Many years ago, my dad and I visited someone’s house whose entire backyard was dedicated to attracting hummingbirds.
It was unbelievable! There were dozens of hummingbirds flying every direction visiting nectar feeders and beautiful flowers scattered across their yard.
How to Attract Hummingbirds to Garden
Now that I have a house and yard of my own, I have spent the last few years trying to transform my backyard into a hummingbird garden and paradise.
The biggest lesson that I have learned?
It’s that attracting hummingbirds is a bit more complicated than just hanging a nectar feeder and waiting for the birds.
“How do you attract hummingbirds?”
In fact, I share 38 tips, tricks, and techniques that will make your backyard an attractive habitat for hummingbirds. As you can probably guess, much of the advice centers around building your yard with the three core needs of hummingbirds:
Food, water, and shelter.
And as they say, “If you build it, they will come.”
The quickest and most common way to get hummers to visit your backyard is to hang a quality nectar feeder. This is because nectar is a primary food source for hummingbirds. To fuel their active lifestyle, hummingbirds need to feed on it almost continuously throughout the day.
Supplying a fresh and reliable nectar source will be sought after by hummingbirds. As long as it’s daylight, you are almost guaranteed to see hummingbirds drinking nectar from her feeders.
But before you throw up your new hummingbird feeder, it’s important to understand the time commitment they demand, including how to properly make the nectar, how often to clean the feeders, etc.
Tip #1: Place your hummingbird feeders wisely.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you look around your yard for the best places to hang your feeders:
- Look for areas near flowers that hummingbirds are already visiting naturally.
- Place close to shelter or perching areas, such as trees or shrubs. If possible, try not to put in the middle of your barren yard.
- Keep the feeder out of the sun to slow the fermentation process, which will help the nectar last longer.
- Think about yourself! Make sure you can see the feeders easily from inside your home.
Tip #2: Red is good!
Hummingbirds are naturally attracted to the color red, which is the reason why most nectar feeders you see have a red base or top.
Make sure that yours does too. At the very least, make sure it has a bright color like yellow.
Tip #3: Make your own nectar with this recipe.
Making a nectar solution that is easy and healthy for hummingbirds is easy!
- 1 part refined table sugar
- 4 parts warm water
- Many people advise boiling the water before making nectar. They say that it gets rid of any bacteria that may be in the water. (Depends on your preference)
Seriously, it’s that easy! Regular table sugar is just sucrose, and when mixed with water, it closely resembles natural nectar sources that hummingbirds find in flowers.
Tip 4: Don’t use red dye in your nectar.
Even though hummingbirds are attracted to the color red (Tip #2), don’t put dye in their nectar.
This is because the effects of consuming red dye are unclear and studies have shown potential health consequences for hummers.
And putting red dye in nectar is unnecessary to attract hummingbirds Just make sure that the nectar feeder you purchase has a red top or base
Tip #5: Don’t put honey or artificial sweeteners in your nectar.
No honey in hummingbird nectar recipe
It is not necessary and actually can be harmful to hummingbirds.
Tip #6: Replace the nectar BEFORE it spoils.
Do you like old, moldy, stale food?
Well, neither do hummingbirds. If you use nectar feeders to attract hummingbirds, then you must take the responsibility of replacing the sugar water before it goes bad.
The shelf life of your nectar is going to depend on different factors, most importantly the weather. You may need to change every few days when it’s extremely hot and humid. It may last up to a week or longer if it’s cooler and in the shade.
If you see your nectar is cloudy, it’s time to change it!
Tip #7: Don’t let your feeders run out of nectar!
Hummingbirds are creatures of habit. Once they find a reliable source of nectar, they will visit until it is exhausted.
This puts some pressure on us if we want to host hummingbirds. It’s important not to let our feeders run dry, or we may force the hummingbirds we worked so hard to attract move on and stop visiting.
Tip #8: Extend the life of your nectar by adding Nectar Defender.
Tip #9: Make nectar easily in this bottle.
Making nectar at home isn’t hard, but it’s even easier with this bottle. The directions are printed directly on the side! All you need to do is fill with warm water (32 ounces) and add 1 cup of sugar. From there, shake vigorously and you are ready to go!
Tip #10: Extend the life of your nectar by putting it in the fridge.
Once I make 32 ounces of nectar with the bottle from tip #9 and fill my feeders, I usually have leftovers. By putting the extra sugar water in the fridge, it typically stays fresh for a few weeks.
Tip #11: Buy a feeder that is easy to clean.
If you want to minimize frustration, buying a nectar feeder that is easy to clean may be the most important tip on this list!
Remember how you need to change the sugar water quite often? When you do this, you also need to scrub and clean your feeders to wash away any mold or impurities.
