There are quite a few things you’ll want to consider when first learning how to attract hummingbirds to your home. When will they be arriving? What kinds of plant life do they prefer? The questions aren’t endless, and the answers are easy.
What are the migratory habits for hummingbirds in my region? In Florida they can show up as early as January, however, in the Northern Great Lakes region you may not see your first hummingbird until May.
It’s important to know when to expect them so you can have your feeder and floral displays ready for their arrival. Put your feeder out at least 5 to 10 days before you expect your hummingbirds to arrive.
Remember, it’s okay to be a little early. You want the hummingbirds to notice your feeder on their way into town and stop for a drink. With any luck your new little visitor will enjoy your home and become a regular guest.
Flowers and Plant Life
What kinds of flowers do hummingbirds like? They tend to prefer those that are tubular and brightly colored. Hummingbirds don’t have the greatest sense of smell, so they rely on their vision to find food.
Nature provides them nectar rich flowers that are vibrant with colors like red, purple, and orange to make it easy for them to find food. Some favorites of the hummingbird include begonias, cannas, columbines, daylilies, gladiolas, morning glories, nasturtiums and petunias.
Check with your local nursery to find out what will grow best in your area.
It’s important to spread your flowers and plants out so that your hummingbirds can fly and soar between them. They also like to have a place to perch with a wide open view for keeping a lookout.
Vines are a great addition to provide some hiding spots for these sweet little birds. A favorite is the red sweet potato vine.
How do I get the hummingbirds to notice my feeder? The answer to this one is simple. Red, Red, and more Red! The best thing you can do for yourself when considering how to attract hummingbirds to your feeder is adding lots of red.
Most feeders nowadays come with a portion of them colored red, but it doesn’t hurt to add a little extra. Ribbon tends to work best for this. It swirls and twists alluringly in gentle summer breezes. A thick, bright, red ribbon tied into a beautiful bow atop any feeder is sure to attract lots of hummingbirds.
Once you’ve gotten a hummingbird to notice your feeder you may see fewer other hummers. That’s because male hummingbirds are territorial. If you want more to visit, you can add more feeders to your yard.
Try placing them outside of windows all around your house for more to see them. It’s a good idea to try and keep them out of view of each other. Territorial males have been known to chase other hummingbirds away from a feeder they consider to be theirs.
They will charge at any hummer they consider to be an intruder. They have even been known to pin an invading hummingbird down and peck at their feathers.
How often should I clean my feeder? The simple answer is every 3 to 4 days, but there is much more to cleaning a feeder than just when to do it. Hummingbirds are delicate creatures.
If detergent were to become mixed with the nectar it could make them very sick. For this reason it is recommended you rinse your feeder with piping hot water. If you ever see any mold (little black dots) just use a brush and hot water to thoroughly scrub the feeder.
You’ll only want to fill your feeder about halfway full of nectar since they probably won’t have time to drink more than that before the feeder needs to be cleaned. If you live in a hotter climate you may have to clean your feeder even more often to avoid mold.
What is the best way to make nectar that will attract the most hummingbirds to my feeder? This may not be the best way, but it is the most highly recommended. All you have to do is mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.
Bring the mixture to a steady boil. Remove your nectar from heat and cool before filling your feeder. Leftover nectar may be stored in the refrigerator for your hummingbird’s next feeding.
You should never use honey or artificial sweeteners when preparing your nectar. It doesn’t take very long for honey to ferment. The fermented honey can cause sores to form in the mouths of little hummingbirds making it hard for them to eat and deterring them from continuing to visit your feeder.
Artificial sweeteners, like Splenda or Sweet ‘N Low, offer no nutritional value and therefore should be avoided when preparing nectar. It’s also not a good idea to add red food coloring.
It’s true that red is an attractive to hummingbirds, however, we do not currently know if food coloring is dangerous for birds to eat.
Why don’t hummingbirds use my bird bath? Hummingbirds love to zip through water to take their baths on the fly. They can be seen flitting in and out of sprinklers before shaking the droplets of water from their feathers.
