Insider Tips to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Feeder

Inside: Everything you need to know about attracting hummingbirds to a nectar feeder including what truly attracts the little hummers, the best place to hang the feeder, reasons why your feeder isn’t attracting them, proper care and maintenance of the feeder, and a lot more!

Hummingbirds rely on nectar as their fuel source. Regular bird feeders do not appeal to them, so they require a feeder that holds the nectar. 

Have you ever watched a hummingbird gather nectar from someone else’s yard? You could enjoy the same experience at home with hummingbird feeders. 

If you have feeders but no activity and want to learn how to attract hummingbirds to a hummingbird feeder or would like to start feeding those beautiful hummers, keep reading.

Feeding Hummingbirds for the First Time

Starting as a new bird caretaker is not difficult when you follow these simple steps: 

  1. Look for a hummingbird feeder that is red and easy to clean.
  2. Buy or make the nectar. You will find the recipe later in this article. 
  3. Find the perfect location for the feeder. 

Hang red ribbons on trees, fences, poles, or anywhere you want to see hummingbirds. The following section will explain why. 

6 Key Elements that Attract Hummingbirds to the Feeder

Many things can attract hummingbirds to your yard. 

1. Color Red

Hummingbirds migrate toward anything red, and most feeders include that color. If you put a feeder near a flowerbed with red blooms, hummingbirds will probably flock to it. 

2. Protein Sources

Hummingbirds eat insects for protein. A place with an insect feeder or a water source that’s attractive to insects, such as a pond or birdbath, may invite hummingbirds. Bee-resistant feeders with ant moats will be helpful, too, as they’ll collect insects for the hummers to snack on when they land for a sip of nectar.  

3. Water Sources

Hummingbirds get most of the hydration they need from the nectar they drink, but they also need clean water to preen and clean their feathers. A simple birdbath or outdoor fountain will do, as long as it’s shallow and there’s somewhere safe for the hummers to land, like rocks, low-hanging branches, or even hummingbird swings. 

A unique water source is a mister attachment for the garden hose. Hummingbirds love to cool themselves with misting water. Place the mister near the hummingbird feeder and watch them play in the water. 

4. Spider Webs

Hummingbirds eat insects from spider webs and use silk to build their nests. Place a feeder near spider webs, and they should notice it. If you’re unsure where the spiders are, go out into your yard in the early morning when the sun is just rising, and the dew is still on the grass. Any spider webs will be coated in dew, too, and the morning sunlight will make them easy to see.

5. Multiple Feeders

The more feeders you hang, the more hummingbirds you may see. Space the feeders out so there will be plenty of room for many birds. 

The video below is a little on the extreme side but confirms you can attract lots of hummingbirds with multiple feeders.

6. Nectar-Rich Plants

Like other pollinators, hummingbirds love flowers because of the nectar they contain. If you have a garden of nectar-rich plants close to their feeding stations, they will never go hungry. Hummingbirds love tubular plants because their beaks are long enough to get to the nectar. 

hummingbird sipping nectar from honeysuckle vine
Hummingbird sipping nectar from a honeysuckle flower. Photo by Thomas Aksamit.

Red flowers, such as Red Cardinal Flowers, get hummingbirds’ attention. A garden full of honeysuckle and colorful trumpet vines will provide them with sufficient nectar. 

6 Rules You Must Follow for the Best Hummingbird Feeder Placement

Where you hang your hummingbird feeder will make a difference to the hummers. The wrong spot could make visibility challenging for the birds, expose them to predators, or attract insects and pests.    

1. Place the Hummingbird Feeder with Red Objects

Since hummingbirds favor red, place a feeder close to red items, such as a red barn or other red flowers. 

2. Place the Hummingbird Feeder In Shady Spots

Hot weather can repel hummingbirds and make the nectar too warm. It is better to place hummingbird feeders in trees, under eaves, and away from the direct sun.

Positioning the feeder in the afternoon shade will protect it from getting hot and the nectar spoiling. 

3. Place the Hummingbird Feeder Where Easily Accessible

Place the feeders where you can easily refill them, and the hummingbirds will safely find them without the risk of predators. If you can reach them, you will clean them more often. Hang them high near patios, decks, gazebos, and other places accessible to hummingbirds. 

