With more than 300 species of hummingbirds, knowing how to attract hummingbirds is a wonderful way to enjoy your yard and provide spectacular avian beauty at the same time.
Although they do not travel in flocks, they can congregate in large numbers when a dependable food source is nearby, making it easy to adopt many strategies to attract hummingbirds to your yard.
Make your yard more attractive with these tips so you can enjoy the beauty and personality of these truly remarkable and fascinating little birds.
1. Add bright red ribbon to your backyard
Flashy feathers aren’t just a part of a hummingbird’s plumage; color can play an important role in attracting them to your backyard. Like most birds, hummingbirds don’t have a great sense of smell and rely on vision to help them find food and a mate (1).
Adding bright colors to your yard mimics those found in nature, with hummingbirds particularly preferring those in the red to the yellow range due to the structure of their eyes (2).
To catch the eyes of passing hummingbirds, tie bright red or orange ribbons anyplace near flowers or feeders. Surveyors tape is perfect for the task as it is easily available, comes in bright colors, and is made of durable plastic.
Tie it to your feeder pole or somewhere like a fence post to attract the hummingbird’s attention. The bright colors and whimsical movement will lure the birds into taking a closer look, finding your feeders and flowering gardens when they arrive, giving them a reason to stay in your yard.
2. Tempt with homemade nectar
It’s no secret that hummingbirds have a high metabolism, but they actually need to eat approximately every 15 minutes to fuel their busybodies. Nectar feeders aren’t just a nice to have; they are critical for hummingbird survival.
Suitable nectars can be purchased, but making a nectar solution is both easy and healthier for hummingbirds than store-bought alternatives, which may contain red dye.
The dye isn’t needed and the verdict is still out on whether it is harmful to the birds or not. Stay safe with this simple mixture of four parts hot water to one part sugar. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and cool to room temperature.
That’s it. Nothing extra, like added sweeteners or honey, is needed. Hot water is typically enough to dissolve the sugar, but boiled water is best and helps the mixture last longer (up to a week) when stored in your fridge.
3. Install a perching spot
After beating your wings at a rate of nearly 80 beats per second, you’d feel like taking a break too. All hummingbirds, but especially males, like to perch both to take a break and to survey their territory. When they aren’t feeding, hummingbirds look for perches to rest and preen.
Some spots should be in the open and obvious for territorial birds, while others should be in protected areas, hidden from view and buffered from any cooler overnight temperatures — place feeders near trees and shrubs that provide perches as well as a natural food source.
You can add supplemental perches by adding small twigs to a brush pile, or stringing thin clothesline or using slender poles, thin vines, trellises, wires, and multiple levels of shrubbery. Some even use accessories such as miniature swings to add instant perches to their yard.
You can also create a hummingbird snag by sticking a dead branch into the ground so that it stands vertically. Placed about 50 feet from your feeder, but still within view, and watch as hummingbirds use the perch to take a break or hunt.
4. Add hummingbird specific feeders
With one of the fastest known metabolisms of all animals, hummingbirds get quick energy from sugar-water feeders to fuel their search for insects and flowers to provide the rest of their nourishment (3).
Nectar feeders are one of the most common ways to attract hummingbirds to your yard and come in many different varieties. A wide range of styles are available, including glass bulbs, inverted tubes, and saucer dishes.
Many feeders may come with additional features meant to help your hummingbirds such as wasp, hornet, and ant guards. Feeders typically come with red parts as hummingbirds are more attracted to the hue.
The most important feature of any good hummingbird feeder is the ability to clean it, however, as they need to be cleaned regularly to avoid bacteria, fungi, and other harmful organisms.
5. Encourage nesting in your yard
Hummingbird nests are often built near a ready supply of nectar and other food. Encourage hummingbirds to nest in your yard by providing them lots of their favorite options. They prefer small deciduous trees and dense shrubs to build nests and raise their family.
They construct their delicate nests on small horizontal surfaces, often using delicate materials such as lichens or spider webs. Unlike many other backyard birds, they will not use birdhouses or nesting boxes.
Instead, they build their double-lined, cup-shaped nests in trees and shrubs. Bolder birds may build their nests along wires, clotheslines, or poles.
Providing safety for your hummingbird friends in the form of shelter and native plants is key to attracting them to your yard. Birders can also supply suitable nesting materials, including fine natural cotton and animal fur, to further attract nesting birds.