If you’d like to see your visiting hummingbirds take advantage of an existing bird bath you can add a gentle fountain for them to fly through. No bird bath, no problem. They enjoy getting themselves clean in lawn sprinklers as much as kids love to play in them on a hot summer day.
How do I get a hummingbird to nest in my yard for the season? Having a good source of food for them is a start. A feeder and a variety of flowers they love will hopefully get them to your yard.
They prefer to nest away from their food source. They like tall trees and vines. They have even been known to build their nests on thin wires. The nests themselves are tiny and will usually be made of plant fibers and other fluffy materials they can find.
Do all of these things and you’ll have your friends asking you how to attract hummingbirds to their yards too!
Lisa Hanks says
Cleaning Hummingbird Feeder in Plain Hot Water not always clean very good , but wondering if use little drops of Vinegar will cleans much better to remove mold, germs,etc.,
will 2 Drops of Vinegar harms Hummingbirds??
Thank You so very much..
People consume vinegar so I would think that if you rinse a feeder with some vinegar and then thoroughly rinse off the vinegar and you and the birds should be fine.
Don Rutherford says
My rose of Sharron tree doesn’t bloom until about August 1st. here in MI will the humming birds still be able to find it?
I would think, they should be around until those blooms are spent is my guess.
Pamela Berry says
I really Love Hummingbirds, Love This was a great article too.. Will be looking for more like this Thanks.
We have a hedge of honeysuckles and they seem to love it out there. I’ve found their little nests way back in the middle of the hedge. We have an old horse drawn planter as a lawn decoration and we’ve planted morning glories under the wheels. It gets covered with morning glories and the little birds like that too. Thanks for the article Mike, it’s very informative.
Sue Ellen says
My hammers have to fight with the bees…any suggestions to keep bees away….Mike your post are so informative and I have look forward to your articles…Thank you so much
Use a hummingbird feeder with bee guards or bee guard tips so the bees can’t get into the nectar.
Try feeders that have no yellow in them. The color yellow could be attractive to bees. Duncraft has a huge selection of hummingbird feeders, many that do not have any yellow color on them.
If the “bees” are actually yellow jackets, a kind of wasp, you may be able to reduce the population with yellow jacket traps.
Move your hummingbird feeder to a very shady location. Bees prefer to eat in sunny areas. Distract bees with a saucer of nectar where the feeder used to be.
Make the nectar less sweet. Try 5 parts of water to 1 part sugar instead of the usual 4 parts water to one part sugar.
Spraying a very light coating of cooking oil on the feeder may stop bees from landing on it. But use caution not to overdo it. Oil on hummingbird feathers can be harmful to them.
A very small amount of petroleum jelly on the feeder flowers might also help stop bees from landing. Be sure to wipe off the excess so hummingbirds don’t get it on their feathers.
After hanging with fresh nectar, be sure to clean off sugary drips or spills on the outside of the feeder so bees won’t be attracted to the sugary scent.
Never use insect-killing chemicals around hummingbird feeders! It’s bad for the hummingbirds and may also kill beneficial honey bees!
Use No oils or petroleum jelly anywhere near your feeders. You are killing the birds. They Will get it in their feathers and be u able to fly or therniregulate!
Linna Lawrence says
Bees and wasps were a problem in my yard too, so I did some research. Most of the upright feeders will lead and then attract those flying varmits! The best kind of feeder to buy is the “Hummzinger”. I got rid of my other feeders and replaced it with the Hummzinger! Presto chango…no more bees and wasps. I also made the mistake of hanging my feeders near Bee Balm and other plants they crave. I found out that since they were all nectar producing plants, that the bees liked them as well. So since my plants were in containers, I moved them to another part of the patio and that seemed to fix the problem. Good luck and enjoy!!!
Susan Murray says
My hummers love beebalm.. And they like to hide and perch in tall sunflowers. I plant a few of those thru out my garden. I live in upstate NY.
Kim E Andersen says
I mix 1/2 cup sugar 1 cup water stir until dissolved add color then feed them. I am filling feeders every day I have 9 feeders. No I do not heat or boil the mix.
I was using red food color in my sugar water but read an article in Bird and Bloom that said red food coloring could make the shell on eggs fragile thus no baby. Just saying.
