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Backyard bird identification guide

Backyard bird identification guide

Whether you’re a beginning birder or a seasoned expert, identifying the birds who visit your backyard can sometimes be a challenge. This quick guide-at-a-glance can help you identify the most common backyard birds. Then, take a deep dive into each one to learn more about their distinctive features, how to attract them, how they nest, and more!

 

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Northern Cardinal
Blue Jay
Eastern Bluebird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Baltimore Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Mourning Dove
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Downy Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Pileated Woodpecker
Tree Swallow

 

Northern Cardinal

This fairly large songbird is easily identifiable with its long tail, short thick bright orange beak, prominent crest, and long tail. Measuring between 8.3 and 9.1 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 9.8 to 12.2 inches, the Northern Cardinal is a species with sexual dimorphism meaning the male and female have very distinct coloration. Male cardinals are a brilliant red all over with a black accent on its face directly around the bill.

Female Northern Cardinal (above left) / Male Northern Cardinal (above right).

Click here to learn more about the Northern Cardinal.

Blue Jay

A large-crested songbird with broad, rounded tail, Blue Jays measure on average 9-12 inches from bill to tail with a wingspan of 13-17 inches (smaller than crows and larger than robins). With a white or light gray underneath, various shades of blue above, and a bold black "necklace", the Blue Jay is aptly named and can bring a wonderfully vivid pop of color to your feeders. Its tail and wings are barred with black, and it has a bold white wing bar (a distinct field mark on the top of a bird's wing caused by contrasting colors on the tips of the primary and secondary coverts).

blue jay

Click here to learn more about the Blue Jay.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebirds are small, beautifully colored thrushes. Averaging between 6-8 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 9-12 inches (slightly larger than sparrows but smaller than robins), these blue beauties are fairly easy to identify.  They can often be seen perched in a somewhat "hunched" position on wires or fences in fields and open woodlands. The adult male bluebird has a vibrant blue back, head, and tail that are hard to miss, especially during breeding season. A rust colored accent across the throat and breast above the white belly clearly distinguish the Eastern Bluebird from its Mountain Bluebird relative. Female markings mimic those of the male but in more subdued hues - their "blue" can often look more like a shade of grey.

 eastern bluebirds

Top: Male. Bottom: Female.

Click here to learn more about the Eastern Bluebird.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Beating their wings on average 53 times per second, these quick little birds are a bright emerald green on the back of the head down to the tail. While both male and female have a grey-white underside, only the males have a very distinct ruby red patch on their throat. The shade of red and size of the patch can vary from bird to bird, with the feathers sometimes appearing very dark until catching the light.

male ruby throated hummingbird female ruby throated hummingbird

Left: male. Right: female.

Click here to learn more about the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

These quick little birds are a dull metallic green on the back of the head down to the tail. While both male and female have a grey-white underside, only the males have a very distinct black patch on their throat. The shape and size of the patch can vary from bird to bird, with a thin iridescent purple strip at the base, sometimes unnoticeable until catching the light.

male black chinned hummingbird female black chinned hummingbird

Left: male . Right: female. [Photo credits to: Joan Gellatly | Flickr & ©Marky Mutchler | Macaulay Library]

Click here to learn more about the Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Anna’s Hummingbird

At just under 4 inches in length, Anna's hummingbirds are small in comparison to other birds but in the hummingbird realm they are medium-sized and somewhat stocky. Mostly pale gray on the underside with an iridescent emerald green back, tail, and wings (sometimes also extended around the abdomen), the Anna's hummingbird is distinguishable from the Rufous hummingbird because it lacks any orange or rust-colored markings. While sometimes appearing a dull brown without direct sunlight, the male's face and throat are covered with brilliantly colored fuchsia feathers.

annas hummingbird annas hummingbirds at hummingbird feeder

Left: male. Right: females.

Click here to learn more about the Anna’s Hummingbird.

Baltimore Oriole

Slightly smaller and more slender than an American Robin, Baltimore Orioles range from 6.7 to 7.5 inches in length and feature long legs, a thick neck, and long pointed bills. Adult male Baltimore Orioles have black feathers on their head and wings, bright orange tell-tale plumage on their chest and underside, and a single solid white bar on each wing. Females and immature males are a more muted yellow-orange with grayish shading on the head, and gray wings with two white bars on each wing. 

Female Baltimore Oriole on jelly feeder Male Baltimore Oriole on nectar feeder

Above left: A female Baltimore Oriole on a specialized jelly and orange feeder.

Above right: A male Baltimore Oriole on a specialized feeder offering nectar, jelly, and oranges.

Click here to learn more about the Baltimore Oriole.

Red-winged Blackbird

Roughly the same size as robins, breeding male Red-winged Blackbirds are pretty hard to mistake. Average length beak to tail ranges from 7-9 inches with a wingspan of 12-16 inches. True to their name, these stocky, broad-shouldered blackbirds have bold red and yellow shoulder patches on either side. The females look much different with a streaked brown and tan pattern. Nonbreeding male Red-winged black birds' pattern looks somewhat like a marriage of the two: paler, often incomplete red shoulder patches with some tan streaking showing through the black.

   

Left: Breeding male. Middle: Female. Right: Nonbreeding male.

Click here to learn more about Red-winged Blackbirds.

Mourning Dove

Plump-bodied and long-tailed birds with short legs, Mourning doves range from 9-13.5 inches from beak to tail with a wingspan of around 17.5 inches. These birds have a small bill, short reddish colored legs, and a head that looks small in comparison to the body. Their coloration is typically light grey and brown and generally muted in color with a dusting of larger black spots on their lower wings.

Click here to learn more about the Mourning Dove.

American Goldfinch

This small finch has a short conical bill and a short, notched tail. American Goldfinches are typically 4.5"-5" in length with a wingspan of roughly 7.5"-8.5". During early spring and summer months, breeding males have a vibrant yellow body with a black forehead and black wings with white markings above and beneath the tail. Adult females share the same color pattern but in much more dull tones that may appear more olive or tan in color.

During winter months, these birds are drab, solid olive or light brown with blackish wings and two pale wing bars. In fact, the American Goldfinches are the only finch that molts body feathers twice a year, once in late winter and again in late summer. Spotting a male Goldfinch with brightening yellow feathers in early spring is one of the welcome signs of approaching warmer months!

