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Feeding Hummingbirds: How to Attract Them
Along with robins, swallows, and finches, we welcome another bird back to the northeast this time of year: hummingbirds! Hummingbirds appear in our area around the first week of May, and according to the 2023 migration map they’re right on schedule. If you haven’t already seen one, you will soon.
If you want to start feeding hummingbirds, there’s no time like the present! You’ll learn how below, along with a few tips for how to attract hummingbirds so they’ll become regular visitors in your yard.
How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Yard
Want to start feeding hummingbirds? Here are a few easy things you can do to attract hummingbirds to your home!
Once there’s a low chance of frost (usually around Memorial Day), plant plenty of brightly colored flowers around your home and yard. Flowers naturally attract hummingbirds and other beautiful pollinators like butterflies. (Learn about their favorite flowers.)
Impatiens and other container flowers can be placed around your porch and deck to bring the hummingbirds closer to your windows. Many flowers don’t need much upkeep aside from being watered during dry weather. Planting flowers is the lowest maintenance option for feeding hummingbirds.
Feeding Hummingbirds Directly
For a more hands-on experience, you can purchase a hummingbird feeder. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. It’s best to get one with red on it, since red is one of their favorite colors. (Learn how hummingbirds find feeders!)
Where to Hang Hummingbird Feeders
Once you have one, you may wonder where to hang your hummingbird feeder. Try to find a spot near bushes or shrubs for your feeder to hang from. The shade keeps their food from spoiling quickly, and the nearby branches offer the hummingbirds spots to perch and rest their busy wings. A little bit of light won’t hurt though – early morning or late afternoon sun shining off the feeder can help them find it.
As for what to feed them, a 1:4 mixture of plain, granulated white sugar and hot water (1/4 cup sugar per 1 cup water, for example) is ideal. While they like red, there’s no need to use red food dye or any other additives. Your brightly colored hummingbird feeder will attract them well enough.
We use this feeder. It holds about two cups of sugar water, which they usually go through in a week or less. They come in droves for it every summer!
Keep Up with Demand
Once they find your feeder, you may have a hard time keeping up with their thirst. Check on it daily, and replace the sugar water anytime it gets cloudy.
To refill, dump out the old water and clean the feeder thoroughly in fresh water. Be careful handling the feeder – hummingbirds can carry lots of diseases. Once it’s washed, you can refill it with fresh sugar water and put it back out. Don’t worry; even if your feeder is inside for a couple of hours, the hummingbirds will generally flock back as soon it’s put outside.
Space Out Flowers and Feeders
Have you ever seen two hummingbirds going at it? Despite being small and adorable, hummingbirds are absolutely vicious with each other. Sometimes two or three will be clustered around a hummingbird feeder and fighting, and another will come along, get a drink, and fly away without the others noticing. (Find out why hummingbirds fight.)
To keep them from battling on your porch, place additional flowers and feeders on opposite sides of your house, where they’re less likely to see each other.
Keep Out Unwanted Visitors
Unfortunately, putting out a bird feeder of any kind can bring uninvited guests. If it’s a regular feeder, you’re apt to get those stupid bears. If it’s a hummingbird feeder, you’ll get… yellow jackets, ants, and earwigs. Yuck!
These small insects crawl down inside the holes for hummingbird snouts and will either drink up all the sugar water themselves or drown and spoil the water. Either way, it’s a real pain.
To keep out pests, get a hummingbird feeder with bee resistance and add an ant moat, which you’ll get a real kick out of if you hate ants.
Enjoy Feeding Hummingbirds!
You should now have a good idea of how to start feeding hummingbirds, along with how to attract hummingbirds to your home! It’s a lot of fun to watch these little birds buzz around during the summer. Once they get used to you, you can sit outside near them without them flying away.
Once the summer is over, you’ll need to prepare for winter and take down your feeders. Here’s when to stop feeding them.