Top 10 Things You Can Do to Attract Hummingbirds

10. Add a new native plant species to your garden. You just can’t have too many good hummingbird plants in your garden or yard. Take an inventory of your existing offerings and consult a source of hummingbird plant information for ideas on what to add next. Good sources include plant charts in Enjoying Hummingbirds More, and Creating Your Backyard Bird Garden. Both titles are part of the BWD backyard booklet series, which you can find in our online store.

9. Plan a continuous blooming schedule. When you’re leafing through your garden catalogs or wandering the greenhouses of your favorite garden center planning your hummingbird garden, choose plant species that have different blooming periods. For example, choose a ready-to-bloom hanging basket of fuschia for early flowers, a fast-growing Salvia species for midsummer flowers, and a late-blooming trumpet creeper that will be in flower in late summer and fall. Ask a local gardening expert for advice on blooming schedules and seasons for your area, soil type, and climate. Continuous blooming means hummingbirds will always have a reason to be in your yard, especially late in the season when flower production is down but hummingbird numbers are up, with all the recently fledged youngsters.


8. Deadhead your flowers to enhance blooming. This old gardeners’ trick is a clever one. By removing old blossoms (this process is known as “deadheading”) shortly after they have wilted and removing seedheads from blooming plants, you trick the plants into thinking that their work is not yet done. The plants respond by continuing to produce flowers and seedheads, in the end producing far more than they would have if they had not been deadheaded. Later in the season, you can let the plants go to seed to ensure that you’ll have them back in your garden next year.

7. Tie an orange ribbon round the old oak tree. Use foot-long pieces of surveyor’s tape (bright red or orange plastic ribbon sold in hardware stores) to catch the eyes of passing hummingbirds. Tie these pieces to bushes, trees, deck railings—anyplace near flowers or feeders. The bright colors will lure migrant hummingbirds down from the sky for a closer look. When they get there, they’ll find your flowering gardens and hummingbird feeders, which might make them decide to stay for more than just a rest stop. Special thanks to hummingbird guru Bob Sargent for this idea.

6. Repaint your plastic flowers; rehabilitate your old feeders. If the red parts on your hummingbird feeders are getting a bit dull, you can repaint them using bright magenta nail polish. Make sure the nail polish is totally dry before you fill and place the feeder. When dry, the polish’s bright color is a visual signal to hungry hummers.

5. Replace old feeders. Don’t want to waste good nail polish and elbow grease on rehabilitating your tired, old hummingbird feeders? Don’t be a cheapskate. Go buy some new feeders. This time, get durable, heavy plastic feeders. Make sure they are designed for easy filling and that they come apart for easy cleaning. If you still insist on getting El Cheapo feeders, start saving now to buy a new batch of feeders next spring.

4. Make snag perches for hummingbirds. Bluebirds, kestrels, and flycatchers all like to use snags for perching. Why do they perch? To rest, to preen, but most of all, to hunt. Hummingbirds are no different. After beating your wings at a rate of 80 beats per second, you’d feel like taking a break, too. All hummingbirds, but especially males, like to perch on the end of an exposed branch. From this vantage point they can see danger or rivals approaching. And they can sally forth into the air to grab a tasty insect, should one happen to fly past. You can create a hummingbird snag by sticking a dead branch into the ground so that it stands vertically. Place it about 50 feet from your feeder, but still within view. You may find that a territorial male uses the perch as a watch tower from which to defend a lone feeder. If this happens, see #1 below.

3. Add a mister to your yard. A mister is a small-hosed attachment for your regular garden hose. With the hose turned on to just a trickle, the mister, with its pinhole openings, shoots a fine spray, or mist, into the air. Hummingbirds, like all birds, will regularly bathe if a ready supply of water is at hand. But a mister in action is too much to resist! Hummingbirds love to fly through the fine spray until they are thoroughly soaked, at which point they zip off to a handy preening perch. Misters are available at hardware stores, lawn and garden centers, specialty bird stores, and by mail order.

2. Don’t remove those spider webs. Hummingbirds use spider web as a main ingredient in their nests. Strands of spider web hold the nest together and to the branch upon which it is built. But wait, there’s more! Hummingbirds also love to steal insects from spider webs. Insects are an important source of protein for hummingbirds, and they’ll get them any way they can. How convenient for hummingbirds to have spider webs do the catching for them.