Left: Male. Right: Female.

Click here to learn more about the American Goldfinch.

House Finch

These small bodied finches have large beaks, shorter wings, and a comparably long slightly notched tail. Roughly 5 to 5.5 inches in length, these streaky grayish-brown finches are dimorphous, with the males distinctly marked by rosy red coloring around the face and upper breast. Coloring can vary from bird to bird as the red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt. This means the more pigment in the food, the redder the male.

house finches

Pictured: Male and female.

Distinguishing between a House Finch and Purple Finch:

Although these two finch species are similar in appearance they can be distinguished quite easily in the field. Both male and female house finches sport a more slender body with a longer tail sporting a shallower notch. The male House Finch's bold coloring is more of a red-orange limited to the face and chest area while the male Purple Finch is a rosier, pink-red coloring that extends past the face and down the back. The female House Finch have a more blurred streaking pattern in the brown and tan feathers on their flanks and also a plainer face. In comparison, the female Purple Finch is coarsely streaked below and has a pronounced darker brown line down the side of the throat and a whitish eyebrow. 

When identifying between similar species it is also important to note the location and time of year. While these two species do have territory overlap, Purple Finches are typically only found in the United States during non-breeding months with the exception of the Western cost and most northeastern states whereas the House Finch is found throughout most of the United States year-round. 

male purple finch and male house finch

Left: breeding male Purple Finch. Right: breeding male House Finch. Photo courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

female purple finch and female house finch

Left: female/immature Purple Finch. Right: female/immature House Finch. Photo courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Click here to learn more about the House Finch.

Downy Woodpecker

Ranging from 5.5 to 6.7 inches in length and featuring a straight, chisel-like bill, blocky head, and wide shoulders, the Downy Woodpecker is a small version of the standard woodpecker build. Compared to other woodpeckers, the Downy Woodpecker's bill is significantly smaller in relation to its head, however it is still a forceful tool for extracting insects from trees. Sporting a black and white checkered appearance, both males and females have a white underside, black upper wing and checkered lower wings with a boldly striped face and white stripe down the center of the back. The center of the tail is black, outlined by white border feathers that are typically lightly speckled with black spots. Males are easily differentiated by a bold red patch on the back of their heads.

female downy woodpecker on a tree male downy woodpecker on a tree

Left: Female Downy Woodpecker. Right: Male Downy Woodpecker

Distinguishing between a Downy and Hairy Woodpecker:

Downy Woodpeckers are roughly two-thirds the size of Hairy Woodpeckers. Since this can be fairly hard to establish in the field, some birders use their feeders as indicator of size and scale. Another establishing feature of the Downy Woodpecker are distinguishable black bars on the white tail feathers in contrast to the all white side tail feathers of the Hairy Woodpecker. If the bird's bill is visible, the major difference in bill size. The Downy’s bill is roughly one-third the length of the bird’s head, while the Hairy’s bill is almost as long as the its head - a railroad spike in comparison. An additional, less reliable distinguishing feature is that the male Hairy Woodpecker's red patch is often split in two, while the Downy’s is not.

Hairy and Downy Woodpecker comparison image

Left: Hairy Woodpecker. Right: Downy Woodpecker. Illustrations from the book "A Field Guide to the birds" by Roger Tory Peterson.

Click here to learn more about the Downy Woodpecker.

Black-capped Chickadee

This tiny bird has a short neck and a large head, giving it a distinctive round body shape. Chickadees measure 4.5-6 inches from beak to tail on average with a wingspan of 6-8 inches. With a gray back and white belly, these birds have a very distinct black cap and "beard" accented by white cheeks, helping make them fairly easy to identify.

Click here to learn more about the Black-capped Chickadee.

Tufted Titmouse

This small songbird has soft silvery gray feathers above and white feathers below. A black patch just above the beak and a rusty or peach-colored wash underneath the wings are helpful identifiers. Tufted Titmice are roughly 5.5"-6.3" from beak tip to tail with a wingspan of 7.9"-10.2". These birds are regular visitors to bird feeders, and can be a treat to watch, the tuft of feathers at the front of its head communicating much of its emotions and "attitude".

Click here to learn more about the Tufted Titmouse.

White-breasted Nuthatch

The largest of the nuthatches, the White-breasted nuthatch is still a small bird averaging 5" to 5.5" in length with a wingspan ranging from 8"-10.5". With gray-blue coloring on the back, a white face, and white underparts this bird features a very short tail. Typical of most nuthatches, the White-breasted nuthatch has a large head and almost no neck. Its long, narrow bill is straight or sometimes slightly upturned. Males feature a black cap that runs from the beak down the back of the neck (on females this cap is dark gray). Most commonly found in woods and woodland edges of deciduous forests, these agile birds can often be seen creeping along tree trunks and large branches, often turned sideways and upside-down on vertical surfaces as they forage.

Click here to learn more about the White-breasted Nuthatch.

Pileated Woodpecker

This large woodpecker has a long neck, a distinctive triangular red crest that sweeps off the back of the head, and a long chisel-like bill. Average length from beak to tail ranges from 16-19 inches and the wingspan can be as large as 26-29 inches. Both male and female have black bodies with white stripes on the face and neck. Males can be distinguished by the red stripe on the cheek.

Pictured: Male

Click here to learn more about the Pileated Woodpecker.

Tree Swallow

These small, streamlined songbirds have a short slightly notched tail and long pointed wings. Measuring between 4.7 and 5.9 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 11.8 to 13.8 inches, these iridescent passerine are known for their aerial displays while foraging insects midair. Adult males have white undersides cloaked with shimmering blue-green feathers on their head and back with blackish wings and tail and a thin black eye mask. Females appearance varies only in the intensity of blue, with their feathers being somewhat duller at times with more brown feathers in their upperparts.

Click here to learn more about the Tree Swallow.

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10 plants that attract hummingbirds

10 plants that attract hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are one of the backyard birder’s most coveted visitors! With their brilliant plumage and dazzling flight patterns, it’s no wonder that we try our hardest to attract more hummingbirds to our yards every year. Besides putting up a hummingbird feeder and using homemade nectar, another way to appeal to hummingbirds is to plant their favorite flowers in a garden, hanging basket, or container around your home.

