Hummingbirds are some of the most beautiful garden visitors, aren’t they? The first indication that one of these cute little creatures is visiting your garden is when you see the blur of their wings from the corner of your eye. In addition to planting delicious, nectar-rich flowers for them to drink from, they also appreciate a good feeder. But what’s the best hummingbird feeder to choose?
Feeders can come in a myriad shapes, sizes, and colors. In fact, the range of feeders on offer can seem daunting. It can be difficult to know which feeder is the best choice for you and your garden. This is where our handy guide comes in.
Together, we’ll look at different types of hummingbird feeders available, and discuss their pros and cons. This will help you to decide which one is best for your garden. I’ll also share tips on how to keep your hummingbird feeder clean, the best food to put in it, and how to attract these beauties to your garden.
What Material Should my Feeder be made from?
Hummingbird feeders can be made out of either glass, plastic or metal. Each of these materials has their pros and cons.
Plastic feeders can discolor in the sun, and may also crack or warp after a while. However, they tend to be lighter and cheaper than other options. Plastic feeders also come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.
Metal and glass feeders can cause the nectar to ferment or spoil more quickly. While they’re less likely to warp or lose their color, metal and glass feeders are heavier much heavier than plastic options. As such, they’ll need to be supported from stronger frames, like tree branches or gazebos.
Glass feeders are also quite fragile and can shatter easily if dropped. If you choose a glass hummingbird feeder, you’ll need to make sure that it is securely placed and handled carefully.
While there are advantages and disadvantages to each option, ultimately the choice is one of personal preference.
What Shape Should it Be?
Two of the most common styles are inverted, and saucer feeders.
Inverted Hummingbird Feeders
This type of feeder places the large, central reservoir above the feeding ports. Nectar is then able to drip down, keeping the ports filled.
Inverted feeders generally hold more nectar than other types. Also, since the nectar is held above the feeding ports, it’s easier to check the liquid levels.
There are some drawbacks to inverted types. Typically, because the nectar is so visible, it’s more likely to attract pests like ants and wasps. They’re also more prone to leaking, and can be difficult to fill and clean, particularly narrow-necked or bottle-shaped designs.
Saucer Style Hummingbird Feeders
These are simpler in construction. The reservoir is a covered saucer or shallow dish with feeding ports in the lid. This positioning allows the hummingbirds to dip their bills directly into the nectar.
Saucer feeders are easier to clean and put together than inverted feeders. They can be easily positioned on the top of a pole or a railing, or also hung with careful modification.
On the downside, saucer feeders typically have a smaller capacity. This means that you’ll have to be refill them more frequently. If you select an opaque design, you may also find it difficult to gauge the nectar level without opening up the feeder.
Some people think that saucer feeders are less visible to visiting hummingbirds, meaning that it may take longer for them to start using them. This largely depends on the positioning.
A recently introduced hummingbird feeder is the window-mounted feeder. This is a saucer-style feeder with suction cups that allow it to be secured to window glass.
Window-mounted feeders have the same advantages and disadvantages as regular saucer-shaped feeders.
Bear in mind that hummingbirds may be reluctant to visit a feeder that’s placed so close to the house.
If you want to spend time observing and identifying different hummingbird species that visit your garden, then consider investing in a feeder that has perches. These will encourage the birds to remain at the feeder for a longer period, giving you time to enjoy these wonderful creatures.
What Size Should my Hummingbird Feeder Be?
The size will largely be dictated by how much space you have to spare.
Most hummingbird feeders have 3 or 4 feeding ports. Larger models can have 8 or more, while smaller models will only have a single port. Basically the more ports that your hummingbird feeder has, the more birds can feed at the same time.
Having lots of ports to offer can help to reduce the birds’ natural territoriality and competitiveness.
These feeders range in capacity from 1-32 ounces, and should be dictated by the number of hummingbirds that visit your garden. If you only have a few visiting, then select a smaller feeder. This means that the nectar won’t spoil as it sits in the feeder.
As more hummingbirds start to visit your garden, you can either place out more small feeders or upgrade to larger ones.
What Color Feeder Should I Choose?
Hummingbirds see the color red more clearly than any other color. Many of the best hummingbird feeders will have red on them specifically for this purpose. That said, you don’t have to restrict yourself to this hue.
Any bright color will attract these birds, from shocking pink to bright blue. Just make sure that it’s an eye-catching hue. Many people avoid yellow hummingbird feeders because bees and wasps are also attracted to that color.
Decorated Hummingbird Feeders
When it comes to features such as tinted glass or decorative flowers these don’t really affect whether a hummingbird will visit your feeder. While they can look aesthetically pleasing they can also add to the cost. As long as it is colorful it is entirely up to you whether you choose a more decorative feeder or not.
Where to Buy Feeders
Most major retailers sell hummingbird feeders in the spring and summer months. Pet stores, bird supply stores, garden centers, and speciality wildlife companies sell feeders all year round. This wide availability means that you can really shop around and find the best hummingbird feeder for your space (and tastes).