6. Nurture beneficial insects in the yard
While most people only know these birds for their sweet tooth or tongue in the hummingbird’s case, they also eat a large number of insects, including spiders.
This essential protein source is especially critical during the nesting season when young hummingbirds need it the most for proper growth. Avoid pesticides or insecticides since this kills a significant source of potential food for your hummingbirds.
In addition, choose flowering plants that are attractive to insects to provide a good natural food source for your birds. Spiders are particularly beneficial since they not only provide essential protein, but their cobwebs can provide a natural trap to catch other insects for hummingbirds to pluck.
Many birders “hide” rotting banana peels in their garden to set a natural fruit fly trap for their hummingbirds.
7. The location of the feeder is the key
As with most things, location is key. Hummingbirds are no different when it comes to preferences and experienced birders know that moving a feeder even a few feet can have drastic results on feeder popularity.
Hummingbirds have keen eyesight and will spot food sources naturally, but a little help is always appreciated. Place feeders close to areas naturally frequented by the birds, and follow other tips, like attaching red ribbons for utmost visibility.
Other tips such as keeping the feeder out of direct sunlight help to keep nectar cool, giving the birds a place for shade, and keeps food fresher. Feeders should be hung high enough that cats or other predators can’t attack and either very close or far away from windows to avoid collisions.
Hummingbirds will avoid feeding around larger birds, so position feeders away from other feeding stations, so they have their own space. A personal favorite is placing them close to windows, giving us more opportunity to enjoy these fascinating little birds.
8. Create a ‘hummingbird waterfall’
Like all birds, hummingbirds like to bathe, but you won’t find them at a traditional bird bath. These delicate birds prefer moving water or a much shallower source such as a mister or sprinkler for their delicate feathers.
Birders who provide water sources such as sprinklers, fountains, waterfalls, misters, and drippers will be rewarded with unique views of these remarkable tiny birds bathing and preening.
Misters are especially attractive to hummingbirds. Create shallow areas in traditional baths by adding pebbles or stones for hummingbirds to perch on.
Of course, all water sources should be kept fresh and clean for the health of your birds, and placing them near nectar-rich flowers can make the hummingbirds even more enticed to visit.
9. Lure hummingbirds with the right plants
To maintain their supercharged metabolism, hummingbirds need to feed every 10 to 15 minutes just to survive (4). This means visiting between 1000 and 2000 flowers per day, so fill your yard with native flowering plants, vines, shrubs, and trees to attract more birds to your yard.
Some of the most common hummingbird attracting plants include bee balm, honeysuckle, cardinal flower, sage, and Mandevilla.
Regional lists of bird-friendly native plants for your area can be found online as well as utilizing local resources (5). Native plants are not only healthier for the environment, but provide much more nectar than hybrids or exotics.
Group similar plants together and choose species with different blooming periods so that there will always be a steady supply of flowers. Encourage neighbors to make their yards hummingbird friendly as well; even one plant in a window box or hanging basket can help.
10. Keep your feeders clean inside and outside
Fresh nectar will always be more attractive to birds than anything that has been left out and therefore started to sour. Change your sugar water every 3-4 days, but more if the weather is especially hot or humid.
Soak your feeder in a weak vinegar solution and scrub as needed. Rinse well before refilling with sugar solution. Keeping the outside of feeder bottles clean also helps to make them sparkle, attracting the attention of hungry hummingbirds.
11. Keep the spider webs
Although you may not like them, fostering spiders will encourage hummingbirds to nest near your yard. Not only do their webs provide natural traps to catch other insects, providing a source of much-needed protein for the hummingbirds, they also use them to construct their expandable nests.
Hummingbird’s delicate nests are constructed of small bits of mosses and lichens, with strands of spider web hold the nest together and to the branch, it’s built upon.
They use the spider silk as threads to both bind their nests and anchor them to their foundation. Keep the cobwebs in your yard to provide this integral building material for nesting hummingbirds.
12. Trick the bullies
When many hummingbirds gather in a small area, they can become territorial and aggressive. Dominant birds chase others away, denying them a feed, and use up their own energy with their aggression. If you end up with a territorial bully, there are a number of things you can do to trick them.
Use multiple feeders around your yard to eliminate the likelihood of the bully being able to defend them all. Other tactics include adding multiple feeders to a station to attract multiple hummingbirds.
This will quickly cure your bully of his territoriality since he will not be able to fight off all the other hummingbirds physically, so he will give up trying.