Two important notes: 1) If you’ll be planting native perennials or annuals, be sure to check your hardiness zone! Native plants are great for your garden because they attract native insects, don’t need artificial fertilizers or pesticides, and are preferred by birds and other wildlife. 2) If you plant seed-bearing plants, don’t prune them back at the end of the season to attract even more wild birds. Non-migratory birds love to eat the seeds from the spent flowers, especially in the wintertime when other food sources are scarce.

Try filling your garden with a few of these beautiful blooms to bring more hummingbirds to your home this season!

 

  1. Bee balm

bee balm

Bee balm is one of the hummingbirds’ favorite flowers! This tubular perennial is easy to care for and gives off a fresh minty aroma. Blooms occur in mid-summer, and you can stimulate a second flowering by deadheading the flower buds immediately after they’ve finished blooming to give the hummingbirds some extra nectar as they prepare for fall migration.

Plant type

Perennial

Hardiness zones

4-9

Sun exposure

Full, partial

Bloom time

Summer

 

  1. Columbine

columbine

Columbine is the perfect plant to attract the first hummingbirds of season! Its nectar-filled spurs attract a variety of pollinators and coincides with the return of migratory hummingbirds around May. If columbine is on your list, make sure you plant it early to take full advantage of its spring blooms!

Plant type

Perennial

Hardiness zones

3-8

Sun exposure

Full, partial

Bloom time

Spring to summer

 

  1. Petunia

petunia

Petunias produce a sugary nectar that hummingbirds love. Their vast color variety makes them an attractive choice to add color to your garden, hanging baskets, or containers. Place them near your hummingbird feeder for best chance of hummingbird sightings!

Plant type

Annual

Hardiness zones

10-11

Sun exposure

Full

Bloom time

Spring to fall

 

  1. Zinnia

zinnias with hummingbird

Zinnias are a great choice for adding colorful blooms to your summer garden and are well-loved by hummingbirds. As a bonus, each zinnia head is packed with seeds which are a favorite of finches!

Plant type

Annual

Hardiness zones

2-8

Sun exposure

Full

Bloom time

Spring to fall

 

  1. Butterfly bush

butterfly bush

The flowers from the butterfly bush not only attract butterflies but are especially attractive to hummingbirds because of their high nectar count. These hardy bushes come in a variety of colors that are sure to bring bright blooms and hummingbirds to your garden. Look for the gorgeous tri-color variant for even more bursts of color!

Plant type

Perennial

Hardiness zones

5-9

Sun exposure

Full

Bloom time

Summer to fall

 

  1. Salvia

red salvia

This drought-loving perennial is the perfect choice for warmer, dry climates. Hummingbirds love the tubular shape of its flowers and the sweet nectar insides. If you reside in a cooler climate, you can still plant salvia as an annual in the summertime after the first frost, or choose a variety that works well for your hardiness zone.

Plant type

Perennial

Hardiness zones

10-11

Sun exposure

Full, partial

Bloom time

Summer to fall

 

  1. Penstemon (Beardtongue)

penstemon beardtongue

Penstemon, or desert beardtongue, thrives in hot, sunny, dry climates. This springtime bloomer brings much-needed nectar to hummingbirds early in the season as they migrate north. Ranging in color from pinks and reds to purples, hummingbirds love the tubular shape of the flowers, making penstemon a great addition to a drought tolerant garden.

Plant type

Perennial

Hardiness zones

3-8

Sun exposure

Full

Bloom time

Spring to summer

 

  1. Hummingbird mint (Agastache)

hummingbird mint

What’s not to love about hummingbird mint? As the name suggests, hummingbirds are attracted to the brightly colored flowers, high nectar count, and tubular flower shape of the hummingbird mint plant. An added bonus: this hardy perennial detracts unwanted garden pests like rabbits and deer!

Plant type

Perennial

Hardiness zones

3-10

Sun exposure

Full

Bloom time

Summer

 

  1. Delphinium (larkspur)

delphinium larkspur

Delphinium is a versatile plant that can be used as an annual or perennial in containers and gardens. Its tall blooms both attract hummingbirds and detract deer, rabbits, and groundhogs, making it a great option for gardeners with an eye on pests. Typically available in purple, blue, or white, delphinium also comes in a dwarf variety that requires less maintenance.

Plant type

Perennial

Hardiness zones

3-7

Sun exposure

Full

Bloom time

Summer to fall

 

  1. Trumpet honeysuckle

trumpet honeysuckle

Trumpet honeysuckle is an attractive vine that is favored by hummingbirds due to its bright and tubular-shaped flowers. Be aware that this vine has a tendency to spread quickly, so regular pruning is required to keep it in the location you desire. This showy perennial is best grown in dry, arid climates where it’s less likely to spread.

Plant type

Perennial

Hardiness zones

4-11

Sun exposure

Full, partial

Bloom time

Spring to summer

 

 

These 10 plants provide a good basis for a hummingbird and pollinator garden. To find more plant options that are native to your area, you can search Audubon's native plants database or take a look at the Pollinator Partnership planting guides. And check out these 12 plants to attract even more wild birds to your yard!

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How to attract orioles

How to attract orioles

Boasting one of the biggest sweet tooths (or beaks) of all the backyard birds, whether it’s the Baltimore, Bullock’s, Hooded, or Orchard species, their bright orange, yellow, and black plumage bring dazzling color to our backyards every year. So how can you attract the oriole to your yard? With just a few supplies and our simple tips and tricks, you’ll be ready to catch a glimpse of the elegant oriole this season!

baltimore oriole standing on orange slice

Put up an oriole feeder

Known as one of the more skittish backyard birds, orioles are often heard more than seen as they typically forage high in trees for insects, flowers, and fruit. But you can be successful in attracting them to your backyard with a bird feeder.

One of the simplest ways to attract orioles to your yard is to put up an oriole feeder filled with fresh fruit, jelly, or homemade nectar. Oriole feeders have dishes for jelly or nectar and spikes to easily feed oranges and fruit slices. Since orioles can’t hover like hummingbirds, they need built-in perches to land on and feed for a longer period of time. Since feed like fruit and jelly can spoil quickly, orioles feeders can also have protective baffles that shield the feeder and its contents from the weather.