Please! Please don’t use any coloring in the nectar! A simple four parts water to one part sugar solution is what’s recommended. It’s simple enough to make yourself and keeps well in the fridge for a reasonable amount of time. It’s also extremely important to keep the feeders clean. I use a bottle brush and hot water. A solution of water and vinegar can be used. Make sure the feeder is rinsed well.
Please note that food coloring has small amounts of heavy metals. We are large bodied beasts, where as hummingbirds are minuscule in comparison, therefore more easily impacted by contaminants. There are no heavy metals in flower nectar and these little guys have no tolerance to it.
Here are a couple of links to help you understand the impacts of heavy metals in a warm blooded animals ~ humans to tiny birds :).
Unfortunately I didn’t learn anything from this article, but I agree with it all. I usually try to have feeders in the front & back yards since I know the territorial birds can’t watch both places at the same time. I also have at least a dozen feeders so that I always have one clean than I can put out. Immediately when I take the current one down. I use bleach & hot water to clean mine. They are able to tolerate bleach residue better than detergent.
Concerned Guest says
Chemistry101 Bleach is far worse than any dish detergent, that’s why we don’t use bleach to clean our dishes or in our dish washers.
I’ve been told that the hummingbirds need more than just sugar water…enzymes, vitamins, minerals, etc. None of the mixes lately have anything much more than sugar water either, and the product we used to buy that did is no longer available in the stores that used to carry it. Anyone have any ideas?
They get all the additional stuff in the wild. Just stick with sugar water and they can get the other things they need elsewhere
Margaret Payne says
Does anyone know how to keep squirrels from tipping feeders a drinking the sugar water? I’ve been looking for a squirrel proof feeder with no luck.
Dottie Brown says
to control the squirrells from the hummingbird feeders, grease the pole heavily with vaseline….also works to keep the ants out of the feeders….I have done this for years.
Kitty Silvera says
Have my feeders on the patio. Last year a humming bird built a nest on the Patio gate lock. I made everyone go in and out thru the garage until she hatched and left. What fun we had watching. SHe did not appear to be afraid of us and we enjoyed her ” show”
Donna Er says
Excellent article. Early spring I was watering and noticed a hummingbird playing in the water. So cute! They are such brave little birds.
Donna in Fredericksburg, VA
i have 3 hummingbird feeders in my yard. I don’t boil water but dissolve sugar with a whip in water. It’s raw sugar. I have birds visiting all the times! I have a fence near my patio and when it rains I sit there and a hummer or 2 will sit on the fence in the rain with his wings out or not and we look at each other and let each other be! It’s great! Peaceful hummers they are. I’m in Indiana.
Excellent article on hummingbirds and so simple to follow. Much appreciated.
Lin Howitt says
Lovely post, Mike. Thanks so much. I had known a bit about feeding hummingbirds and all your fun-to-read info rounded it all out for me.
Take care and keep on posting!!
Jim Herd says
There is a website maintained by a hummingbird enthusiast by hand, that tracks the NORTHERN migration of hummers, http://www.hummingbirds,net Females are just as territorial as the males at our house. We are in western SC, and most activity comes after mid July. If you keep your feeders up year around, you might get a migrant from the west. Last year we had a Rufous Hummingbird from Thanksgiving until Feb.
I put up 2 hummingbird feeders last summer (front & back) and same this summer but only saw 2 birds ever. Your article was tremendous~~~so informative. I now know what to do and TODAY I will do it.
Thank you so much Mike. I always look forward to reading your posts. You always post items in simple terms so all can understand and each and every article is extremely well explained.
Thank you for all the time and effort you have put into this venture. I and I’m sure everyone else so appreciates it.
Lowell & Teresa says
We’ve had Zinnias for a couple of years. Last year we did not notice, but the hummingbirds have gone crazy over them this year.
Thank you for the info. I’ll try again with this information.
I planted 4 small passion flower vines to attract the hummingbirds because the flowers are colorful and sweet smelling I attracted some finches, but that’s it. I now have a gazillion passion flower rootings ( even in my lawn) and as high as my roof. Will humming birds ever come to them?
