Hummingbird FAQ

Hummingbird FAQ

Do I have hummingbirds in my area?
Though there are over 300 species of hummingbirds, only about 16 can be found in North America. Most areas of the United States and Southern Canada have at least one species of hummingbird. In the Eastern and Central United States, almost all of the hummingbirds typically seen are Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. Approximately 7 species can be seen in the Western U.S., and nearly all 16 hummingbird species can be found in the Southwestern states.

What types of hummingbirds are in my area?
  • Eastern and Central United States and Canada: primarily the Ruby-throated hummingbird, though some other species can be found in the Gulf region.
  • Western United States: Anna's, Black-chinned, Calliope, Broad-tailed, Allen's, White-eared, and Rufous hummingbirds
  • Southwestern United States: All 16 species

How do I attract hummingbirds?
The best way to attract hummingbirds is by putting out a feeder with nectar. Nectar is basically sugar water, and allows the hummingbirds to maintain the energy levels they need to catch insects. There are also many plants that you can add to your garden or yard to increase your chances of attracting hummingbirds.

What type of hummingbird feeder do I need?
Although there are many types of feeders available, most fall into two categories: bottle- type and dish-type. Bottle-type feeders are simply a bottle turned upside down, which sends the nectar into a small dish or tube. Bottle-type feeders come in all shapes and sizes, from a soda bottle turned upside down to colorful hand-blown glass works of art. A dish-type feeder is basically a covered dish with feeding ports built into the cover. While usually not as ornate as some bottle-type feeders, dish-type feeders can typically feed more birds at one time and seldom have any issues with dripping. Dish-type feeders often have other useful features, such as nectar guards and insect moats built into the design. These features can prevent or discourage bees, wasp, ants, and other insects from using the feeder.

What size hummingbird feeder do I need?
The optimal size of the feeder depends on how many hummingbirds you attract. Most feeders hold between 10 to 20 ounces of nectar, which may be enough to meet your needs. Remember that nectar needs to be changed every 3 to 4 days, depending on the outside temperature. If the birds are emptying the feeder in 2 days or less, you may want to use a larger feeder or add another smaller feeder.

Where should I place my hummingbird feeder?
It is best to place feeders out in the open, preferably near flowering plants. It is possible to gradually move a feeder once the hummingbirds have found it. It is best to place the feeders out of the sun or wind to protect the hummingbirds and preserve the feeder and nectar.

When should I put out my hummingbird feeder?
  • Northeastern and Central United States and Canada: April or May
  • Southeastern United States: January or February
  • Western United States: April
  • Southwestern United States: All year

Should I clean my hummingbird feeder?
Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned each time the nectar is changed. The nectar should be changed every 3 to 4 days, or if the nectar is cloudy, moldy, or if contaminated by insects or dirt. Hummingbirds are extremely sensitive to the quality of the nectar. They will seek out a new source and possibly not return if they find sour, moldy, or dirty nectar in your feeder.

How often should I replace the nectar?
Every 3 to 4 days depending on the outside temperature or if contaminated by insects or dirt. The higher the temperature, the more quickly nectar becomes sour.

Should I buy nectar mix or make my own nectar?
Either method works fine, though it is recommended to avoid mixes with dyes or food coloring. It is often more cost effective to make you own, and it is quite easy. All you need to do is add 1 part table sugar to 4 parts boiling water. Allow the mixture to cool before filling the feeder and refrigerate any unused portion for up to two weeks.

Should I add red food coloring to my nectar?
It is recommended to avoid using any type of food coloring. It can be potentially harmful to hummingbirds, as they consume a huge quantity of nectar every day. The color red does attract hummingbirds, however, it is better to choose a feeder that is red or contains red rather than using colored nectar.

I put out a hummingbird feeder, but still do not have any hummingbirds. What can I do?
Hummingbirds are extremely selective when it comes to feeders, however, there can be a variety of factors determining their aversion to your feeder. It may be as simple as you may live in an area that doesn't attract hummingbirds because of a lack of the flowers, shrubs or trees they prefer. Conversely, you may live in an area that has too many flowers, shrubs, or trees that they like and are happy where they are currently feeding. Another major factor can be your nectar. If you are leaving nectar out too long, it has probably soured and the hummingbirds have moved to a different location. Clean you feeder thoroughly, replace the nectar, and then move it to a new location. Also, if you have just put out a hummingbird feeder, it may take one or more seasons for the birds to discover your feeder.

How do I keep bees/ants/other insects away from my feeder?
It is very difficult to keep insects, especially flying insects, away from hummingbird feeders. Some feeders have built-in nectar guards that prevent the insect from getting access to the nectar by using a flexible membrane that only the hummingbirds are able to bypass. To deter ants, you may want to purchase a feeder with a built-in 'ant cup', which can be filled with water and prevents the ants from reaching the feeding ports. For other feeders, ant cups can be purchased separately and work in the same manner.