One downside to offering such sweet treats in your feeder is that they can attract unwanted pests like bees or ants. Typically, if the pests don’t have access to the nectar or fruit, they should eventually move on from the feeder to a more rewarding source. Here are some additional tips to help keep bees and ants off your oriole feeder:

  • Keep it clean: Make sure there is no exposed nectar on or around the outside of your feeder and thoroughly clean it with warm soapy water every 4-5 days at minimum.
  • Change it up: Periodically move your feeder. Birds will usually look around and find a relocated feeder, but insects will not.
  • Get in the shade: If the feeder is currently in the sun, try moving it to a more shaded area.
  • Use bee guards: Some oriole feeders come with removable bee guards. Simply slip the guard over the base of the feeding port to prevent bees from reaching the nectar.
  • Use an ant moat: Some oriole feeders have built-in ant moats, which trap ants in a small cup of water before they have the opportunity to reach the feeder. If your feeder does not come with an ant moat, you may choose to purchase one separately. Be sure to keep it full of water! If the weather is particularly hot and the water is evaporating quickly, check it regularly to prevent it from sitting empty.
  • Try fishing line: You may try hanging your feeder using fishing line, as it is very difficult for ants to climb. Keep in mind this may not be feasible for heavier feeders.

Try these oriole feeders:

What do orioles like to eat?
Orioles love fruit slices, particularly oranges, apples, peaches, berries, and bananas. As far as jellies or jams, birders have tried several varieties, but orioles seem to prefer plain grape jelly. Look for a natural grape jelly that doesn’t contain high-fructose syrup. Orioles will drink hummingbird nectar, but providing them with a slightly less sweet concentration made specifically for orioles is preferable and more natural to what they typically like. No matter what fruit or nectar you offer in your oriole feeder, always make sure it’s fresh!

Besides the sweet stuff, orioles eat a wide range of insects, like mealworms, caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers, and more, giving them the protein they need to round out their diet.

Make your own homemade oriole nectar

The formula for oriole nectar is simple: about one part white granulated sugar to six parts water. This specific sugar concentration best mirrors the sugar concentration naturally found in flowers or sap preferred by orioles. The natural sugars found in flower nectar are primarily sucrose, like that of white granulated sugar.

Boil the water for approximately two minutes, add the sugar, and stir to dissolve thoroughly. Cover and allow to cool before using or pouring into a clean storage bottle. A large batch of nectar can be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. This makes refilling the feeder easy, so you won't mind doing it every few days.

Additional suggestions:

  • We do NOT recommend adding red food dye or any coloring, whether artificial or natural, to the nectar.
  • Make sure to thoroughly clean your feeders before the first use of the season and before each subsequent refill.
  • We only recommend using regular white granulated sugar in nectar preparation.
  • Do NOT use honey. Honey is comprised primarily of fructose and glucose and therefore birds digest this much less efficiently. Also, fermentation and mold growth occurs much more rapidly in nectar solutions using honey than those from granulated sugar.
  • Do NOT use artificial sweeteners! Remember, these sweeteners contain no calories, which means they provide no energy to birds.

Place your feeder in the right location

The location of your bird feeder should make the orioles feel safe and at home. Orioles are likely to feed more comfortably when near natural cover like trees, shrubs, or other vegetation. This provides shelter for them to view their feeding area so they can see any predators while waiting for their turn to feed.

To help prevent fatal window collisions, feeders should be hung or mounted closer than 3 feet or farther than 15 feet from a window.

Since orioles exhibit more shy behavior than other birds, try to keep your oriole feeder away from locations where there is frequent human activity since this can scare them off.

oriole on feeder

Set up a bird bath

Orioles will look for shallow, moving water to clean and bathe in. Providing a consistent source of clean and fresh water from a bird bath, fountain or a shallow pond will help keep them cool and hydrated in the heat of the summer months. Try setting up a shallow bird bath and add a bubbler, dripper, or mister to give the orioles the movement they’re looking for.

It’s important to keep your water source clean and change the water often to prevent bacteria from forming and spreading amongst the birds. Try to place your water source in the shade to keep it from drying out and getting too hot in the sun. If your water source is stagnant, you can add a fountain to keep the water moving and prevent it from becoming dirty quickly.

When do orioles come to feeders?

Most orioles are migratory birds, meaning they leave and return from a specific area seasonally. As they return from migration and end up in their ultimate destination, they will remember the source of their first meals - oftentimes coming back to the same feeders repeatedly. For the best chance of orioles coming to your feeders, it is recommended to have them up and ready about two weeks before they return from their winter migration. It’s most common to set them out sometime between mid-April and mid-May to catch the first migrants. Be sure to research the migratory pattern of orioles in your area to determine the right time to have your oriole feeder ready.

How to identify orioles

The most common species of oriole in North America are the Baltimore, Bullock’s, Hooded, and Orchard oriole. The species of oriole that will come to your backyard depends solely on your location, but the bright orange, yellow, and black plumage on the oriole is hard to mistake! Look at each of the different types picture below and take note of the size and pattern to help you identify which oriole is visiting your yard.

1. Baltimore Oriole

baltimore oriole on oriole feeder

2. Bullock’s Oriole

bullocks oriole

3. Hooded Oriole

hooded oriole on mason jar feeder

4. Orchard Oriole

orchard oriole

Read more →

12 plants that attract wild birds

12 plants that attract wild birds

Looking for more ways to make your yard an oasis for birds and wildlife? With the right plants, you can provide seeds, nectar, insects, nesting materials, and shelter for your backyard birds all season long!

Two important notes: 1) Select plants that are native to your area. These plants will attract native insects, don’t need artificial fertilizers or pesticides, and are preferred by birds and other wildlife. 2) For seed-bearing plants, don’t prune them back at the end of the season. Non-migratory birds love to eat the seeds from the spent flowers, especially in the wintertime when other food sources are scarce.

Try planting a few of these flowers, bushes, and trees that not only bring colorful foliage and blooms to your yard but will attract a wide variety of wild birds!

  1. Sunflower

sunflower chickadee

One of the most broadly loved seed-providing flowers is the sunflower. But not all types of sunflower will produce edible seed for wild birds. Look for the Mammoth Grey Stripe, Paul Bunyan, or Aztec Gold varieties when planting sunflowers to attract birds.

Attracts: Cardinals, Hummingbirds, Orioles, Finches, Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Grosbeaks, Woodpeckers

  1. Red Mulberry Tree

red mulberry

The red mulberry tree produces blackberry-like fruits that provide plentiful amounts of vitamins, iron, and antioxidants. The leaves also attract insects that some wild birds eat to round out their diets, like silkworms.