Make sure your feeder is easy to take apart and does not have any hard to reach places. Any part that touches nectar needs to be cleaned thoroughly, or you risk bacteria and fungus growth.
Hummingbird Feeder Styles
Because they are much easier to clean, my recommendation is to purchase a dish style hummingbird feeder, as opposed to a bottle style feeder.
Tip #12: Clean your feeder with vinegar (instead of bleach).
Every so often you should deep clean your hummingbird feeders with a solution of 1 part white vinegar and 4 parts water. This helps to ensure you are killing all the bacteria and mold and other dirty things that have accumulated.
For all of your “normal” bird feeders, it’s customary to use a diluted bleach solution to ensure all the bacteria, fungus, and mold is killed. But using bleach is not appropriate for a nectar feeder because it’s hard to guarantee all the bleach residue was removed, which can then mix into the sugar water.
Tip #13: Buy a feeder that prevents bees.
Many feeders are designed to make sure bees can’t get to the nectar. Look for feeding ports that are small enough that only hummingbird beaks can fit through.
Second, most hummingbird feeders with a dish design work best to prevent bees. This is because the nectar sits below the port openings and is too far for bees to reach, but hummingbirds have no problem getting a drink.
Tip #14: Prevent ants with a moat.
Many nectar feeders have an ant moat to stop these insects from making a gross mess.
Tip #15: Buy a durable feeder.
Don’t just buy the least expensive hummingbird feeder you come across!
You want to make sure that your nectar feeder is constructed of glass or sturdy plastic, so it doesn’t break the first time it falls. It’s very annoying to own a feeder that has small plastic parts that break easily.
An excellent way to determine the life of a feeder is to check out the reviews from other customers.
Tip #16: Hang multiple nectar feeders around your yard.
Not only will you have a better chance at attracting more hummingbirds, but this also prevents a bully hummer from scaring away other birds.
Yes, you heard correctly. Hummingbirds can be very aggressive and territorial. It’s not uncommon for one to perch next to a feeder and not let anyone else eat!
Tip #17: Bigger is not always better.
Consider the amount of nectar that your feeder holds in its reservoir. If you buy a one that is too large, then you are going to be wasting lots of nectar as it spoils before it's eaten, in addition to having more surface area to clean!
My advice is to start small. If you attract so many hummingbirds that the feeder empties too quickly, (An excellent problem to have!), then you can always buy a bigger one.
Tip #18: Hang ’em early, keep ’em out late.
Most hummingbird species travel thousands of miles each year during Spring and Fall migration. For such a tiny bird, this is an enormous energy expense.
To help, get your nectar feeders out before the first Spring migrants arrive. If they could express their emotions, I’m sure hummingbirds would sincerely appreciate the fresh sugar water you provide.
The same principle applies in the fall. Many enthusiasts take their feeders down too early, just when hummingbirds are making their way back down south.
Tip #19: Try feeding a hummingbird from your hand.
Handheld nectar feeders are pretty cool, and hummingbirds are braver than you probably think. A little patience and perseverance can pay off big time!
Tip #20: Try a window hummingbird feeder.
It’s incredibly exciting to watch hummingbirds feeding right outside your window.
Window feeders are also great ways to introduce non-birders and kids to how awesome birds can be!
Create a Hummingbird Garden
I think the best way to continuously attract hummingbirds is to plant their favorite shrubs, trees, and flowers.
This is because the average hummingbird visits up to 2,000 flowers each day looking for nectar! Establishing a hummingbird garden takes advantage of this fact.
In my opinion, nectar feeders are a lot of work between changing sugar water and cleaning every few days.
You never have to worry if your nectar has spoiled if you establish a hummingbird garden that produces nectar-filled flowers all summer long. Nature takes care of everything and is the gift that keeps on giving!
Tip #21: Native plants work best.
There are many reasons that you should be using native plants instead of exotic species from Asia.
Arthropods and insects provide a considerable portion of their diet and having native plants will attract significantly more bugs than hummingbirds like to eat than exotic plants!
Tip #22: Pay attention to bloom times
This tip is my favorite when it comes to creating a garden that attracts hummingbirds all summer long.
Select various species of plants that bloom at different times during Spring and Summer. This way hummingbirds have places to eat throughout the season, not just when your rhododendron flowers in Spring or your red cardinal flower blooms in August.
Having flowers blooming all season long in your garden is also a great way to attract butterflies!
Tip #23: Select different colored flowers.
Even though red is the best to attract hummingbirds, they will visit all the colors. So don’t be afraid to have your hummingbird garden mimic a rainbow!
Tip #24: Select plants with different heights and shapes.
To add visual interest to your hummingbird garden, select plants that have different mature sizes. Think flowers that stay close to the ground, shrubs and bushes that get bigger and wider, vines that climb, flowers with long spikes, etc.
Tip #25: Annual or perennial?
