Slider 03 1350x534Feeding hummingbirds is an easy, inexpensive and rewarding pastime.   All you need is a feeder, funnel, sugar, and some water.  Providing hummingbirds with nectar brings them closer for you to marvel at their remarkable ability to fly, fascinating behavior, and brilliant colors.  It also provides a great opportunity to teach children about nature.

You assume a certain amount of responsibility for the well-being of hummingbirds when you hang a feeder.  If you cannot properly maintain a feeder you may wish to consider planting a hummingbird garden.  Here are some easy guidelines to get you started.

Ruby-throated hummingbird perched atop a shepherd's hook at the hummingbird garden in Henderson, MN.


1 part cane sugar
4 parts water



Dissolve the 1 part sugar in the 4 parts water.  Use a funnel to fill feeders with small openings.  Unused mixture may be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.




  • Only use cane sugar, never use artificial sweeteners or honey.  Artificial sweeteners don’t provide the required calories and encourages the growth of a fungus that may lead to a serious and deadly tongue fungus in hummingbirds.
  • It’s not necessary to boil the water. The microorganisms that cause fermentation don’t come from the sugar or water; they are transported to the feeder on hummingbird bills.
  • Use tap water rather than distilled.  Distilled water may lack minerals that hummingbirds need.
  • The sugar will dissolve more readily if the water is heated or if you use superfine sugar.  Superfine sugar dissolves instantly in cold water.
  • Red food coloring is unnecessary.  Though hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, there is enough red on most hummingbird feeders to attract the birds without needing to add dye to the nectar.   Adding dye may limit the ability to see if the liquid is turning cloudy.
  • Make a large batch of nectar and store it in the refrigerator to make refilling feeders easier.

Type, Size, Number:

  • Though most hummingbird feeders have some red coloring, the ruby-throated Hummingbird doesn’t show a strong preference for any particular color of feeder. Instead, it prefers specific locations for feeders.
  • Choose a feeder that is easy to clean. Feeders should come apart so that all parts are accessible and easy to clean.
  • Consider a feeder that has raised feeder holes, ports, to avoid drips.
  • Match the feeder size to your needs.  Fill feeders with the amount of nectar that can be consumed in 1-3 days.
  • Fill feeders with the amount of nectar that can be consumed in 1-3 days.
  • Increase the number of feeders to reduce bullying or territorial behavior.
  • Hummers will use feeders with and without perches.  Choose a feeder with perches if you wish to view a hummer sitting.


  • Change the sugar water every three to five days.  Change more frequently if temperatures are over 90° F.
  • If the sugar water appears cloudy or if you see mold, immediately discard the content and thoroughly wash the feeder.


  • Place feeders out of reach of cats and other predators, at least four feet above the ground.
  • Never place a feeder too close to a nest because doing so may cause predation.
  • Hang feeders in the shade to allow nectar to keep cool and remain fresh longer.
  • Place feeders where you easily see them.  Hummingbirds do not need us to feed them, we feed them to bring them close enough to watch and enjoy.
  • Place feeders near or on windows, where you can watch and enjoy them.
  • Place multiple feeders about 25 feet apart so one dominant bird won’t keep competing hummers away.


  • Never “top off” a feeder.  Feeders must be cleaned before refilling.
  • Wash with mild detergent and water or with a solution of bleach and water (1 tablespoon per quart) then rinse thoroughly.
  • Some feeders can be put in the dishwasher for sterilization.
  • Place several grains of rice in a feeder with some water.  Then shake vigorously to clean.
  • Recycle old tooth brushed as feeder scrubbers or purchase a variety of sizes of bristled brushes for cleaning.
  • Wait until you haven’t seen even one hummer for three weeks before taking your feeders down to reduce the risks for late migrants.

 Other Visitors

  • If your feeders are attracting ants, buy dripless feeders, sprinkle ground ginger around the base of your feeder pole, or use an ant moat.  When using a mote, fill it with water and top it off with a thin coat of vegetable oil to reduce evaporation.  Avoid using Vaseline on the hook or hanging wire to prevent ants from climbing onto the feeder.
  • If too many bees, wasps and yellow jackets are being attracted, use bee guards (tiny plastic devices that fit over the feeding holes).  Relocate feeders, or change the mixture to five cups of water for every one cup of sugar.  If your feeders have yellow plastic parts, remove them if possible because bees and wasps are attracted to the color yellow.
  • Hummingbird feeders may attract other visitors that have a sweet tooth such as warblers, woodpeckers, finches, and orioles.  These birds usually coexist peacefully.  However, if orioles – the most common bird to raid hummingbird feeders – become bothersome, get them their own feeder.  Oriole feeders are usually orange instead of red and have larger ports to accommodate their larger beaks.  Orioles are also attracted to oranges and grape jelly.
  • Other visitors may include raccoons and squirrels.  If raccoons become a pest, call your local animal control agency so they may be trapped and relocated.  If squirrel invasion becomes a problem, move your feeder to an open area or use a baffle.