We love our hummingbirds!! They add a fun, sometimes comical element to our yard with their high-speed aerial acrobatics. But, if you want to attract hummingbirds, you’ll need to use a hummingbird feeder that works. Here are some of the best hummingbird feeders and what to look for in a feeder.
Hummingbird feeders come in all shapes and sizes, making it challenging to know which one is the best. Since hummingbirds are highly mobile, curious birds, a suitable hummingbird feeder should be attractive and functional. It also has to withstand the elements, hold plenty of nectar, and fit the allotted space. Keep reading to learn what characteristics make up the best hummingbird feeders.
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Types of Hummingbird Feeders
Hummingbird feeders come in two standard forms; bottle feeders, and dish feeders. Both types are popular, and both are great choices.
Bottle hummingbird feeders, also called inverted feeders, are essentially inverted bottles with a feeding port at the bottom. Nectar is held inside the container by the vacuum created by trapped air. These feeders come in an endless assortment of styles, from basic nuts-and-bolts functionality to high-end art.
Bottle feeders have relatively large nectar reservoirs compared with other feeder types, making them an excellent choice where large flocks of hummingbirds gather ahead of migration. It is easy to see from a distance when you need to refill the feeder because of its design. Depending on the particular style and materials, upright bottle feeders are more difficult to clean than basic dish-type feeders. If a tiny crack develops in the feeder, it may break the vacuum seal, causing a leak to develop. Extra protection may be required to prevent bees from feeding on bottle feeders.
Dish-style hummingbird feeders are also called saucer feeders, or tray feeders. They hold the nectar in a shallow bowl-shaped reservoir. Hummingbirds feed through ports in the cover.
Most dish feeders have an ant moat incorporated into the design, reducing the likelihood of pest problems. The simple design is easy to clean and fill, is bee-resistant, not likely to leak, and provides an open view of the hummingbirds as they feed. But since they have a smaller capacity than bottle feeders, you’ll need to refill dish feeders more often.
What to Look for When Buying the Best Hummingbird Feeder
If you do a quick amazon search for hummingbird feeders you will be overwhelmed by all the feeders in various shapes and sizes. Some are beautiful but not functional due to the difficulty of cleaning or filling them. Others may simply not capture the attention of hummingbirds. The best hummingbird feeders attract hummingbirds, hold plenty of nectar without leaking, provide a place for hummers to perch as they feed, protect the nectar from invading insects, and are simple to fill and clean. Some might say that is a large bill!!
Feeder size affects how often you will need to refill and clean the container and how many hummingbirds can feed. There are a few ways to think about this. You should change the nectar every three to four days, to avoid spoilage. To avoid waste, the nectar should be nearly empty when it’s time to refill it. Also consider that hummingbirds can be quite protective of feeders, chasing away rivals, so to some extent, the more feeders available, the more hummingbirds you’ll get. This is our philosophy and why we have 8 feeders around our homestead.
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If your goal is to simply see a few hummingbirds throughout the summer, the smallest feeder filled regularly can make that happen. The most popular feeders are in the 16- to 32-ounce size range. Feeders of this size offer plenty of nectar for several days, with little waste when filling up. Plus, it is an adequate size to purchase for multiple feeding stations. Feeders larger than 32 ounces help satisfy the appetites of larger hummingbird populations.
Hummingbird feeders are made of either glass or plastic because these materials do not corrode. Additionally, they are easy to clean, durable, and affordable. Plastic hummingbird feeders are lightweight and inexpensive. They are a great choice for those new to feeding hummingbirds, those with strength or mobility impairments, classrooms, and children’s gardens. They resist cracking, but the material may fade, warp, or crack after several seasons due to UV exposure.
Glass hummingbird feeders are more substantial and more durable than plastic over the long term, although some glass feeders include plastic components like perches, covers, or feeding ports as well. Glass feeders can be easier to clean than plastic. Glass feeders also offer a greater diversity of aesthetics, from simple functionality to works of art.
Hummingbirds are highly color-sensitive. In nature, they are attracted to brightly colored red, pink, orange, yellow, and purple flowers. These colors would also be suitable for feeders, but they are especially attracted to red. Red is the best color for hummingbird feeders because it is the color that most consistently attracts hummingbirds.
While the color of the feeder is essential, the color of the nectar is not. Most natural flower nectar is colorless. There is no reason to use red-dyed nectar or to add food coloring to homemade nectar. Using dyes can actually hurt the hummingbirds over time. Instead, use the feeder itself to provide a splash of red to attract the birds. The whole feeder does not need to be red, just the parts around the feeding ports.
One of the amazing characteristics of hummingbirds is their ability to do just about anything while in flight. Indeed they often feed while hovering in front of a flower or feeder. Perches are not necessary, but there are benefits to offering a feeder with a place to perch.
Hummingbirds need a place to rest, and if you provide a perch, they will use it. Some of the best views of hummingbirds are when they relax on a feeder perch. The feeder may also attract other birds like chickadees, goldfinches, orioles, or warblers if it includes a perch.
Ants and other insects are attracted to the sugary nectar as well and will invade the feeder if given a chance. Ant moats prevent crawling insects from accessing the feeder by using a water barrier that they can’t cross. Simply fill the small reservoir with water, and they cannot pass it to feed on or contaminate the nectar.
Some hummingbird feeders have ant moats incorporated into the feeder body. Ant moats are also sold separately, for feeders made without them. Either way, using an ant moat is a good way to protect the nectar for the hummingbirds’ exclusive use.
We have found the ant moats at Tractor Supply to be the most affordable and do the job.
Bees love nectar too. Bottle feeders are susceptible to bee invasions, while most dish feeders are bee-resistant. Bee guards create air space that prevents bees from feeding on the nectar inside a hummingbird feeder, while still allowing hummingbirds to reach the nectar with their long tongues. Many of the susceptible feeders come with bee guards, but some do not.
FAQs About Your New Best Hummingbird Feeders
Now that you’ve had a chance to shop for the best hummingbird feeders, you may still have a few questions. Continue reading for answers to some frequently asked questions about feeding hummingbirds.
Is glass or plastic better for a hummingbird feeder?
Glass hummingbird feeders are generally easy to clean and very durable. Plastic hummingbird feeders are subject to warping or cracking over time but are comparatively inexpensive. Both are acceptable to hummingbirds.
Why do hummingbirds prefer red feeders?
Hummingbirds are highly-attracted to the colors red and yellow. Either, or both colors are good choices for hummingbird feeders.
Where is the best place to hang a hummingbird feeder?
Hummingbirds prefer feeders near sheltered places like trees, shrubs, or even tall perennials, where they can scavenge for other foods like spiders and natural nectar. Placing the feeder in a shaded location helps to reduce spoilage of the nectar.
How should you clean your hummingbird feeder?
Once or twice per week, clean your hummingbird feeder with hot, soapy water. Liquid dish detergent works well. Rinse with cold water and allow to air dry before refilling.
What should you feed hummingbirds?
Make your hummingbird nectar by mixing one part sugar with four parts water. Heat the water to boiling, then stir in the sugar. Turn off the heat and stir the water until the sugar completely dissolves. Allow the nectar to cool, then fill the hummingbird feeder. Do not add red dye or food coloring. Store extra hummingbird nectar in the refrigerator for up to a week. Read more on how to make your own nectar here.