When you are designing your hummingbird garden, make sure to check if the plant is going to die at the end of the season (annual) or return next year (perennial). They both work great, and a combination of the two is probably best.
Tip #26: Check how big each plant is going to grow.
Design with the end in mind by paying attention to the mature size of each plant.
For example, the trumpet vine is a hummingbird favorite. It’s bought small, but eventually becomes an enormous vine that grows up to 40 feet tall!
Tip #27: Look for long, tubular flowers.
The best flowers for attracting hummingbirds tend to be long and look like a tube. Typically, these types of flowers have the most nectar. Also, because of their shape, most insects can’t reach the good stuff, which means that hummingbirds have the flowers all to themselves thanks to their long, specialized bills!
Tip #28: Encourage your neighbors to attract hummingbirds!
To attract even more hummingbirds, you want the habitat surrounding your backyard also to be desirable. Your yard can only support so many hummers, so you don’t want to be an oasis in a sea of crap.
Try to get your neighbors involved by recommending some flowers and plants to get them started. Almost everyone (non-birders included!) loves attracting hummingbirds to their backyard.
Tip #29: Deadhead the dead!
What is the purpose of a flower?
It’s not to look pretty. It’s to get pollinated and produce seeds. Once a plant has produced enough flowers that turn into seed, it will stop making new buds. From the plants perspective, it thinks it has done its job.
But from a hummingbirds perspective, a plant that quits producing flowers is useless! They want fresh flowers full of nectar. A hummer could care less if a plant produces seed for next year.
Luckily, we can encourage plants to keep producing more flowers by deadheading the dying or fading ones. Since we are removing the potential seeds, the plant will continue growing new flowers, which is excellent for hummingbirds!
Tip #30: Place your hummingbird garden wisely.
Just remember that many flowers that attract hummingbirds also draw in bees and other pollinators. You may not want all these other insects right outside your back door.
If you want to minimize the insects flying around your hummingbird garden, then try to find scentless flowers. This is because insects find their nectar sources by smell, where hummingbirds find flowers by sight, which is why the color red is so popular among hummingbird enthusiasts.
Tip #31: Be patient.
If you want to attract hummingbirds, the first step is creating a backyard habitat they want to visit.
The second step is waiting.
As you are getting started, please tame your expectations. It’s unlikely that you are going to hang a feeder or plant a few flowers and suddenly dozens of hummingbirds appear.
It can take days, weeks, or months before hummingbirds find your yard and start visiting regularly. They need to know that the food sources you provide can be relied upon and are consistent.
Don’t get discouraged!
But once they trust you, watch out! They will start visiting all the time. Hummingbirds will even remember from year to year where your feeders and flowers are located.
Tip #32: Don’t use pesticides in your yard.
Nectar is only a part of a hummingbirds diet. They also eat lots of small insects and spiders. So by using pesticides, you are killing and eliminating a significant source of potential food.
Interestingly, hummingbirds use spider webs to help construct their nest and hold it together. You may hate spiders, but they are beneficial when it comes to attracting hummers.
On a side note, if you want hummingbirds in your yard, it may be time to get over your fear of spiders!
Tip #33: Put out those old bananas!
Fruit flies are an excellent source of food and protein for hummingbirds. As your fruit is going bad, find a (hidden?) place in your garden set it out. As you probably have experienced, the rotting fruit will bring plenty of flies, which should help attract hummingbirds.
Tip #34: Provide potential nesting locations.
Hummingbirds prefer small deciduous trees and dense shrubs to build nests and raise their family.
Tip #35: Supply moving water.
Installing a drip fountain or small misting device attracts hummingbirds the best.
Unfortunately, you probably won’t see any hummers visiting your traditional bird bath.
Tip #36: Provide perching and resting areas.
If you don’t have any natural resting places in your backyard, my recommendation is to plant some trees or bushes, so hummingbirds have a place to perch, hide, and take shelter.
Even though hummingbirds need to eat at least every 15 minutes while awake, they spend a lot of time resting and will appreciate different places to perch.
Tip #37: You are never done learning.
Adopt the mindset that you will never know everything about hummingbirds.
As soon as you think you have it figured out, suddenly you won’t see a hummingbird for two weeks, or your once reliable feeder suddenly falls out of favor.
Never stop learning and experimenting in your backyard. Plant new flowers each year. Try different locations for your feeders. Become a place where hummingbirds want to nest.
Tip #38: Join the community and contribute to this post!
I want to keep making this article better and better and would appreciate hearing about your favorite ways to attract hummingbirds.
I certainly did not think of every one of the above tips myself. It was learned from years of experience and from reading many books and magazines.
Before you go, I’d love to get your thoughts?
What is your best advice for attracting hummingbirds?
Thanks for reading and happy birding!