Hummingbird FAQs

Answers to the most common questions about these tricky-to-attract birds.

When a hummingbird visits your backyard nectar feeder or flower garden, it’s downright enchanting. They seem to hover magically in the air and zip around in the blink of an eye. But these can sometimes be tricky birds to attract, and we receive a lot of questions from readers about how they might do so more efficiently. So we’ve rounded up the five questions we get asked the most about attracting hummingbirds. If you’ve ever wondered if homemade sugar water is better than store-bought, how to keep bees and ants away from your sugar water feeders, or what to do if one hummingbird is driving away other hummingbirds, look no further! We’ve got your answers right here!

Tammy Travis (B&B reader)

How do I draw them to my yard?

Think red! Colorful feeders visible from a distance and classic, tubular flowers are two ways to increase your chances of attracting these birds. It’s especially worthwhile adding nectar flowers to your garden and keeping feeders filled and clean at all times.

(Get the list: Top 10 Red Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds)

Susan Grove (B&B reader)

What can I do about a hummingbird that drives others away from the feeder?

These birds have an instinct to defend their food sources because a patch of flowers produces only a little nectar each day. Even at a feeder, hummingbirds practice the same defensive behavior. A good strategy to prevent one from dominating the food source is to put up several feeders, located some distance apart from each other. If a feeder is out of sight from the others (around a corner, for example), it makes it harder for one bird to control them all. In a situation like that, even the more aggressive hummingbird may give up and just share with others.

Gayle Jones (B&B reader)

Which is better, pre-made or homemade sugar water? Should I add red dye?

Commercial nectar may be convenient, but you can easily make your own. Mix one part white sugar with four parts water. Bring it to a boil to remove impurities, so it will keep longer before it starts to spoil. Don’t add honey or any other ingredients. Avoid red dye. It doesn’t help the birds and may be bad for them.

(Want to learn more about sugar water and hummingbirds? Read our Hummingbird Sugar Water 101!)

How do I keep bees, wasps, or ants away from my nectar feeders?

The type of feeder makes a difference. In saucer-style feeders, the sugar water is far enough below the feeding ports that insects can’t reach it. Some feeders have bee/wasp guards over the feeding ports that deter these insects while allowing hummingbirds to sip. Bee guards won’t help if sugar water spills on the outside of the feeder, so keep it clean. If ants are a problem, buy a feeder with an ant moat (a small basin of water that acts as a barrier), or get an add-on ant moat that hangs above the feeder.

(Check out our creative ideas for Attracting Hummingbirds for Less!)

When should I take my feeders down in fall?

It depends on where you are. In the South and along the Pacific Coast, you may have hummingbirds all winter. Farther north, hummingbirds will probably be gone by October. Later in fall, however, there may be the odd hummingbird from the West showing up in the East. If you keep your feeders up until November, you might attract some surprising visitors. Don’t worry that your feeders might keep the locals from migrating. Their migration instinct is very strong. They will leave when they’re ready, and neither flowers nor feeders can tempt them to stay.

(Want to know where hummingbirds go in winter? Here’s the answer!)

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard.