Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have hummingbirds in my area?

Though there are over 300 species of hummingbirds, only about 16 can be found in North America. Most areas of the United States and Southern Canada have at least one species of hummingbird. In the Eastern and Central United States, almost all of the hummingbirds typically seen are Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. Approximately 7 species can be seen in the Western U.S., and nearly all 16 hummingbird species can be found in the Southwestern states. (top of page)

What types of hummingbirds are in my area?

Eastern and Central United States and Canada: primarily the Ruby-throated hummingbird, though some other species can be found in the Gulf region.
Western United States: Anna's, Black-chinned, Calliope, Broad-tailed, Allen's, White-eared, and Rufous hummingbirds
Southwestern United States: All 16 species
A great link to Hummingbird species locations (top of page)

How do I attract hummingbirds?

The best way to attract hummingbirds is by putting out a feeder with nectar. Nectar is basically sugar water, and allows the hummingbirds to maintain the energy levels they need to catch insects. There are also many plants that you can add to your garden or yard to increase your chances of attracting hummingbirds. (top of page)

What type of hummingbird feeder do I need?

Although there are many types of feeders available, most fall into two categories: bottle- type and dish-type. Bottle-type feeders are simply a bottle turned upside down, which sends the nectar into a small dish or tube. Bottle-type feeders come in all shapes and sizes, from a soda bottle turned upside down to a colorful hand-blown glass works of art. A dish-type feeder is basically a covered dish with feeding ports built into the cover. While usually not as ornate as some bottle-type feeders, dish-type feeders can typically feed more birds at one time and seldom have any issues with dripping. Dish-type feeders often have other useful features, such as nectar guards and insect moats built into the design. These features can prevent or discourage bees, wasp, ants, and other insects from using the feeder. (top of page)

What size hummingbird feeder do I need?

The optimal size of the feeder depends on how many hummingbirds you attract. Most feeders hold between 10 to 20 ounces of nectar, which may be enough to meet your needs. Remember that nectar needs to be changed every 3 to 4 days, depending on the outside temperature. If the birds are emptying the feeder in 2 days or less, you may want to use a larger feeder or add another smaller feeder. (top of page)

Where should I place my hummingbird feeder?

It is best to place feeders out in the open, preferably near flowering plants. It is possible to gradually move a feeder once the hummingbirds have found it. It is best to place the feeders out of the sun or wind to protect the hummingbirds and preserve the feeder and nectar. (top of page)

When should I put out my hummingbird feeder?

Northeastern and Central United States and Canada: April or May
Southeastern United States: January or February
Western United States: April
Southwestern United States: All year (top of page)

Should I clean my hummingbird feeder?

Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned each time the nectar is changed. The nectar should be changedevery 3 to 4 days or if the nectar is cloudy, moldy of if contaminated by insects or dirt. Hummingbirds are extremely sensitive to the quality of the nectar. They will seek out a new source and possibly not return if they find sour, moldy, or dirty nectar in your feeder. (top of page)

How often should I replace the nectar?

Every 3 to 4 days depending on the outside temperature or if contaminated by insects or dirt. The higher the temperature, the more quickly nectar becomes sour. (top of page)

Should I buy nectar mix or make my own nectar?

Either method works fine, though it is more cost effective to make your own, and quite easy. Just add 1 part table sugar to 4 parts hot tap water. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before filling the feeder, and refrigerate any unused portion for up to two weeks.

A few notes about water temperature and sterilized water for making nectar: It is not necessary to boil water for making nectar. Hotter water makes sugar dissolve faster, but that is the only benefit. Therefore hot tap water is the most efficient way of making nectar. Boiling-hot water will dissolve sugar faster than hot tap water, but of course it takes time to boil the water, so the benefit is lost. Similarly, it is fine to make nectar with room-temperature water so you don't have to take time to let it cool, but it will take just a little bit longer (about a minute more) to dissolve the sugar with room-temperature water. Finally, boiling water might sterilize the nectar by killing any bacteria or microbes living in the tap water, but as soon as the nectar is exposed to the outdoors (and the buggy beaks of hummingbirds), the bacteria and bugs will be there - so there's no real benefit to sterilized nectar. (top of page)

Should I add red food coloring to my nectar?

It is recommended to avoid using any type of food coloring. It can be potentially harmful to hummingbirds, as they consume a huge quantity of nectar every day. The color red does attract hummingbirds, however, it is better to choose a feeder that is red or contains red rather than using colored nectar. (top of page)

I put out a hummingbird feeder, but still do not have any hummingbirds. What can I do?

Hummingbirds are extremely selective when it comes to feeders, however, there can be a variety of factors determining their aversion to your feeder. It may be as simple as you may live in an area that doesn't attract hummingbirds because of a lack of the flowers, shrubs or trees they prefer. Conversely, you may live in an area that has too many flowers, shrubs, or trees that they like and are happy where they are currently feeding. Another major factor can be your nectar. If you are leaving nectar out too long, it has probably soured and the hummingbirds have moved to a different location. Clean you feeder thoroughly, replace the nectar, and then move it to a new location. Also, if you have just put out a hummingbird feeder, it may take one or more seasons for the birds to discover your feeder. (top of page)

How do I keep bees/ants/other insects away from my feeder?

Give a Songbird Essentials Nectar Protector Ant Moat a try! These ant deterrents hold 300% more than the next largest competitor. Available in clear (does not confuse the Hummers & you can see when they're empty) & also red! Easy to clean concave bowl. Less maintenance as it holds 3 x's more! Strong - holds even the largest feeders! (top of page)

How do I keep my hummingbird feeder from dripping?

If you are using a bottle feeder with a tube, it is important that you fill the bottle completely full when refilling. If only filled partially, it will not be able to create the vacuum that prevents the nectar from dripping out of the tube. (top of page)

What else do hummingbirds eat?

Insects! Nectar only provides the hummingbirds the energy they need to catch insects, which provide them with the nourishment they need to survive. (top of page)

Will feeding hummingbirds stop them from migrating?

Many people believe that if they feed the hummingbirds, it will keep them from migrating. Migration is instinctive to hummingbirds, and is not determined by the availability of nectar in the area. In fact, most hummingbirds start their migration when there is ample nectar available. (top of page)

When do hummingbirds migrate?

Most hummingbirds will start their southward migration as early as mid-July, though most will leave between late August and late September. Many people will leave their feeders out through late fall and early winter, as they may have many visitors that will stop by their feeders to refuel before continuing their journey. If you live in an area that stays warm year-round, such as the Southwestern U.S., the hummingbirds may not migrate at all. (top of page)