How to Attract Hummingbirds
Time Required: Under 2 hours
Tiny, jewel-colored hummingbirds help pollinate garden flowers and plants, while being fun and interesting to watch as they zip around. Hang a hummingbird feeder filled with sugar water in the right proportions, and they’ll come to your window.
Use this guide to learn how to attract hummingbirds.
A hummingbird’s favorite food is nectar, and they often visit nectar-rich flowers with tubular shapes, like foxgloves, columbines and daylilies. They’re especially fond of brightly-colored red and orange flowers. To attract hummingbirds, try growing annuals, perennials, herbs, dwarf trees and/or vines in their favorite colors.
A few favorite hummingbird flowers are:
- Coral bells
- Garden phlox
- Oriental poppies
- Bee balm
Plant flowers that will bloom continuously, or in succession, so there are always fresh, nectar-laden flowers to visit. Hummingbirds also eat tiny, soft-bodied insects they find around plants.
Keep flowers deadheaded to encourage more blooms and leave some snags around your yard. Snags are small living or dead branches that hummingbirds like to perch on.
One of the easiest ways to attract hummingbirds is by hanging feeders for them to use. Premade feeders come in many styles and shapes. Look for one that’s easy to clean, and choose one with red parts.
To make a nectar solution to go in the feeder, mix 1 part refined table sugar to 4 parts boiling water. Don’t substitute honey or any other kind of sweeteners. Let the solution cool completely before you pour it in the feeder and hang it outside for the birds.
Nectar can spoil quickly in warm weather, but it may last longer if the temperatures are cooler and the nectar is in some shade. If the nectar looks cloudy, change it. If you make extra nectar for refills, store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it
Change the nectar often, and scrub and clean the feeder every time you refill it, so mold, bacteria and fungi don’t grow. Special cleaning tools are available to reach inside hummingbird feeders. Be sure you rinse the feeder and all the parts thoroughly, so no traces of the cleaner remain.
Hummingbirds will come back repeatedly to a source of nectar, so don’t let your feeders run dry, or they may go somewhere else. If you attract so many hummingbirds that they fight over your feeder, add more feeders out of sight of the first one.
Don’t be discouraged if hummingbirds don’t visit your feeder right away. It may take a little while for them to find it. Sometimes they’re nesting or they’ve already found plenty of natural nectar. Be patient, and they should eventually show up.
Put your feeder near native plants or flowering plants with red and orange blooms. You can even hang brightly colored cut flowers or plastic flowers around your feeder to help them find it.
Be sure your feeder is in an area without any cats around, but keep it close to some tree or shrubs with small twigs or branches they can perch on.
Hang multiple feeders to help hummingbirds see their red colors.
Make sure your feeder isn’t hidden by dense foliage or under a roof where the birds can’t see it. The birds hover as they feed, so they need a little room to maneuver anyway.
Hang the feeder in some shade, if possible, so the sugar water won’t quickly ferment and go bad.
Put your feeders where you can see from inside your home, so you can enjoy your winged visitors and know when it’s time to refill the sugar water.
Choose an easy-to-clean feeder with red parts to attract hummingbirds. Look for a feeder with an ant moat that you can put plain water in, so ants can’t get into the sugar water. Some dish-shaped feeders have built-in ant moats. Detachable ant moats are also available that hook onto the top of the feeder.
If bees are a problem around the sugar water, choose a feeder with small feeding ports designed especially for hummingbird beaks.
Have your feeders up before you see any hummingbirds, or about the time the first flowers bloom or tree buds swell. The tiny birds will usually arrive and depart, if they migrate, at about the same time every year. It’s better to put feeders out earlier than later but be sure a late cold snap doesn’t freeze the nectar.
Some hummingbirds migrate and some do not. In general, put your feeders out by the middle of March, when the earliest hummingbirds are migrating.
Wait a week or two later in the northern U.S. states, but put them out a week or so earlier if you’re along the Gulf Coast. Climate affects hummingbird migration. If the birds don’t migrate in your area, or they overwinter there, keep your feeders out year-round.
You don’t need a garden to attract hummingbirds. They will also visit containers of herbs, vines, flowers and other plants as well as feeders on your balcony. Just make sure your flowers are colorful and that you have enough for the birds to easily spot. If possible, put a small bird bath on your balcony and add a mister or sprinkler to it to attract them to the moving water.
Give them places to perch, too. Hummingbirds can use a straightened wire coat hanger attached to a balcony railing or chair, a clothesline or twigs and small branches inserted into pots.
If you're short on colorful flowers, tie red ribbons or tape around your balcony railings.
If your balcony doesn’t get enough sun for sun-loving plants, try shade-loving plants like native species, coral bells, nasturtiums, nicotiana or fuchsias.
Unlike many other birds, hummingbirds don't need special, ready-made homes. They don't nest in cavities, either. Since they built their nests out of spider webs, moss, lichen and other natural materials, you don't have to provide a premade hummingbird home. You can help, however, by leaving some spider webs in your yard or garden.