I’ve looked at several websites and Passion Flower is not high on the list of flowers that attract hummingbirds. http://www.hummingbirds.net/attract.html
I have two archways covered in blue and a redPassion flower vines and my hummingbirds love them. I am in Mission Viejo, CA (SoCal) …not sure where you are Bert and why you haven’t seen Hummers.
Pamela Berry says
I would love to have some of the rootings off the blue and red passion vines.. I live in northeastern North Carolina..
Would love some of those rootings if you are passing them out 🙂
Charline Jolly says
Plant a honeysuckle vine! They love pentstamon, cuphea, salvia, anything tubular. Here in California they remain year round. The “king” male will let the females use the feeder, but chases the young males. They gang up on him, while he chases one, the others zoom in and slurp up as much as they can. The oreoles also bring their fledgling chicks to the feeder. They can’t hover, so they wrap their wings around the cylinder and drink.
I live in NC and I have hummingbirds all year. Many more in summer! Any way to keep ants out of feeders?????
This works great. Put Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on the hook, pole, string, or whatever the feeder is hanging from. The ants get stuck while walking to the food. Just make sure that they have no access without having to walk through the goo.
I found some solutions on Amazon! http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=ant+trap+for+hummingbird+feeder
I have two feeders that are hanging by a wire I take a plastic bottle cap and drill hole in the center . Slip the cap down on the wire, glue it in place and fill it with grease. The ants won’t cross over the grease. I usually have e dozen or more hummers all the time. Wayne Blanchard, Lakeside, CA
I attended a program by Susan Cambell, who is one of only two hummingbird banders in NC. She suggested buying a feeder that includes an ant moat. Two recommendations were HumZinger and Dr. J’s.
Simple solution that works. Wrap and tie a bit of cotton cloth on the hook where you hang the feeder and spray it with Off. No more ants!! Lasts all year. I also make my sugar water 50/50. Having a large bush/tree nearby also helps, they can perch & hide there. I have 7 feeders and am using nearly a pound of sugar a day. Not unusual to see so many hummers at one time it is impossible to count them. I have 5 feeders within 3 feet of each other on my front porch. It cuts down the fighting. Have seen up to 6-7 hummers on a single feeder. I must be feeding well over 100 hummers. I live in eastern Kansas. Have searched my yard but never found a nest!
Deborah Hicks says
I heard if you put yes tree oil on your feeders you will not have ants or bees ?
Linna Lawrence says
Yes, go buy a “Hummzinger” feeder….no more flying critters:)!
We recorded our first sighting of Ruby Throated on our Fire bush tree in South Florida on 10/17/2014. Had them on previous years, but never recorded an actual date. Have been seeing them daily at the feeders since then and today is 03/14/2015.
Now that I’ve read this article, I’ll move my feeders around so they are not within sight of each other.
Update on last entry:
Last sighting was on or around 03/15/2015. I’ll put feeders away until next season.
GLORIA C JOHNNIE says
Thank you ..I love love Humming Birds and now I know a bit more ..no lot more .. and also the black weed barrier ..never use that stuff again ..
thank you again
p.s I will try and get a free copy .
GLORIA C JOHNNIE says
Here I am again ..,I live on VANCOUVER ISLAND ,B.C …Wondering if anyone know if they stay away ..in my area now ..Nov 22/13
Gloria: I live south of you in Arlington, WA. We have hummers year around. There is a Honeysuckle vine outside my bedroom window, and every morning when I’m just starting to awaken, I can hear the hummingbirds flitting around from one flower to the next. They’re here now, so you should have success trying to attract them.
sandy conlee says
ARTICLE WAS VERY ACCURATE. WE HAVE OBSERVED EVERYTHING THAT YOU DESCRIBE. IN NY WE ENJOY THEM FROM EARLY MAY TIL ABOUT THE FIRST WEEK IN SEPT.
Your site has really improved with all of the diversity of information. Lovin it!
Humming bird are my favorite here in Ar. Thanks for the info.:)
robert heruatmaja says
wonderful and very exciting article. thank you Sir
Robert Hart says
this was a great article, thank you for posting it, next spring i will do this. thanks again