Hummingbirds are such fun little birds to watch. Each year, my family puts a feeder right outside our family room window so we can watch them swoop in, fight with one another, come back for more food and repeat day in and day out until it is time for them to fly south for the winter months. We usually have far more hummingbirds than others do and I’ve had many people ask me for my hummingbird food recipe or how I actually make hummingbird food. There are some tips I’ve learned over the years about feeding hummingbirds. I’m going to share them in this guide.
What Kind of Hummingbird Feeder to Use
I’ve been feeding hummingbirds for almost 20 years and my mom before me. We’ve picked up a few things from watching these little hummers and seeing what they prefer. This could vary from area to area as there are different types of hummingbirds, but here is what we’ve found:
- They like clear feeders where they can see the food.
- They like a little ledge to stand on, such as the one in the image above. Even though they are very fast and they zip here and there, they seem to really prefer resting for a moment while eating.
- If you have a large number of birds, put out two feeders. It will help avoid the many fights they get into with each other (well sort of anyway).
- If you only have one or two hummingbirds each summer, then you may want to buy a smaller feeder. You don’t want the food to get stale. More on this later.
- Put the feeder close to your house so you can watch them, but not right up next to your window. Trust me on this. They can make a mess if you have one of those feeders that attach right to the window. They are birds; they poop.
- Don’t spend a lot on your feeder. They get really faded from being in the sun all summer. I tend to buy a new one every year or two. I usually go for one that is about $10-$15 and glass. It will last all summer and isn’t so expensive that I feel obligated to keep it if it is faded and ugly looking. I try to avoid the plastic in case the heat leaches some sort of chemical into the hummingbird food. It just isn’t worth the risk to save a few dollars.
How to Make Hummingbird Food
You’ve probably seen the ready-made hummingbird food in the store. My experience is that hummingbirds don’t like this food and many people believe it isn’t very good for them. The best food I’ve found that really attracts them is a simple mix of white sugar and water.
The recipe is below, but just let me add that I have had neighbors put out the ready-made food and watch all the hummers swarm to my house. One neighbor said she just didn’t get it, even though I told her multiple times what I was using instead. She didn’t have the time to make up the homemade food, she said. She also had very few visits from the hummers. If mine ran out, they’d go see her. Trust me that this is very quick and easy to make. You have to plan ahead so it has time to cool.
My mom also nukes hers in the microwave to melt the sugar into the water. She nukes it for about a minute, I think. I prefer the stovetop method to be sure I’m boiling out any impurities in the water. If you choose the microwave, I recommend using filtered or purified water.
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
Add 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water
Bring to a boil, stirring
As soon as water starts to boil, remove from heat and set to the back of the stove to cool
Cool for four hours and test to make sure it isn't warm before putting into feeders (it should be room temp)
Some Notes About Feeding Hummingbirds
- Replace the food at least once a week. If it is hot outside, I’d say every two or three days is better.
- It may take a day or so for them to locate your feeder. Don’t worry, if you put the food out, they will come.
When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders
Some people will tell you to wait a while to put them out, but it’s been my experience that we get the first hummingbirds as early as April and the last ones as late as September. Remember that they fly south in the winter and then fly back home. So, you will get hummers traveling through on their way south and again on their way home.
They fly hundreds of miles and they need to refuel. By putting your feeders out early and keeping them out late, you help these tiny travelers reach their destinations.
Plus, I love seeing the different varieties that come through. For example, this year, we had this short squatty hummer that had a little tuft of hair sticking up on his head. Boy was he cute. I wish he would have stayed, but he was only traveling through and was gone after a day or two.
I hope that others are keeping food out for my regular hummers as they travel to and from. There are some years when we have just a few hummers compared to other years. I suspect they don’t make the long journey well.
Life is busy and it can be easy to forget to put out your feeders or keep them full. However, if you want the birds to consistently return to your house, you have to be consistent. Maybe set a reminder on your phone or ask another family member to remind you to put out food every so often.
Plus, these little birds do come to depend on their food sources and suddenly removing one can make it difficult for them. If you plan to commit to feeding them, also make the commitment to feed them regularly.
Hummingbirds in the Garage
Another side effect of not keeping the hummingbird feeders full is that you may occasionally get a hummingbird in your garage. It is next to impossible for them to find their way out and they often will hurt themselves trying to escape.
If you do get a hummingbird in your garage, the best thing to do is to place some food in a small shallow bowl and place it right at the entrance to the garage. This will often entice the bird out and once it sees the broad expanse of sky it will fly off, fussing.
If the bird collapses, pick it up carefully, walk outside the garage and offer it some hummingbird food on a spoon. I have had to drop the food into the throat of a hummer or two. Sometimes they will then regain their strength and start to squirm. When they do this, open your palm. If they are able, they will fly away.
Feeding Hummingbirds Is Fun
Feeding hummers is rewarding and fun. It might not be as exciting as watching fireworks or skydiving, but you’ll pass many pleasant hours as they flit to and fro in front of your windows. Feel free to share your own experiences feeding hummers in the comments section below.