4. Place the Hummingbird Feeder In Flower Beds

In a flower garden, a hummingbird feeder hanging on a shepherd’s hook will invite the little flappy friends. The feeder is less prone to tipping, reducing leaks, and the nectar-rich flowers may leave a sight the little hummers can’t refuse. 

5. Place the Hummingbird Feeder Away from Other Birds

If you have other bird feeders in your yard, avoid hanging the hummingbird feeder near them. Hummingbirds are territorial and need their space. They can also be aggressive and chase other birds away or avoid the feeder. 

6. Place the Hummingbird Feeder Out of Extreme Weather Conditions

Strong winds and heavy rain can cause feeders to tip over or fall. Avoid areas that can expose the hummingbird feeder to severe weather. 

7 Insider Tips to Get Hummingbirds to Find Your Feeder

How to attract hummingbirds to a hummingbird feeder does not take skill but creativity.  As a first-time birder, you can know how to attract hummingbirds to your new feeder. 

When you first place a new feeder in your yard or garden, it may take a short time for the hummers to flock to it. You can get their attention faster by making sure the environment around your new feeder is as attractive to hummingbirds as possible.

Hang your new feeder in partial shade where it can sparkle in the sun. The glinting light will grab the attention of hummers passing through your yard and between your other feeders. If you want to view the beauties as they eat, place the feeder in front of the window. Make sure there are protein and water sources near your new feeder and add some if there aren’t.

To follow are 7 clever ways to get the hummers to find your feeder, new or existing, fast!

1. Keep a Tempting Garden

Almost all birds love flowers, including hummingbirds, who enjoy gardens with insects and nectar-rich plants, such as trumpet flowers, sunflowers, and honeysuckle. A feeder perched in the center would invite hummers to a feast. 

ruby throated hummingbird sipping nectar from a red cardinal flower
Ruby-throated hummingbird sipping nectar from a red cardinal flower. Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

Add new native plant species to your garden, especially those that produce flowers with different blooming times. Keeping a garden full of flowers that bloom in spring, summer, and fall will keep hummingbirds coming throughout the year, lured by each new round of blooms.

As the seasons progress and old flowers fade away, remove any wilted flowers. This process, called deadheading, encourages the flowers to produce more blooms, which will in turn attract more hummers. 

2. Hang Multiple Feeders

Use several feeders all over the yard to provide plenty of nectar for more hummingbirds. Hang them on awnings, gutters, under eaves, near sheds, and in other creative places.

A group of hummingbirds not interested in sharing a feeder. Photo by Terry Williams.

If you have a problem with one hummingbird domineering a feeder and chasing them away, try spacing out the feeders at least 10 feet apart. Hummingbirds, especially males, are intensely territorial and will sometimes guard feeders with their lives, literally killing or dying to protect their food source. Ade quate spacing of feeders protects bully hummingbirds from each other.

3. Keep the Feeders Full with Nectar

You should check your feeders frequently to avoid them becoming empty. If they stay that way, hummingbirds will find their nectar elsewhere. 

A pair of Allen’s hummingbirds sharing a feeder. Photo by Terry Williams.

How do hummingbirds find feeders so fast? Hummingbird feeders are usually red or have red elements to them because the color attracts the hummers. They learned to associate good nectar with red flowers. 

The liquid nectar you find in the stores may be red, but truthfully, it does not need to be. Natural nectar is clear, and adding red food coloring may not be healthy for the birds so it’s best to avoid them. 

Homemade Nectar

You can make nectar with a staple pantry ingredient – regular sugar (you know – granulated sugar). The recipe for homemade nectar is simple: 1⁄4 cup of refined sugar and one cup of water (1:4). Boil the solution, then let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the feeder. 

Do not add anything else to the nectar, including honey, other sweeteners, or red dye. They can harm hummingbirds. 

How long does nectar last? How long the hummingbird nectar lasts depends primarily on the outdoor temperature. If nectar gets too hot for too long, it can ferment, and the sweet mixture will naturally grow mold over time.

