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Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds

Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds

AUBURN, Ala. – Homeowners and bird enthusiasts can find hummingbirds in yards all over the state. Each spring, people enjoy putting out hummingbird feeders as a welcome to these tiny, beautiful creatures. Attracting hummingbirds can be done easily by following a few simple steps. These are sure to convince hummingbirds to be a seasonal visitor to your home.



Ruby-throated hummingbirds are an eastern species of hummingbirds, found across Alabama. The males have ruby-colored throats while females have green-tinted throats. Like all hummingbirds, they entertain people with their acrobatic, precise movements.

Like all birds, they nest and lay eggs, but their nest is smaller and consistent with their body size. Usually, they build their nests on the side of trees with lichens, which are fungi that grows on trees.

Dr. Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said that apple trees are a favorite for hummingbirds.

“Apple trees tend to be a pretty good place because many apple trees have a lot of lichens on them,” Armstrong said.

Attracting Hummingbirds

The best way to make your home attractive to hummingbirds is by setting out a feeder.

“Hummingbirds are a lot of fun to feed because if you put out a feeder, they will show up. It does not take them long to find it,” said Armstrong, who is also an Auburn University forestry and wildlife sciences professor.

Local outdoor supply stores sell hummingbird feeders and feed mixtures, however Armstrong suggests making the feed at home.

“Mix one part table sugar to four parts of warm water. Let the water cool before putting in the feeder,” Armstrong said. “Also, there is no need to put red dye in the mixture. The color of the feeder attracts the birds, not the sugar water.”

Flowers further encourage hummingbirds to visit. Tubular, bright flowers, like trumpet vines, are easy flowers for hummingbirds to get nectar. Hummingbirds also eat insects, which provides protein.

“It’s a lot of fun to feed hummingbirds,” Armstrong said. “It’s a great way to interact with nature. As they use the feeder and become familiar with human activity, they will fly near the house and buzz by your head.”

Feeders Provide Needed Energy

Feeders provide hummingbirds with an additional energy source, which Armstrong said it important to them, especially before their migration to South America in the winter.

“Because of their wingbeat, they burn a tremendous amount of energy. Sugar is direct energy and that is where that sugar intake comes in to play,”said Armstrong. They just have to have a tremendous amount of energy.”

“There are some that will fly the entire Gulf of Mexico without stopping. That is a long flight for a bird that has stubby wings. They are not like vultures, that can glide for miles. They pretty much flap their wings, or they fall.”

Feeder Care and Maintenance

To ensure that hummingbirds will regularly visit feeders during the warmer months, it is important to keep the feeder clean.

During the summer months, Armstrong suggests cleaning and refilling the feeder every four to five days, depending on the environment the feeder is in and how quickly the hummingbirds feed on the sugar water.

He warns of letting the water get cloudy since sugar, water and heat cause fermentation. Putting the feeder in shade can help prevent this.

“I always say it is better to clean them too often than not enough,” Armstrong said. “If you have access to a bottle brush, that’s great. Put soapy water in the feeder and shake it up to clean it. Then pour vinegar to help cut the soap film. Let it dry, and start all over again.”

Sugar water attracts ants to the feeders. Buying or making an ant guard helps prevent ants from invading feeders. The guards rest on top of the feeder and are filled with water. People can find these guards at most outdoor supply stores.

For more information about the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Armstrong suggests reading Cornell University’s bird guide.


Featured Image by Steve Byland/shutterstock.com

Nest Image by Mike Reeves

Feeder Image by Warren Price Photography/shutterstock.com


About Robbie Calk