Hummingbirds may be small, but they have big personalities. Today I want to share about what hummingbirds eat, best practices for feeding them, their behavior, tips for attracting them, and my favorite hummingbird plants.
What do hummingbirds eat?
Most people know that hummingbirds eat nectar for energy, but many don't realize that they also eat insects for protein.
Flowers versus feeders
Flowers are always a hummingbird's first choice over feeders -- their nectar never spoils. Tube-shaped flowers in bright colors are their favorite. Most people associate red with hummingbirds, but they also like orange, purple, blue, pink, etc.
Choosing a feeder
There are lots of beautiful hummingbird feeders available, but function should be the primary consideration when choosing one. Look for feeders that have more than one port for drinking nectar, and avoid those that don't have a perch for the birds to sit and rest as they drink.
The best feeder I've found is Best-1 Hummingbird Feeder
. It holds up to one quart of nectar, it's made of quality materials that will last for several years (the bottle is glass, not plastic), and it's very well designed to be easy to clean and bird-friendly. They also sell replacement pieces
, in case the base ever breaks. After several years of using these, the only issue I've had is the metal band coming unglued from glass bottle. This can be avoided with a couple drops of something like Gorilla glue
I bought my Best-1 feeders at H-E-B for around $7 each, but if you aren't in Texas, you can order them from Amazon.
(If you use any of my links to buy, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you, as part of the Amazon Affiliate program.)
- Position feeders near flowering plants, out of sunlight, but in view to enjoy.
- Keep feeders clean. Ideally, refill and clean feeders twice a week to avoid mold/mildew and spoiled nectar. Use hot, soapy water to scrub and soak feeders.
- Make your own nectar by boiling 1 part sugar into 4 parts water. Only partially fill feeders, since you'll be dumping it out frequently. I usually start the season with just 1 cup of nectar in each feeder, and I gradually increase this through the feeding season. You can make more than you need and keep the extra for several weeks in the fridge. DO NOT USE DYE. It builds up to dangerous levels in the hummingbird's body and is linked to all kinds of health problems.
- Keep feeders up March through October in central Texas. You can add additional feeders July-September, at the peak of hummingbird season, and take them down one week after the last hummingbird sighting in October.
- Hummingbirds are territorial, so if you have multiple feeders, keep them visually separated.
- How many birds are you feeding? I once read that you can count the number of birds on your feeders at the busiest time of day and multiply that number by 6 to estimate how many individual birds you're feeding throughout the day
Hummingbirds breed and nest throughout Texas. They build their nests in the branches of trees near a source of food and water. Most fly south for winter and return to the same good feeding spots each spring and throughout the season. This means they'll return to your home and expect to be fed! Last year I let my feeders get empty and the hummingbirds would hover there by the window as if saying "Hey! Fill up this feeder, would you?"
Hummingbirds are considered pollinators, like honey bees. They visit up to 1000 flowers each day and eat 1.5 times their body weight daily. That's like a human eating hundreds of cheeseburgers a day.
More tips for attracting hummingbirds
- Put out flowers and feeders early in the season. Some migrating hummingbirds may arrive before food is plentiful.
- Add a water feature to your yard. Hummingbirds like to nest near water.
- Go organic in your yard. Yard chemicals are harmful to hummingbirds and other pollinators.
- Leave spiderwebs alone. Spider webs are used by hummingbirds in their nest building.
- Place some overripe fruit near feeders. Hummingbirds will eat fruit flies and other insects attracted by the fruit.
Still no hummingbirds?
If you've done everything mentioned above and you still don't have hummingbirds visiting your feeders, keep an eye out for the following.
- Bullies/predators: cats, other birds, wasps
- Spoilage in feeder. Make sure nectar is replaced frequently.
Favorite hummingbird plants
Here are some of my favorite plants for attracting hummingbirds. I've selected these for their beauty, availability in central Texas garden centers, and other attributes like drought tolerance, deer resistance, etc.
|Photo credit: Joseph A. Marcus|
|'New Gold' Lantana is pictured. Texas lantana is similar, but different color|
Do you have a gardening question? You can ask in the comments below, or by e-mail. I'll pick my favorite questions to feature on this page. Follow me on Facebook or Instagram for more helpful gardening tips, tricks, and how-to's.
I love your blog! Thank you for all the great information! I could use all the help I can get when it comes to my yard and plants!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Tamra. Sharing this kind of information is what I've been doing for years, but I felt I was long overdue to start writing and sharing with more people than just those whom I meet from day to day. ��Delete
Question: can you or have you stored additional nectar for your refills throughout the week?ReplyDelete
Yes, it's a good idea to make extra and store it in the fridge for quick refills throughout the week.
You'll find more information about that under "Feeding Tips".