Attracts: Cardinals, Hummingbirds, Orioles, Jays, Grosbeaks, Finches, Bluebirds, Woodpeckers

  1. American Elderberry

elderberry

The American Elderberry is a handsome shrub that produces both bright white flowers and small, dark berries. Elderberry flowers bloom in the spring, which brings insects that attract omnivorous wild birds. And in the fall, the bush provides dark and delicious berries that many birds love.

Attracts: Cardinals, Bluebirds, Finches, Titmice, Grosbeaks, Orioles

  1. Aster

aster flower

The aster flower makes a perfect addition to any autumn garden! This late-blooming star-shaped flower blooms in purple, white, and blue and will attract beneficial pollinators with their nectar. The seed heads are a favorite for many types of songbirds.

Attracts: Cardinals, Finches, Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches

  1. Coneflower

coneflower

The perennial coneflower attracts a wide variety of native pollinators who feed on the sweet nectar inside. Once the flowers are done blooming, don’t prune them. Birds love to eat the seeds from the spent flowers, especially in the wintertime when other food sources are scarce.

Attracts: Cardinals, Finches, Chickadees, Jays

  1. Serviceberry Tree (Juneberry)

serviceberry

In the springtime, the serviceberry tree booms with beautiful snowy white flowers which attract insects that attract wild birds. By early summer, the tree produces purple and red berries which are nutrient-dense and appeal to a wide variety of birds.

Attracts: Hummingbirds, Orioles, Grosbeaks, Bluebirds, Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Grosbeaks

  1. Sumac

sumac

Besides providing stunning orange, red, and burgundy foliage in the fall, the sumac shrub produces flower clusters and berries that last from late summer through the winter.

Attracts: Titmice, Chickadees, Jays, Nuthatches, Finches, Jays, Woodpeckers, Cardinals

  1. Zinnias

zinnias hummingbird

Zinnias are a great choice for adding colorful blooms to your summer garden and are well-loved by hummingbirds. Each zinnia head is packed with seeds, which are a favorite of finches!

Attracts: Hummingbirds, Finches

  1. Virginia Creeper

virginia creeper

The virginia creeper is a climbing vine that boasts bold green leaves in the summer that turn flaming red orange in the fall. In autumn, it produces clusters of dark berries that resemble grapes, and although irritating to humans if consumed, many species of birds enjoy the fruit.

Attracts: Bluebirds, Grosbeaks, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Jays, Bluebirds

  1. Blazing Star

blazing star

Blooming in beautiful pink and purple clusters in the late summer months, the blazing star flower attracts insects and provides seeds, which both attract wild birds like titmice, chickadees, and finches.

Attracts: Titmice, Chickadees, Finches

  1. Goldenrod

goldenrod

Whether you consider it a wildflower or a weed, there’s no debate that goldenrod is a valuable source of nectar, insects, and seeds for birds and other wildlife. Blooming from August to October, this perennial can continue to provide cover and seeds for birds throughout the winter.

Attracts: Titmice, Chickadees, Finches, Wrens, Juncos,

  1. Black-eyed Susan

black eyed susan

An early summer bloomer, black-eyed susan will attract a myriad of insects that are favored by insectivorous birds. The seed heads also provide tiny dark seeds which attract a variety of wild bird species.

Attracts: Nuthatches, Grosbeaks, Finches, Chickadees, Cardinals

 

These 12 plants provide a good basis for a bird-friendly yard and garden. To find more plant options that are native to your area, you can search Audubon's native plants database or take a look at the Pollinator Partnership planting guides.

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Winter bird feeding guide

Winter bird feeding guide

With migratory birds departed to warmer regions, it’s a common misconception that there are fewer birds to enjoy in the winter months. On the contrary, winter is the one of the most beneficial seasons to feed wild birds! Since resources like insects, nuts and fruit become scarce, even birds who wouldn’t normally frequent bird feeders may come to your backyard if you offer them food, shelter, and water. Check out our top tips for winter bird feeding and set yourself up for a successful and enjoyable birding season!

nature's way cedar hopper bird feeder

Feeding tips

Best seed and feed types

Suet: Suet is the purest and hardest piece of fat found on an animal. Packed with protein and nutrition, suet is a quick source of heat and energy for many birds including Woodpeckers, Titmice, Chickadees and Nuthatches. Also, many birds that eat insects to round out their diets will eat suet in the winter months to fill the void when the insects they typically feed on are not plentiful.

Black oil sunflower seed: One of the most popular seed types amongst backyard birds is black oil sunflower seed. These large, thick seeds have a high-oil content and are loaded with protein, fiber, calcium, and more nutrient rich contents.

Peanuts: Dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts are a high-energy food enjoyed by a wide variety of birds including Woodpeckers, Titmice, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Jays and more. They are high in both protein and fat, making them a great fuel for birds in winter.

Fresh and dried fruits: When fresh fruits become sparse in the winter, you can offer apple slices, berries, grapes, or even fruit rinds in a platform or suet feeder for the birds to munch on. Dried fruits like cherries, raisins, and cranberries remain high in fiber which is converted into energy. These fresh and dried fruits will attract Chickadees, Jays, Finches, Cardinals, Titmice, but be aware that offering this type of treat may attract unwanted wildlife, including raccoons, squirrels, and opossums. To deter them, try not to overfill your feeders, bring them inside at night, and make sure to keep them clean.

Best bird feeder types

Suet bird feeders: A suet feeder is a must-have for any winter birder! To accommodate larger birds like woodpeckers, some suet feeders are elongated into a tail-prop design, allowing them to balance their body weight by placing their tail against the feeder. Other suet feeders expose the suet at the bottom, making the contents inside less susceptible to incoming weather. These upside-down feeders also help deter nuisance birds like Starlings and Grackles who are most comfortable feeding upright.

Tube bird feeders: A strong and durable tube feeder is a great choice for feeding sunflower or Nyjer seed (using thistle inserts). The long, slim cylinder keeps the seed out of the elements while multiple feeding ports allow for many birds to feed at once. To make refilling easier, choose a high-capacity tube feeder with a wide and funneled opening to minimize the time spent outdoors in the chilly weather!

