Attracting hummingbirds is a rewarding and fun hobby, but the costs can add up if you’re not careful. Save yourself some money and time when feeding hummingbirds with these tips from Birds & Blooms editors and readers.
Make your own nectar: There’s no need to buy expensive hummingbird nectar at the store. Make your own with 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Boil it, cool it, and store any leftovers in the fridge for up to a week. Oh, and you can skip the red food coloring – it’s not necessary.
Place hummingbird feeders wisely: If you place your feeders in the shade, you’ll get less algae growth, so you won’t have to change the hummingbird nectar nearly as often.
Stick with simple feeders: Don’t be tempted by all the fancy hummingbird feeders you see. The basic models work just fine when attracting hummingbirds. Plus, you can make your own from pretty much anything that holds water – and if it’s red, so much the better! Clean out an old wine bottle and attach a hummingbird feeding tube (search the web to find them), then hang it upside down in your garden. Inexpensive, attractive, and great for feeding hummingbirds!
Easy refills: Clear hummingbird nectar makes it hard to tell from a distance how full the feeder is. Add a few floating buttons or beads to your sugar water, and you’ll be able to tell at a glance how when the feeder needs a refill.
Stick with success: Determine which flowers are the best for attracting hummingbirds to your garden, and plant more of those instead of experimenting with new finds that may or may not work for you.
Fruit treats: Overripe cantaloupe, watermelon, or other summer fruit? Put it out for hummingbirds to enjoy in a shallow dish.
Hummingbird Feeder Maintenance
Keep out ants: Bonnie Hutson of Independence, Missouri, sent this clever idea. Drill a hole in the center of a peanut butter lid. Attach a J bolt to one side and an eyebolt to the other. You’ll have an instant ant moat to place between your feeder and the hook it hangs from! Some readers also say spraying cooking spray on your feeder pole can make it too slippery for ants to cross.
Clean hummingbird feeders easily: Hummingbird feeders can be notoriously hard to clean well, with all the nooks and crannies for mold to hide in. About once a week, empty any remaining hummingbird nectar, then fill your feeder halfway with water and add a splash of vinegar. Throw in a bit of rice, sand, or unpopped popcorn and shake well. Vinegar kills germs safely, while the textured items scrape dirt away. Rinse well for a cleaner feeder!
Details, details: Instead of buying brushes specially made for cleaning hummingbird feeders, just use an old toothbrush or some pipe cleaners. These are perfect for cleaning those hard-to-reach spots.
General Hummingbird Tips
Red accents: A little red goes a long way in attracting hummingbirds, especially when it’s early in the season. Real flowers are ideal, but you can also add ribbons, bows, pieces of an old scarf, or artificial flowers to draw them in. Attach them to the top of the pole or feeder.
Hummingbird perches: Hummingbirds need to rest too! Male hummingbirds especially love a place to perch near a feeder. Hang a few branches with the leaves stripped off from the pole, or add a coat hanger or two from trees nearby.
Nest for less: Go ahead and let your dandelions and milkweed go to seed. The hummingbirds will use the fluffy fibers to line their nests.
Kick back and relax: Once you’ve created your ideal hummingbird habitat, be sure to take time to sit outside and take in the sights and sounds. Take your morning coffee outside, eat lunch under the trees, or enjoy the evening breeze in your garden. Hummingbirds will provide the rest of the show!