Hummingbirds are fascinating little creatures that will happily visit almost any type of feeder as long as it’s stocked with fresh, clean nectar.
The cost depends on many factors, such as size, materials, and overall design. An elaborate-looking feeder that can feed 12 hummingbirds will obviously lcost more than a simple 4-portal feeder. While more expensive models can cost over $80, basic feeders are available for less than $5.
With the choice on offer you should easily be able to find a feeder that suits your needs and your budget.
The Best Location for your Hummingbird Feeder
While you want to place your feeders where that you can see them, the most important thing to consider is the hummingbirds themselves.
Ideally, the feeder should be placed in a shady spot, close to a large tree or plant. Nearby cover allows the birds to quickly hide if a predator appears, or if they’re startled. Don’t put your feeder directly in, or too close to, a shrub or tree. This can make it difficult for hummingbirds to see it.
Your chosen location should also be somewhere that cats and other animals are unable to reach. For this reason, most hummingbird feeders can be hung from branches, poles or hooks.
Unless the feeder is attached to a window, you should place it at least 3 ft away from your windows. Large windows can confuse birds and be a flight hazard. Placing some form of bird alert decal in the window can help to make it more visible, and prevent accidents.
If you place your hummingbird feeder in full sun, you’ll need to check the nectar on a regular basis to make sure it doesn’t spoil.
Finally, bear in mind that hummingbirds can be very territorial. If you have the space, consider placing a couple of hummingbird feeders in different places around your garden. This will negate the effects of an overly territorial bird.
What Should I Feed Hummingbirds?
Instead of eating large meals, hummingbirds eat a little bit, but often. Sometimes as much as 8 times an hour. Therefore, you’ll need to keep your hummingbird feeder full of energy-packed nectar.
This is particularly vital in early spring, when the hummingbirds’ natural food sources aren’t as plentiful as in later months.
Your feeder will probably come with a supply of hummingbird nectar. This is often dyed red, to make it more attractive to the birds. However this dye can harm hummingbirds if ingested in large quantities.
It’s cheap and simple enough to make your own nectar. This way, you can be certain that you aren’t giving your birds any harmful preservatives or colorings.
To make your own nectar, simply mix a solution of 4 parts water to 1 part granulated sugar. Thoroughly stir this until the sugar has dissolved. You can use boiling water if you wish, but this isn’t necessary. Normal, table sugar (sucrose) is perfectly fine and can be easily digested by hummingbirds. Don’t use brown sugar, honey, or any sugar substitutes. These can all be harmful to the little ones.
If you have soft water, add a tiny pinch of salt to each quart of nectar. Don’t overdo the salt, or the hummingbirds won’t drink it.
Homemade nectar will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. If the solution starts to cloud, dispose of it and make up a fresh batch.
Hummingbird Feeder Maintenance
Change the nectar in your feeders at least twice a week—every other day during hot spells. You need to change the nectar regularly because the sugar can break down and ferment. Fermented nectar can make hummingbirds ill. They’ll also stop visiting your garden.
If the nectar in the feeder appears cloudy or dirty, wash the feeder and then refill it afresh.
Cleaning Your Feeders
Bacteria can build up in these feeders, and nectar can also stick to the sides, developing into mould. As such, you’ll need to scrub your feeders with clean, warm water at least twice a week. This is why you should choose an easy-to-clean feeder.
For example, bottle-shaped feeders often come with a narrow neck, making them difficult to clean. A hummingbird feeder brush can help the process and ensure that the feeder is thoroughly clean.
After cleaning, be sure to rinse it out so that no soapy residue remains. The smell of soap can put off visiting hummingbirds, so many people prefer to use an unscented soap. Allow the feeder to dry out before refilling it with nectar. This is also the ideal time to clear out obstructions in the feeding portals.
Preventing Leaks from Hummingbird Feeders
A leaky feeder can draw pests and damage nearby plants. If the nectar sticks to the hummingbirds’ feathers, it can make flying difficult.
Saucer-shaped feeders hardly ever leak. Inverted hummingbird feeders, on the other hand, are more prone to leaking. However, there are a few tricks you can employ to prevent major leaks.
Don’t overfill the feeder: too much nectar in a reservoir can cause leaks. Don’t under-fill it either! This can create a vacuum in the reservoir that will cause leaks. Ultimately working out the right amount of nectar to place in an inverted feeder is a sticky process of trial and error.
You should also check the feeder seals on a regular basis. When they begin to wear, replace them. Alternatively, wrapping plumber’s tape on the area will help to keep the seal clean.
Protect your Feeders from Pests
The nectar in hummingbird feeders also attracts pests such as ants and bees. Many hummingbird feeders come with built in bee and ant guards, often floral in shape. Planting bee-friendly flowers close by can also help. Bees and similar flying insects will be more inclined to visit the flowers and their natural food source than the feeders.
Ants are also a problem, as they’re particularly drawn to sugar. While ant moats are commercially available you can try making your own. This is a simple, effective solution but you’ll need to top up the moat with water regularly.
Whichever feeder model you choose will be a welcome food source for these beautiful birds!