Hopper bird feeders: A high-capacity hopper bird feeder can hold a lot of seed (up to 6 quarts!) at once, making it a good choice to feed lots of birds with minimal refilling. Some hopper feeders also come with suet cages attached on either side, allowing multiple feed options in one to attract an even wider variety of winter birds.

Squirrel-proof bird feeders: Squirrels are an ever-present pest at bird feeders no matter the time of year, but especially in the winter when other food sources are scarce. A sturdy squirrel-proof feeder can help deter these unwanted feeder visitors by using a variety of mechanisms to deter feeder pests, including built-in roof baffles, weight-sensitive outer tubes and spring-loaded perches.

 

 

More feeding tips

Add more bird feeders: To increase bird traffic to your yard, consider increasing the number of bird feeders, as well as feeder styles, to provide the birds with a consistent food source of their liking. Not all bird species eat seeds, so adding feeders that accommodate suet, dried fruit or nuts will cater to a wider variety of birds.

Choose the right location: The location of your bird feeders should make the birds feel safe and at home. Birds are likely to feed more comfortably when near natural cover like trees, shrubs, or other vegetation. This provides shelter for birds to view their feeding area so they can see any predators while waiting for their turn to feed. Remember to keep the feeders roughly 10-12 feet from any tree or obstacle to deter unwanted pests from reaching the seed. To help prevent fatal window collisions, feeders should be hung or mounted closer than 3 feet or farther than 15 feet from a window.

Use a baffle: To protect the seeds and birds from incoming weather, use a baffle when hanging your bird feeder. A baffle can also help deter unwanted pests from accessing your bird feeders.

Keep them clean: Even in the colder winter months, it’s important to clean your bird feeders on a regular basis to prevent the buildup of bacteria that can cause disease. Feeders can sometimes be even busier during the winter months with the influx of migrating birds and as inclement weather makes other natural food sources harder to come by.

Provide water

When freezing temperatures hit, locating fresh water can become difficult for wild birds. Providing a consistent source of clean and fresh water from a bird bath or fountain will keep your backyard birds hydrated in the cold winter months.

Don’t let it freeze: If your water source is stagnant, consider adding a fountain or a heater to keep the water moving. Place it in a location that receives full sun to help prevent the water from freezing too quickly. Keeping your bird bath full will help slow down the freezing process. A shallow bird bath can become frozen very quickly.

Keep it clean: It’s important to keep your water source clean and change the water often to prevent bacteria from forming and spreading amongst the birds.

Set up shelters

While birds and critters have many ways to keep warm in the winter, they still seek protection from storms, wind, and extreme temperatures. To help protect birds in inclement weather, make sure your yard has adequate shelters for birds to take cover or spend the night.

Birdhouses: While birds won’t use the houses to nest during the winter, they will take cover inside a birdhouse or roost box. Birdhouses are traditionally used for nesting and raising young in the spring and summer and are designed with air vents to promote air flow through the house. If you don’t own a roost box, you may choose to add some insulating material to your birdhouse, such as wood chips or straw, to help make the house a little warmer for visiting birds. Just make sure you clean it out in the early spring!

 

Natural shelters: The best place for birds to take shelter in the winter is in bushes, dense vegetation, or trees. But if your yard is lacking in plants and trees, you can set up some natural shelters using other materials. Have some leftover corn stalks or hay bales from fall decorations? How about your holiday tree? Gather up any natural materials in your yard and place them in a pile for the birds to use.

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How to prepare for fall migration

How to prepare for fall migration

As fall draws nearer, migratory birds will set out on their journey to find locations with better resources through the winter. With the right preparations and resources, fall migration can be an exciting time to watch and learn about new birds passing through your backyard!

Get your bird feeders ready

While the birds travel to their winter destinations, they’ll be making stops along the way to refuel and rest. Since your feeders may be hosting more visits from travelers who are new to your backyard, it’s important to keep your bird feeders clean to avoid spreading diseases among birds. During fall migration, increase the frequency of your feeder cleanings to keep your backyard flocks healthy.

To appeal to the widest variety of birds, try filling your seed feeders with black oil sunflower seeds. This high-energy seed provides lots of nutrition and calories and is ideal for migratory birds making long journeys. High capacity bird feeders like tube, hopper and platform are great options for feeding black oil sunflower seed.

goldfinches at nature's way tube feeder

If you live in an area with migrating hummingbirds, continue to keep your hummingbird feeders stocked with homemade nectar for about two weeks after your see your last hummingbirds. This will ensure that you’re able to feed any latecomers on their way south.

Provide water

In addition to their daily search for food, migrating birds will also be on the lookout for fresh water. Provide a source of clean and fresh water from a bird bath, fountain or a shallow pond. It’s important to keep your water source clean and change the water often to prevent bacteria from forming and spreading amongst the birds. If your water source is stagnant, you can add a fountain to keep the water moving and prevent it from becoming dirty quickly.

Migration alerts

To help you make the most of this exciting time of year, follow the local bird migration alerts from BirdCast to find out whether birds will be passing overhead near your city tonight! BirdCast provides live and local bird migration alerts throughout the continental US by employing real-time analysis of bird migration traffic as detected by radar. You can also take a look at their bird migration forecast maps and live bird migration maps to see predicted and real-time intensities of actual nocturnal bird migration based on weather surveillance and historical bird movements.

birdcast migration map

Identify your new feathered friends

Since you’ll be seeing some new faces around your feeders, get ready to identify them with these recommended resources:

  • Merlin Bird ID app: Answer three simple questions about a bird you are trying to identify and Merlin will give you a list of possible matches. Merlin offers quick identification help for all levels of bird watchers to help you learn about the birds across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
  • National Geographic Field Guide: This fully revised edition of the best-selling North American bird field guide is the most up-to-date guide on the market. Perfect for beginning to advanced birders, it is the only book organized to match the latest American Ornithological Society taxonomy.
  • State-specific field guides: Author, naturalist and wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela is the originator of the popular state-specific field guide series and many easy-to-use identification guides for the U.S.
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Summer backyard birding tips

Summer backyard birding tips

As nesting season comes to an end and alternative food sources are in abundance, you may see less activity at your bird feeders in the heat of the summer months. But don’t let this discourage you from birding! The birds are still present in your backyard, laying low as they begin to prepare for fall migration. Continue to provide your backyard birds with food, water and shelter and make the most out of summer birding with these tips!

