeder Placement Tips

Hummingbird feeders hung on shepard's hooks

For best viewing, it’s fine to place a hummingbird feeder near a window as long as you place decals on the glass to deter strikes against the reflective surface. Some feeders attach directly to a window, but placing the feeder a few feet away from a tree branch or post generally offers a better view. Try to keep the feeder out of the direct sun when possible to slow spoilage between changes. Since you’ll need to refill and clean the feeder regularly, don’t place it somewhere you need a ladder to reach. Watch out for swooping territorial birds and keep the feeders high enough that ground predators like house cats can’t reach the visitors.

How to Mix Hummingbird Food

Pre-mixed hummingbird nectar quickly becomes expensive when you change out the feeders as often as recommended. Consider making DIY nectar instead of spending dozens of dollars a month just to attract more hummingbirds. According to recommendations from sources like the Smithsonian National Zoo, all you need is plain granulated white sugar and water. The recipe is:

  • 1 part sugar
  • 4 parts warm water.

Simply mix until the sugar is all dissolved. Don’t add red dye, herbal extracts, or any colorings or additives in general. Hummingbirds don’t need them, even if they’re included in commercial products you find at the store. The healthiest mix mimics the nectar found in flowers that’s purely a combination of sugar and water. Brown sugar or sugar substitutes aren’t safe for hummingbirds either because they can affect their liver or encourage fungal infections. Stick to granulated white sugar even if you don’t personally include it in your diet.

The Risks of Forgetting to Change the Feeders

Hummingbird perched on the edge of the feeder

A dirty hummingbird feeder full of mold and spoiled nectar is more dangerous to the hummingbirds than no feeder at all. Hummingbirds can’t always tell they’re drinking bad nectar, resulting in illness that can wipe out most or all of the birds that visit your feeder. If you can’t commit to changing the nectar at least every other day, take the feeder down and only hang it for a day at a time. Sugar water is fine to store in the refrigerator in a separate container, but the feeder should only contain what you expect the birds to consume in 48 hours. Don’t fill it to the top unless you’re sure you are feeding a whole crowd. Fungal infections are very harmful to hummingbirds are hard to detect in a feeder, so clean it thoroughly between nectar changes to prevent illness issues.

Proper Cleaning Procedures

Close-up of a hummingbird eating from the feeder

Bleach is necessary for sanitizing these feeders due to the high sugar content of the nectar. However, leaving too much bleach residue behind could also risk damage to the hummingbirds. Choosing an easy-to-clean design that allows for the use of a small bottle brush in each feeding tube is the best idea. The feeding ports for the birds are the hardest part to clean on most designs, yet that’s the spot that also puts them in the most direct contact with mold. Soaking the whole feeder in a 10:1 water to bleach solution should be enough to sanitize it each time you change the nectar.

What Seasons to Put up Feeders

A couple of hummingbirds flying up to a red feeder

For the parts of the country with cold winters, most migrating hummingbirds arrive in April through June and depart by the end of August to early September. This means that you can safely put your feeders away in fall and wait until late spring to return them to the yard. In some areas, hummingbirds only visit for a month or two at the height of summer. Following the blooms of the wildflowers in your area will generally be a good guide. In warmer climates like Florida and some parts of California, hummingbirds feed year-round, and there’s no need to put your feeders away unless you want a break from cleaning them.

Feeding Hummingbirds Naturally with Flowers

Hummingbird eating from a pink flower

Planting flowers and letting hummingbirds feed themselves naturally can be a little less work than trying to stay on top of feeder cleaning and filling. There are plants for every climate, growing zone, and landscaping style that attract these birds, but a small selection of highlights includes:

  • Bee balms
  • Columbines
  • Hollyhocks
  • Cardinal flowers
  • Penstemon
  • Cleomes
  • Butterfly bush
  • Flowering tobaccos

There’s a hummingbird strategy for everyone. Just encouraging wildflower growth in your neighborhood can dramatically increase the number of birds you see without the work of directly feeding them. If you do decide to invest in feeders, put them up where they’re easy to take down for cleaning every other day.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.


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