Empty and replace the nectar in your feeders every four to five days, or more often if the outdoor temperatures exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit for several days in a row. To keep your nectar fresh for as long as possible, place your feeder in a spot that has plenty of shade during the day, as direct sun ferments it faster. 

4. Avoid Pesticides

Hummingbirds need protein to keep them healthy. Since hummingbirds rely on insects as their protein sources, you should avoid using pesticides in the yard. Eliminating bugs will deprive hummingbirds of their protein. 

5. Use Food Discards As Bait

Your rotting food will likely attract fruit flies but do not toss it in the trash. Put your discards in the garden because hummingbirds will gather where fruit flies swarm. This tip is great for your garden, too. It’s called trench composting, and you can do it even if you don’t have a compost heap.

6. Install Moving Water Sources in Your Yard

Hummingbirds love a traditional birdbath, but they need sources of fresh, moving water, too. Putting small fountains in your yard near the garden or hummingbird feeder will entice the little beauties. Other simple and inexpensive options can be a mister for the hose or a dripper using an old milk jug. 

7. Provide Resting Places

Hummingbirds rest between feasts, so they need plenty of places to sit. Provide plenty of perches for them, and the more you have, the longer you will see the hummers. Consider a hummingbird swing next to their feeding stations. 

Yes, hummingbirds really do use swings. Check out the video below:

Care of the Hummingbird Feeder

Repeat after me. “I [insert name] do solemnly swear to be the best hummingbird host I can be and that starts with regularly cleaning the hummingbird nectar feeders I offer to them.”

“I [insert name] do solemnly swear to be the best hummingbird host I can be and that starts with regularly cleaning the hummingbird nectar feeders I offer to them.”

Tammy Poppie, Founder of OnTheFeeder.com

It is crucial to clean the hummingbird feeder routinely to prevent fermentation, bacterial overgrowth, and mold. If you get many hummingbirds that empty your feeder before it needs cleaning, remember to rinse it every time it empties. Those tiny hummingbird tongues inject bacteria into the nectar every time they drink, and you’ll want to wipe out any residue often.

As a general rule, you should empty the nectar and clean your hummingbird feeder once a week. When temperatures climb past 70 degrees Fahrenheit, increase cleaning frequency to every other day. If you ever notice that the feeder appears murky or has black specks, rinse as thoroughly as possible with hot water and let it dry to prevent mold formation.

When the weather cools down again, weekly cleaning is all it needs. 

Nectar is sweet and can cause microorganism growth. It is crucial to wash it thoroughly. Some experts recommend not using dish soap to clean the feeder because it could leave some soapy residue behind. Hot tap water or weak vinegar/water solution is usually sufficient. 

I’ve tried many hummingbird feeders over the years and love the one by More Birds (affiliate). It’s super easy to clean, durable, and attractive, and the hummers love it.

How to Attract Hummingbirds to a Window Feeder

There are two types of window feeders – suction cup feeders and solariums. 

  • Suction Cup Feeders. These hummingbird feeders mount to the outside of your window with suction cups. Suction cup feeders lure hummers to your window to feed so you can watch them from inside your home.
  • Solarium Feeders. These feeders mount in the open window, between the bottom of the window and the windowsill. Solarium feeders have a curved glass or plastic “room” that extends into your house, giving you a 180-degree view of the birds as they feed.

You can attract hummingbirds to either type of feeder by making the area immediately around the window more enticing to them. Plant native flowering species under the window, and install a shallow running water source nearby. 

Apartment dwellers can install a window planter outside the window or potted plants on the balcony to create an attractive environment for hummers and draw them to your window feeder.

I don’t live in an apartment but have my favorite hummingbird feeder suction cupped to my office window so I can watch the hummers all day. Here’s the suction cup hanger use. It’s super strong (up to 3#) so you can use it to hang other types of bird feeders as well.

5 Main Reasons Why Hummingbirds are NOT Attracted to Your Feeder

Sometimes the hummers don’t flock to the feeder the way you expect them to. Even if your hummingbird feeder was a popular spot before, there might be occasions when you do not see much activity. Here are a few reasons the birds might be staying away from your feeder.