Don’t stop feeding the birds

With insects, fruit, and seeding plants providing plenty of nutrition for a bird’s summer diet, they may find it less necessary to visit a bird feeder. But even if you don’t see as much activity at your feeders, keeping them full throughout the entire season gives the birds a consistent source of nourishment and may make them more likely return throughout the year or even next season. Keep your feeders stocked, cleaned, and if possible, in the shade to keep the seed or nectar fresh longer and to provide a cool and comfortable place for the birds to feed. If feeding suet, choose a no-melt variety that will keep longer when exposed to hot temperatures.

birds feeding from farmhouse vertical hopper bird feeder

Plant bird-friendly vegetation

To attract more birds to your backyard, consider adding bird-friendly native vegetation to your landscape. The additional nutrition from the fruit, seeds, nectar and insects who inhabit the plant will keep the birds coming back to your yard. Here are 12 plants that attract wild birds and 10 plants that attract hummingbirds. Now, get planting!

Note: It is advised to avoid the use of pesticides on plants since they could eliminate beneficial insects that can improve the health of the plants. Consider adding a beneficial insect house near your plants as a chemical-free alternative.

Provide fresh water

All birds drink water and need to bathe regularly to keep their feathers clean. Providing a consistent source of clean and fresh water from a bird bath, fountain or a shallow pond will keep your backyard birds cool and hydrated in the heat of the summer.

It’s important to keep your water source clean and change the water often to prevent bacteria from forming and spreading amongst the birds. Try to place your water source in the shade to keep it from drying out and getting too hot in the sun. If your water source is stagnant, you can add a fountain to keep the water moving and prevent it from becoming dirty quickly.

Provide nesting sites

In addition to setting up bird feeders, another way to attract birds to your yard is to provide adequate nesting sites like birdhouses, bushes, dense vegetation, or tall trees. If birds have their nest close by, they will still be present in and around your yard even if they don’t visit your bird feeders.

two bluebirds on nature's way bluebird house

Become an early birder

As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm! To beat the summer heat, birds forage and visit feeders in the early morning hours so they don’t have to expend as much energy staying cool. Try waking up with the birds and watching for increased activity.

 

As always, be patient and don’t be afraid to try something new to get the most enjoyment out of summer birding season!

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How to create a bird feeding station

How to create a bird feeding station

Designed to attract a wide variety and volume of birds year-round, a bird feeding station is the ultimate one-stop shop for your backyard birds. It can become an attractive part of your landscape that provides the birds with nutrition, shade, and a safe environment. Follow these steps to choose the right location and learn about what basic elements should be included in a bird feeding station.

bird feeding station

1.    Choose a location

Whether it’s in an existing landscape or a whole new area you’ll be creating for your bird feeding station, think about where you spend your time both indoors and out. Walk around inside your house and position yourself in the spots you spend the most time in. You’ll want to choose a location where you can easily view your birding station through a window to get the most enjoyment out of it. If you plan to keep up your bird feeding station throughout the winter months, you may want to choose a location that you won’t mind navigating to in undesirable weather.

Above all else, the location of your bird feeding station should make the birds feel safe and at home. Birds are likely to feed more comfortably when near natural cover like trees, shrubs, or other vegetation. This provides shelter for birds to view their feeding area so they can see any predators while waiting for their turn to feed. Remember to keep the feeders roughly 10-12 feet from any tree or obstacle to deter unwanted pests from reaching the seed. To help prevent fatal window collisions, feeders should be hung or mounted closer than 3 feet or farther than 15 feet from a window.

2.    Install a hanging method

Wherever you decide to hang your bird feeders, it’s important to choose a hanging method that is durable and sturdy. There are an abundance of decorative and simple types of yard poles and hooks available, from a traditional shepherd’s hook to a completely customizable and adjustable hook and display system like the AdjustaPole Yard Kit. You may choose to install several hooks of varying heights for visual interest. Or you could make it a statement area with a pergola or decorative trellis with hooks and spaces for feeders to be hung.

If you’ll be placing your bird feeder in an area with lots of squirrel activity, a pole baffle can be used to prevent squirrels or other pests from climbing up a pole or jumping down onto the feeders from above.

Note: We do not recommend hanging bird feeders from tree branches as this can give squirrels and pests easy access to the feeder content.

3.    Select your bird feeders

Now comes the fun part – adding your feeders! Consider which birds you want to try and attract to your bird feeding station. Platform, tube and hopper bird feeders can accommodate several different seed types and will attract a wide variety of birds, while specialty feeders like hummingbird, Oriole and Bluebird are made to attract more specific bird types. And don’t forget about suet feeders! Suet is a great high energy option to offer the birds in the winter months but can also be fed throughout the year to attract woodpeckers and other birds. If squirrels are a known issue in your yard, you could consider putting up squirrel proof feeders to help deter them.

Be sure to choose feeders with features that will make it easy for you to keep clean and is safe, comfortable and healthy for the birds. For more help finding the right bird feeders for your yard, take a look at our bird feeder guide.

4.    Provide a water source

The secret ingredient to any bird feeding station is a fresh source of water. All birds drink water and need to bathe regularly to keep their feathers clean. Providing a consistent source of clean and fresh water from a bird bath, fountain or a shallow pond will keep your backyard birds happy so they return regularly. Plus, even birds who don’t typically eat from bird feeders do need a water source which will increase the variety of birds who visit your bird feeding station. It’s important to keep your water source clean and change the water often to prevent bacteria from forming and spreading amongst the birds. If your water source is stagnant, you can add a fountain to keep the water moving and prevent it from becoming dirty quickly.

5.    Plant the right plants

Depending on the feeders you choose and the type of birds you’re trying to attract, try to plant a few complementary native plants near your birding station. Native plants can provide the birds with additional nutrition from fruit, seeds, nectar and insects who inhabit the plant. Birds are more comfortable feeding when they have shelter or a quick hiding place nearby. Do some research on the birds in your area and find out which flowers, bushes and trees they prefer and add some color to your bird feeding station! 

Note: It is advised to avoid the use of pesticides on plants since they could eliminate beneficial insects that can improve the health of the plants. Consider adding a beneficial insect house near your birding station as a chemical-free alternative.

