How to Attract and Protect Hummingbirds?

September 27, 2019 Birds

Hummingbirds are one of the most beautiful and exciting birds; for those of us who love them, they are an unlimited source of pleasure and joy. So, I decided to go to the authorized sources in Birds to clear doubts, myths, and misunderstandings. Here you will find the recommendations of Audubon and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Both entities are dedicated to the conservation and protection of birds worldwide.

How can I attract hummingbirds to visit my garden?

Hummingbirds will always look for nectar, so the best option to attract them is to offer them their favorite delicacy. You can plant flowers with elongated corollas, whether red, pink or orange, you can look for native plants that your hummingbirds visit naturally and get advice at bird clubs or ornithology associations in your region.

Victoria Restrepo ©

You can also use a well-tended sugar-water feeder, but be sure to change the nectar solution and clean it regularly, even if no hummingbird has visited it yet.

Are hummingbirds feeders harmful?

This question appears in social media, and many articles and comments are passionate and unsubstantiated.

Hummingbird feeders are a supplementary source of nectar and can help them obtain energy in places where there is not enough food available. Nectar and small insects are vital for their subsistence, and the loss of their natural habitat is the main cause of their difficulty finding enough available flowers. This was their habitat well before humans arrived, and they have been displaced by large cities, deforestation, intensive livestock, and mega crops.

By supplementing nectar, we are simply helping to mitigate the damage we have caused. We are not making them lazy, as some may think.

Victoria Restrepo ©

How to prepare the sugar solution?

The solution should prepare one part of refined white sugar and four parts of tap water. This is ¼ cup of sugar in 1 cup of water. It can be lightly boiled so that the sugar dissolves better, although it is unnecessary if you are sure of the quality of the water. Then, you must let it cool before filling the feeder. You can prepare large quantities and refrigerate the additional solution for up to two weeks, remembering to bring it to room temperature before filling the feeder.

Dyes should not be used in water. Although hummingbirds can identify red with the quality of nectar-rich flowers, the red solution may harm them. Neither should the nectar be prepared with brown sugar, honey, or artificial sweeteners. Hummingbirds don’t get diabetes from the sugar they consume.

Victoria Restrepo ©

How often should I clean the feeders, and how should I do it?

In hot climates, the feeder should be cleaned twice a week. In cooler climates, once a week is enough. If your hummingbirds consume all the nectar more frequently, clean it whenever it is empty. Cleaning with hot tap water and a toothbrush works very well, or you can use a water solution with a little vinegar. Do not use dish detergents, as these can leave harmful residues in the feeder.

Victoria Restrepo ©

When should I put out the feeders in the Spring?

Hummingbirds are residents of the Americas, from Canada to Argentina and Chile. In areas of North America where hummingbirds leave during winter, they should be placed approximately one week before they normally return to your garden. This date varies regionally, and you should check with your local birding club. In the south, several species remain active throughout the year.

Victoria Restrepo ©

Should the feeders be removed in the Fall?

You can leave your feeders outside while you have hummingbirds around. You can even provide food after they disappear: some late migrants or species out of range may appear until early winter. You should follow the same cleaning guidelines, even if the nectar is untouched. You should always discard unused nectar in the feeder when you take it down for cleaning. 

Victoria Restrepo ©

Can I use a feeder even when night temperatures are very low?

If you live where night temperatures fall below the freezing point regularly, you should ensure the nectar does not freeze. In areas where night temperatures only fall slightly below freezing, hummingbird nectar may not freeze because the sugar solution has a lower freezing point than running water.

However, you must make sure that hummingbirds do not drink the nectar when is very cold; This can really stun them and lower their body temperature. In cold climates, the feeder should be stored overnight and put back outside first thing in the morning. Hummingbirds should feed as soon as possible, especially when it is cold, as they need to maintain their energy. You can also hang the feeder near an incandescent bulb since they emit enough heat to keep the feeder warm.

Victoria Restrepo ©

What is the best type of feeder for my hummingbirds?

Sugary water can be offered in any container, from a water bottle with a stopper to a beautifully designed blown glass creation that can cost a lot of money.

Although many hummingbirds get their name from precious stones, they really don’t mind drinking in an economical container.

The most important feature of a good feeder is that it is easy to open and clean. If you can’t easily reach every corner of the inner surface with a brush, the container can quickly fill up with bacteria, fungi, and other harmful organisms.

The feeders must have red parts because the flowers pollinated by hummingbirds are generally of this color, and they are attracted to it.

Hummingbirds prefer feeders near trees and shrubs where they can perch to rest and observe their surroundings. At the same time, they can also feed nearby from their natural environment.

Victoria Restrepo ©

How can I supplement the hummingbird diet in addition to offering nectar?

Hummingbirds are often attracted to the holes they find in trees that may have sap, these holes attract insects, and this is how they are twice as interesting. So, try not to discourage the woodpeckers’ drilling habit.

Another fascinating tip I did not know was placing banana peels near the feeders. They will foster fruit flies and other nutritious soft-bodied insects which hummingbirds eat, and they are an excellent form of proteins. Hummingbirds need both elements in their diet: nectar and proteins. Seeing hummingbirds rushing to chase these little flying insects is very exciting.

Victoria Restrepo ©

Important advice

Never use insecticides or herbicides in your yard; they are toxic, and you will also be limiting the hummingbird diet. Besides, I don’t know if you realized that hummingbirds build their nests with spider silk. Protecting spiders allows hummingbirds to nest near your home, and at the same time, they control many insects and pests naturally.

Never allow your pets to be close to where hummingbirds feed or rest. Even if they don’t attack them, they are predators and can scare away those little birds you are putting too much effort to attract.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology—Home


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