1. our Feeder Is In the Wrong Location

Hummingbirds may stop coming to the feeders due to their location, especially if you’ve recently installed a new feeder or moved an existing one to a new location. It may be that it’s too close to other bird feeders, and bully hummingbirds are chasing the others away.

It could also be that your feeder is in an area where other critters, such as squirrels, predator birds, and even pets, disturb the hummers and scare them away. Try moving the feeder to a less crowded space where the hummingbirds have plenty of space to fly around the feeder and stay away from each other. 

2. The Nectar May Be Old or the Feeder Dirty 

You would not eat moldy food, would you? Neither will hummingbirds. It is crucial to clean the feeder and supply fresh nectar regularly. If hummers were flocking to your feeder before but now they’re nowhere to be found, try taking it down, emptying it, and giving it a good cleaning to see if they come back. Refer to proper cleaning above.

3. There May Be Too Many Insects Taking Over the Feeder 

Pollinators, such as bees and wasps, love sweet stuff. Nectar can also attract ants. While it’s true that hummingbirds like to eat insects, they can clog the wells that the birds feed from. This blocks their access to the nectar, and any trapped bees or wasps can sting them when they try to feed. A few painful stings would be enough to drive away even the most determined birds. 

You can prevent this by getting a feeder with a dish design or a moat to trap pesky insects, where hummingbirds can access their nectar but other pollinators can’t. If your feeder does not contain a moat, you can buy one that connects to the feeder. Ants cannot cross the water in the reservoir, and they’ll get trapped away from the nectar where the birds can snack on them freely. 

4. Your Feeder May Be Leaking 

Dripping nectar attracts other pests that may drive hummingbirds away and empties the container before they can drink from it. Make sure the hummingbird feeder is hanging in an area that is stable and resistant to tipping, and check it for leaks each time you clean it. If you notice any broken or leaking spots, it’s time to get a new feeder. 

5. It Is the Wrong Time of Year

Hummingbirds are migratory, meaning they move from one place to another as the seasons change. You may have put out your feeders too early when hummingbirds have not returned. Or, it’s too late in the season, the hummers in your area have already migrated south for the winter. 

Do some research to find out when hummingbirds are likely to be in your area. If you’ve put your feeder up too soon, take it down, clean it out, and put it up again in a couple of weeks. On the other hand, if the hummers have already migrated from your neighborhood, you’ll have to wait until next spring to try again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions that people frequently ask. 

1. How often does the hummingbird feeder (sugar water) need to be changed? 

Change nectar every time the feeder empties, or every few days, depending on the climate. In hot weather, when temperatures are above 70 degrees, change the nectar about every two days to avoid fermentation. When temperatures are milder, you only need to replace it once a week to prevent mold growth. 

Of course, if you see sediment, insects, or other residue floating in the nectar, it is time to clean the feeder and add new nectar, no matter how recently you filled it. 

2. When should I stop hanging feeders for the year?

Depending on where you live, you may be able to keep your feeders up all year long. In cooler regions, hummingbirds migrate south around mid-fall. When you stop seeing hummingbirds, it is safe to take down the feeder. 

3. Can I use an old hummingbird feeder?

You can use a hummingbird feeder as long as it’s not broken, leaking, or faded. As mentioned above, hummingbirds love the color red, so a faded feeder likely won’t attract as many birds as a new, brightly colored one. Likewise, if your feeder is broken or leaking, it can attract pests and run dry before the birds can enjoy it. When in doubt, it’s best just to get a new one.

4. Can I use more than one type of feeder at the same time? 

Yes. The best way to attract hummingbirds to a hummingbird feeder is to have several all over the yard. Having different types might make your yard unique. 

Conclusion

Maintaining a hummingbird feeder isn’t complicated, but there are a lot of ways that you could unintentionally be driving the hummers away, and even more things you could be doing to make your feeder more attractive:

  • Empty, clean, and refill your feeder often, even if there’s still nectar in it.
  • Spruce up the yard around your feeder with native plants the hummers love.
  • Keep a source of fresh water nearby.
  • Leave at least 10 feet of space between your feeders to reduce territorial behavior.

With regular care and a little bit of hummingbird knowledge, you can have a bustling garden full of hummers in no time.

More than 20 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers.