Hummingbirds are a colorful and fun-to-watch addition to any garden, patio or balcony. They are easy to attract using a hummingbird feeder and these simple tips.


With the choice of hanging, pole mounting or window mounting, you can put a hummingbird feeder anywhere. It is best to put your feeder out in early spring, before the hummers are expected so that any early arrivals will be encouraged to stay.

Hummingbirds have a notorious affinity for the color red. That's why red is used so predominantly on hummingbird feeders. Tying a red ribbon on your feeder that will move in the wind is one way to get their attention. Another way is to position your feeder within inches of a hanging plant that is attractive to hummers, such as a fuchsia, where they'll practically trip over the feeder. Once the hummers recognize the feeder as a food source, you can place it most anywhere.

Hummers are attracted by a wide variety of flowers. Some favorites are: American columbine, bee balm, bugleweed, butterfly milkweed, coral bean, coralberry, fuchsia, hibiscus, hollyhock, larkspur, lemon bottlebrush, mimosa tree, evening primrose, red buckeye, red impatiens, red salvia, sage tiger lily, trumpet honeysuckle, trumpet vine, weigela and zinnia. Hummers like a place to perch and rest, so try to place your feeder near a bush or tree. If an aggressive hummer tries to dominate your feeder, place another feeder out of sight of the first.

Placement tip: When hanging your feeder, you can position it at the perfect height for observation by hanging it from a piece of string.


In the natural world, hummers feed on a combination of flower nectar and insects. Flower nectar is a simple chemical solution of sugar and water. Hummers seem to like sucrose best – table sugar – and it is the most digestible. Making your own nectar ensures that there are no preservatives or food coloring. Using tap water will add electrolytes if your water is hard. If it is soft, add just a pinch of salt to a quart of nectar. Too much salt and the hummers won't drink it.

To make your own mixture, bring the water to a boil and stir the sugar into the hot water at a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. The solution will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Making your own nectar is easy and often superior to using packaged mixes, as our experience has shown that the hummers prefer homemade sugar water.

Pre-mixed nectars are a convenient option. They are ready to pour, so no mixing is necessary. PETCO features a colorful selection of pre-mixed nectars from Backyard Sanctuary.

Please don't use food coloring, honey, brown sugar or sugar substitutes, as they can be harmful to hummers.


Make sure that the feeders are cleaned twice a week. Hummers can get sick from molds that may grow in dirty feeders. A soft bottle brush will easily clean the interior curves of the feeders. A 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water will sanitize and shine your feeder. Make sure you rinse the feeder thoroughly before refilling with sugar water.

Lots to Know
  • Besides nectar, hummingbirds consume protein in the form of insects that they find inside flowers, on plants and in trees, in spider webs and in midair as they travel through your yard. Consider that when using pesticides in your yard and gardens. Hummers also drink water.
  • Hummers feed 5 - 8 times an hour.
  • Hummers have the greatest energy output, gram for gram, of any known warm-blooded animal. If your sugar water freezes, replace it immediately (even at dawn). They rely on established food supplies.
  • A hummingbird's wings can beat 200 times per second during courtship!
  • A hummingbird's tongue is roughly twice the length of its beak. It licks the nectar. (Approximately 13 licks per second!) You might see its beak and think that it can't reach the nectar in the bottom of the feeder. Look closely with binoculars to see the tongue.
  • The Bee Hummingbird is the smallest hummingbird in the world at 2" long, weighing 1.15 of an ounce!

Under no circumstance should insecticides or other poisons be used at hummingbird feeders.

Organizations that Study and Support Hummingbirds

Hummer / Bird Study Group
P.O. Box 250
Clay, AL 35048-0250
Phone: 205-681-2888
Fax: 205-681-1339
Web Site

The Hummingbird Society
P.O. Box 394
Newark, DE 19715
Phone: 302 369-3699 or 800 529-3699
Fax: 302 369-1816
Web Site

Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History
1432 DeVinney Road
York, SC 29745
Phone: 803 684-5852
Web Site

Enjoy Some Great Books on Hummers


  • The World of the Hummingbird by Robert Burton (2001)
  • Hummingbirds by C.H. Greenewalt (1960)
  • The Hummingbirds of North America by P.A Johnsgard (1997, 2nd edition)
  • The Secret Lives of Hummingbirds by David Wentworth Lazaroff (1999)
  • Hummingbird Gardens: Attracting Nature's Jewels to Your Backyard by N. Newfield and B. Nielsen (1996)
  • Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies to Your Backyard: Watch your Garden Come Alive with Beauty on the Wing by Sally Roth (2001)
  • The Life of the Hummingbird by A.F. Skutch (1973)
  • The Hummingbird Book: The Complete Guide to Attracting, Identifying, and Enjoying Hummingbirds by D. and L. Stokes (1989)
  • Hummingbirds: Their Life and Behavior by E.Q. and R.A. Tyrrell (1985)
  • A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America by Sheri Williamson