Hummingbirds are amazing little creatures! Whizzing around your garden with wings that beat at 90 times per second, these tiny birds must eat every 10 to 15 minutes by visiting up to 2,000 flowers per day.
Because about 90 percent of their diet is sugary nectar, putting out hummingbird food in a feeder is a great way to provide a supplementary source of nutrition for these aerial acrobats, especially during nesting and migration times in the spring and fall.
Of course, planting flowers that hummingbirds love also supports these delightful birds.
Hummers prefer red or orange flowers with a tubular shape. But they love many different flowers including annuals such as cuphea, cypress vine, calibrachoa, and torenia; perennials such as bee balm, cardinal flower, columbine, agastache, hosta, canna, catmint, and cypress vine; and flowering shrubs such as rose of Sharon and weigela.
Make your yard even more hummingbird friendly by not using pesticides on your lawn or in your garden. Their diets include insects, and hummingbirds are skilled aerial hunters that can snatch insects mid-air and from spider webs. (Curious? Learn How Wildflowers Can Help Control Pests In Your Garden.)
Hummers also like to perch to survey their domains, so leave some sticks or dead branches in your trees to give them a place to sit and check out the neighborhood.
Finally, when filling your hummingbird feeder, you don’t need to buy hummingbird food. You can make hummingbird food at home with a few simple ingredients. It’s cheap and easy to make.
Here’s how to make hummingbird food and attract hummers to your garden:
What is the Best Hummingbird Food Recipe?
Here’s how to mix up hummingbird food that’s safe and healthy:
- ¼ cup refined white sugar
- 1 cup boiling water
Mix refined white sugar and boiling water together until sugar is dissolved. Cool the mixture, then fill your clean feeder. Refrigerate leftovers for up to a week in a lidded jar.
Do not substitute brown sugar, molasses, or honey, which can promote dangerous microbial growth. Also, do not use red food coloring, which is not necessary and may be harmful to the birds. After all, real nectar from flowers is a clear solution.
How Often Should I Clean a Hummingbird Feeder?
Choose a feeder that’s easy to take apart and clean so you’ll do it regularly. In hot weather, empty and clean it twice a week. In cool weather, once a week is fine. Or if it gets emptied faster, clean it every time you refill.
Hot tap water is sufficient. Use a little brush to get into the nooks and crannies, and avoid using dish soap, which can leave a harmful residue.
Should I Put up More Than One Hummingbird Feeder?
Definitely! Hummingbirds are territorial and will stake out their favorite feeding places, defending their food sources. If you can place a few feeders around your garden, it will go a long way toward keeping all your resident hummingbirds happy.
When Should I Take Down Hummingbird Feeders in Fall?
Leave your feeders up as long as you see hummingbirds, and even a few weeks longer to accommodate any latecomers headed south.
Keeping feeders up will not make hummingbirds stay too late; they’re migratory and genetically programmed to head south based on the length of the day and angle of the sun.
If you live somewhere that hummingbirds live year-round, such as along the Gulf coast, southern Arizona, southern Florida, or Baja California, it’s fine to keep your feeders out all the time.
In northern climates, put feeders back up in the spring, about a week before you expect the hummingbirds to arrive in your area. This varies regionally but is generally early March to mid-May in most of the country.
Arricca Elin SanSone has written about health and lifestyle topics for Prevention, Country Living, Woman's Day, and more. She’s passionate about gardening, baking, reading, and spending time with the people and dogs she loves.