Feeding hummingbirds is a great joy for many birders throughout the spring and summer, but do you have the best feeder to welcome these flying jewels to your yard? Choosing the perfect hummingbird feeder requires careful consideration of the birds’ needs and how best to offer a safe, reliable feeding station.
Nectar Feeder Designs
Hummingbird feeders come in many sizes and styles, from simple saucer dishes to inverted, gravity-fed reservoirs to innovative top-fill designs. Feeders may be made from plastic, glass, or metal, and could have capacities ranging from just 1-2 ounces to 12, 16, or even 32 ounces or more. The number of feeding ports will vary, as will decorative accents on different feeders. With so many choices, it can be overwhelming to choose one hummingbird feeder, but rest assured that there is a perfect feeder for everyone interested in hummingbirds. No matter whether you are just starting feeding hummingbirds or have been attracting these birds for years, no matter what the size of your property or what other birds visit your feeders, you can find a hummingbird feeder both you and the birds will enjoy.
Choosing the Perfect Hummingbird Feeder
There are many factors to consider when choosing a hummingbird feeder, and there is no one choice perfect for every birder’s feeding station. When deciding which feeder is best for you and your hummers, consider:
- Style – There are two main hummingbird feeder styles: inverted reservoirs and saucers. Inverted feeders are gravity-fed and may occasionally leak, but often have higher capacities to accommodate more birds. Saucer-style feeders generally leak less, but it can be difficult to tell when the nectar level is low and fewer birds may be able to feed at once.
- Capacity – The fluid capacity of the feeder can range from a tiny feeder with just 1-2 ounces of nectar to hefty feeders of as much as 32 ounces or more. Larger feeders that hold more nectar can feed more hummingbirds with fewer refills, but more nectar will be wasted if it goes rancid before the birds can sip it all. Smaller feeders will naturally require more frequent refills.
- Color – Red is the most attractive color to catch hummingbirds’ attention, and a feeder with a red base, cap, or other accents will bring more birds to investigate. A clear nectar reservoir, however, can make it easier to see the nectar level to know when refills are needed.
- Materials – Hummingbird feeders can be made from glass, plastic, or metal. Glass feeders won’t warp or discolor, but they could break if they fall or are accidentally dropped. Plastic feeders are usually less expensive, but may be less durable and subject to warping or fading. Metal feeders, while less common, can be attractive rustic designs but might taint nectar if not properly coated.
- Feeding Ports – The small holes where hummingbirds access nectar are the feeding ports. Smaller feeders generally have just one or two feeding ports, while larger feeders may have six, eight, or even more ports. A feeder with more ports can accommodate more birds, but because hummingbirds can be aggressively territorial, one bird might dominate multiple ports.
- Perches – Hummingbirds can easily hover while feeding, though some individual birds will prefer to perch as they drink. Perches on a feeder can be the perfect accessory for hummingbird lovers, however, because they offer a great place to see hummingbirds reliably for observation, identification, or photography.
- Insect Barriers – Hummingbirds aren’t the only wildlife attracted to nectar, and a good hummingbird feeder will have strong barriers against ants, bees, wasps, and other insects that could overwhelm a feeder and discourage hummingbird visitors. Ant moats and bee or wasp guards might be built into the feeder’s design, or they could be available as optional accessories.
- Cleaning Ease – Nectar feeders should be cleaned at least once per week and may need cleaning as often as every day or every other day in hot climates when many birds are feeding. A good feeder will be easy to disassemble to clean every nook and cranny thoroughly so all traces of mold, mildew, or spoiled nectar are thoroughly removed.
- Budget – Simple, smaller hummingbird feeders may cost just a few dollars, while larger, more elaborate feeders can be much more expensive. Choose the best feeder design for your bird feeding budget, and remember, hummingbirds don’t look at price tags.
Tips for Using Your Best Hummingbird Feeder
No matter what type of hummingbird feeder you choose, there are easy ways to make the most of it and bring more hummingbirds to your yard. Try…
- Positioning the feeder in the shade to keep nectar fresher for longer.
- Cleaning the feeder frequently to avoid spreading diseases that could harm hummingbirds.
- Avoiding red nectar, as the dye is not necessary to attract hummingbirds and could be toxic.
- Using several feeders in different parts of the yard to minimize aggressive, dominating behavior.
- Eliminating insecticide use nearby so hummingbirds can feed on protein-rich insects.
- Planting hummingbird-friendly flowers such as bee balm, columbine, fuchsia, and salvia to provide a natural nectar source and attract more hummingbirds with beautiful blooms.
With careful consideration, you can choose the perfect hummingbird feeder to attract a charming flock of hummers to your yard, and you’ll be able to enjoy all their visits knowing you’ve provided a safe, comfortable feeding station for hummingbirds.