1. Got bullies? Add more feeders in a clump! If you have one male hummingbird that is dominating your feeder to the exclusion of all others, there are two ways to afford your other hummingbirds a drink. One is to put up other feeders on opposite sides of your house, or out of sight of Mr. Bully. Of course, this may simply mean that you are setting up other fiefdoms for other male bullies. Perhaps a better solution is to add two or three more feeders in the vicinity of the first feeder. This will attract multiple hummingbirds, which will quickly cure your bully of his territoriality. He will not be physically able to fight off all the other hummingbirds, so he will give up trying.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rhonda Marise

    How can I keep the ants out if the feeders

  • Lauretta Carra

    Hi, I have a hummingbird feeder on my patio and I have been enjoying my little visitor. I clean the feeder and replace the nectar twice a week. This evening I was sitting on my patio reading and was surprised to have my little visitor flying close toy face. I didn’t see it at the feeder. I thought maybe it was trying to tell me the feeder needed cleaned. I cleaned it and replaced the nectar. About 10 minutes later, my little visitor was flying in front of me again and then went to the feeder, came by me again and then left. I think she was thanking me.

  • rdonderosr

    I have two feeders in my front yard one I bought, other was my neighbors she gave me. I use the same nectar in both but the hummers wont use my neighbors only mine they fly right up to it then leave ?

  • Dianne Newton

    I have a new glass feeder with large flower on it. They go to it but will not feed. They go to another cheap plastic $3 feeder. I’ve switched the two feeders in the two different places, they still go to the plastic feeder no matter where it is located. Will not feed on the glass feeder? Any explanations?

    • Dawn Hewitt

      Hi Dianne, Sometimes it can take weeks or longer before hummingbirds recognize a new feeder as a feeder. Try this: hang your new feeder very close to the cheap feeder that the hummingbirds use. Then remove the cheapo feeder, or at least move it to a different side of your house. If the new feeder is located where the old feeder was, odds are, hummingbirds will realize—soon—that it is a feeder. Also, be sure the sugar-water in your new feeder is fresh. You might have to replace it, unused, for a while. But if the nectar is starting to become rancid, the hummingbirds certainly won’t use it. Good luck! Dawn Hewitt, Bird Watcher’s Digest

  • bratty5458

    Thank you. In our apartment building we had no problem attracting bird to the deck but with a house with lots of trees, bushes and flowers they are not as abundant.

  • Mithun Melea

    I used too have hummingbirds all the time a couple months ago until we had to leave and go back east for a couple of weeks. Since then I have not had any humming birds coming to my feeder with fresh food. We even went and bought a couple of plants they like and put them close to the feeder. No luck yet, any suggestions please. I miss them.

    • Dawn Hewitt

      Hi Mithun, It sounds like you are doing everything right. I’d have suggested adding some flowering plants to your landscape, but you’ve already done that. All I can suggest is to be patient. The hummingbirds that used to visit your feeders have established new habits and routines. Just be patient, and replace the unused nectar every few days. Eventually, one hummingbird will find it, and tell all his or her friends. It might take a while, though. Good luck! Dawn Hewitt, Bird Watcher’s Digest

    • Annee Gail

      If you left the feeder out when you left there is a chance the sugar watered soured, therefore the birds wont come back to that location. May I suggest relocating the feeder to a different spot. Good luck!

  • Bridgett Alden

    This is a very late reply, but I JUST saw your post. I LOVE that you put up a nesting materials cage, and what an awesome picture, catching the Hummer in action, grabbing some material. Great job!

  • Ashlee Galletta

    I’ve been attempting to attract hummingbirds since I moved in my new home 3 years ago. Every flower and feeder I could get my hands on to bring them in. I have FINALLY managed to do it. Not exactly sure how but the only thing different is a large bed of mammoth sunflowers I’ve planted (about 70). Now they’re everywhere! Visiting flowers, feeders, even the sunflowers. I spent all yesterday floating in my pool watching them weave through the sunflowers and visit all my flower boxes and feeders. It’s fun to watch them swarm around in the mornings while the other species of birds play and feed.

    • Jolie Wilkinson

      Thanks for sharing! Would love to see pictures!

  • Wendi Jarrett

    Haha! I just put up a new window feeder and took the advice here and taped a big orange flower to the feeder and, to my shock and amazement, a hummer came over and was checking out the new setup! I couldn’t believe it!

  • Patricia McCulley

    Three days ago I sent up a hummingbird feeder in my side yard outside my office window. I use plain sugar water. 1 to 4 pts water. I haven’t seen a hummingbird there yet. 3 neighbors on one side of my house have the hummers. Beside the feeder is a shiny purple blue hanging decoration. Could the decoration be scaring the hummers away? I am about to go and buy some of the roll flagging ribbon.

    • Hi Patricia, It’s possible that the shiny decoration is deterring the hummingbirds, but more likely, they just haven’t discovered your feeder yet. It can take days or weeks or months for them to find a new feeding source. If your neighbors are reliably feeding hummingbirds, the birds aren’t desperate to find a new food source—but they’ll use it when they notice it. Just give it a while longer. They will find your feeder. Adding a red ribbon or two to your feeder won’t hurt.
      Dawn Hewitt, Bird Watcher’s Digest

      • Patricia McCulley

        Thank you SO much.

      • Patricia McCulley

        Today I bought some red ribbon and tied it to the top of the shepherd’s hook holding the feeder. Also tied some to a hanging chair nearer the back of our yard where the hummers fly by.

    • rdonderosr

      I have same problem one feeder is glass (shiny) other plastic they only go to the plastic

  • Patty Brown

    The ribbon idea (hardware stores call it “roll flagging” really works very well, I was having trouble attracting attention to my feeders, I put up the ribbons, and I wasn’t even done tying it before I heard one hovering behind me checking it ot.

    • Patricia McCulley

      Does this come in small amounts or do you have to buy a BIGGGG roll?

  • Suzie OO

    I’m having the same problem as Carl a few posts below. I put up a new feeder a few days ago and have been anxiously waiting for them. I hung some orange silk flowers near to help them notice. Finally, this morning a hummingbird came but just hovered for a second and then flew away. The feeder is in front of my window and under an eave (hangs down a foot and half from eave) but with the silk flowers they should be noticing. I live in Seattle and read that mid May is when they show up in this area.

  • Thurston Howell III

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    • otwtb

      Hello Thurston, this is Katherine, the webmaster of Bird Watcher’s Digest. Actually, an automated system (or, possibly people commenting on this page) flagged your comment. It was not a choice of Bird Watcher’s Digest. I’m not sure if the images you shared might have flagged it? Possibly. In any case, I’ve reviewed them and it appears that there is nothing harmful, so I am releasing them back to the website.

    • jdjd

      Relax, Thurston. You’re way too uptight, lovie.

  • Renee

    Thank you for this great information.

  • Selene Christy

    when you make humming bird nectar PLEASE don’t put red food coloring in it.It is bad for the humming birds to drink

    • Lauren

      I had bought hummingbird nectar and put it I. My feeder, do companies normally put food dye in the nectar? That’s very upsetting, I was wondering if they did!

      • dotbox

        They see red as food related. Also, the scare about red dye dyed decades ago. Today’s red dye is different and harmless to all except those who choose to fear it. Like life.

        • Dawn Hewitt

          Dotbox, Naturally occurring nectar is colorless, but comes in colorful packages (flowers). Commercial hummingbird nectar uses Red Dye #40, which is banned in many European countries because it has proven mutagenic and carcinogenic in rats and mice. It decreases reproduction rates and increases the incidence of internal and skin tumors. It has not been tested on hummingbirds. Saying that there is no evidence that it is harmful to them does not mean it is not harmful to them. So, why take a chance? Red dye is not necessary in hummingbird nectar since most nectar feeders have red parts. Bird Watcher’s Digest recommends against using hummingbird nectar with red dye. Four parts water to one part sugar. That’s perfectly adequate to attract hummingbirds and comes close to the formula for naturally occurring nectar. Dawn Hewitt, Bird Watcher’s Digest

  • Bill Thompson III

    Hi Lois. Your birds will be back. This happens each spring/summer when the natural sources of nectar (blooming plants and trees) burst on the scene and the hummers have more choices of where to feed. Just to be sure, give your feeders a really good rinse in plain water to remove any soapy residue. It IS a good idea to clean feeders regularly and to scrub out the little bits of black gunk that form as the sugar water gets a bit moldy. But once the young hummingbirds fledge from the nests, your feeders will be hopping again!

  • lois

    Help! My husband told me that he read in a newspaper that feeders should be washed in hot soapy water once a week. Stupid me did it, and now my hummers are gone. Does anyone know how I can get them back to feed in my yard? thanks!

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