6.    Maintain it

Carrying and pouring big heavy bags of bird seed without spilling can be challenging. A bag clip like the Handle-it bag clip can help you transport small and large bags of bird seed from your garage or shed to multiple feeders with ease. The seed can be stored right inside the bag with the secure latching system and screw cap so you don’t have to worry about it spilling or spoiling.

No matter what type of feeders or seeds you provide, routine cleaning of your bird feeding station is an essential step to keep your backyard flocks healthy and avoid spreading diseases among birds. With feeding the birds comes some unavoidable mess like droppings, shelled seed and feathers. Keep the birds happy and healthy by regularly cleaning your feeders, keeping your water sources fresh and tidying up the area.

Some bird feeders and their parts are dishwasher safe and can be placed on the top rack after disassembling. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations before placing any feeder parts into your dishwasher. To wash by hand, typically all you’ll need is unscented dish detergent, a scrubbing brush or sponge and warm water. Take a look at our bird feeder cleaning instructions for further information on why and how often to clean your bird feeders.

Stagnant bird baths can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and microorganisms that can spread amongst your backyard birds. Don’t forget to clean and change out your water source on a regular basis whether it’s a bird bath, fountain or shallow dish.

The final step

Enjoy it! If you’ve set up your bird feeding station according to the steps described here, you’ll soon be having birds flock to it year-round. Be sure to have your camera, binoculars and checklists ready to record how many types of visitors you can see in your backyard!

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What colors are hummingbirds attracted to?

What colors are hummingbirds attracted to?

With their iridescent feathers and shimmering wings, hummingbirds bring quick bursts of color into our backyards! Many of us look for brightly colored flowers and feeders when trying to attract hummingbirds. Color can help birds remember food sources, signal danger and even find a mate. But what colors are hummingbirds actually attracted to?

Seeing red

As you look for an attractive hummingbird feeder, chances are you’ll find an abundance of red, red and more red! Why do hummingbirds seem to gravitate towards this fiery color? Researchers have studied to find the answer to this tricky question.

hummingbird at red flowers

Hummingbird vision

To understand how hummingbirds perceive color, it’s helpful to first think about the color spectrum humans are capable of seeing. Humans have three types of color cones – red, green and blue, allowing us to see all the colors of the rainbow (spectral hues). Nonspectral hues are considered colors seen outside of the rainbow. For example, we can perceive the color purple because it stimulates our red and blue color cones simultaneously.

Hummingbirds have four color cone types in their eyes, creating color possibilities that we can only dream of! Hummingbirds are able to see a variety of nonspectral colors in near UV, including UV+red, UV+green, UV+yellow and purple. And while research has shown that hummingbirds have a heightened sensitivity to the red and yellow end of the color spectrum, they’re also attracted to many more colors that humans can only imagine - so don't let that limit your feeder choices!

Expand your color palette

Now that you understand the range of hues that hummingbirds can see, don’t be afraid to try out new colors and types of feeders that will both attract the birds and beautify your backyard. We have a wide variety of bright and bold styles of handblown glass feeders in reds, pinks or blues, like the Artisan Gravity Hummingbird Feeder - Sunny Day or our best-selling Illuminated Hummingbird Feeder with a solar-powered LED light.

Or give our So Real Series a try, with realistic flowers in oranges and reds, like the So Real Mini 3D Hummingbird Feeder, or pinks, and purples, like the So Real Gravity Hummingbird Feeder - Pink Fuchsia.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a traditional red hummingbird feeder! Our Traditional Window Hummingbird Feeder will mount right onto your window for the closest hummingbird viewing. Or a Traditional Gravity Hummingbird Feeder might be just what you’re looking for.

hummingbird feeder  hummingbird perched on hummingbird feeder  hummingbird at red window feeder

  

It’s all about the nectar

More important than the color of the feeder is what’s inside of it. Be sure to reward the hummingbirds with sweet homemade nectar and soon you’ll be enjoying regular visits from your feathered friends!

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Common hummingbird feeder challenges and solutions

Common hummingbird feeder challenges and solutions

Setting up a nectar feeder is one of the simplest ways to attract hummingbirds to your yard. Being a responsible hummingbird host can sometimes come with challenges, so we’ve put together the solutions to some of the most common hummingbird feeder questions to help you get the most out of your hummingbird feeder!

hummingbird flying to a hummingbird feeder

Why aren’t the hummingbirds coming to my feeder?

There are a few different factors that could be causing a hummingbird to choose a different source of food. Hummingbirds are migratory birds, meaning they leave and return from a specific area seasonally. As they return from migration and end up in their ultimate destination, they will remember the source of their first meals - oftentimes coming back to the same feeders repeatedly. For the best chance of hummingbirds discovering your feeder, it is recommended to have it up and ready before they return from their winter migration. Be sure to research the migratory pattern of hummingbirds in your area to make sure you haven’t put your feeder out too late, since this can cause them to overlook it later in the season.

One thing to keep in mind is that all birds are creatures of habit. They may be hesitant to try out a new feeder, especially if you have been offering nectar in other feeders – a tried and true food source. It could also take some time for the hummingbirds to get used to a new landing pattern or learn the mechanics of drinking from a new feeding port. It may take several weeks before the hummingbirds find and begin feeding regularly from a new feeder. Before making any changes, try waiting at least two weeks to give them enough time to discover your feeder.

Here are some more tips to help attract birds to your hummingbird feeder:

  • Take down other feeders: Hummingbirds may prefer to feed from dependable food sources like existing feeders. If you have other nectar feeders in your yard, try temporarily taking them down until the hummingbirds find and use the new feeder. Once they are regularly using the new feeder, existing feeders can go back up.
  • Increase the sugar content: Try slightly increasing the sugar content of your nectar. This will immediately reward the hummingbirds for visiting your feeder and encourage them to come back. Once until the hummingbirds are regularly drinking from your feeder, you can then lower the water to sugar ratio back down to the recommended 4:1.
  • Keep it clean: It is recommended nectar feeders be cleaned at least every 4-5 days. To clean, take down your feeder and discard any unconsumed sugar water. Take apart your feeder and flush it with warm water. You must also change the nectar frequently - at least twice a week. If you notice that the nectar is turning milky, or that white strings or black spots are growing in it, change it more often. If you notice any mold, take down the feeder immediately, give it a thorough cleaning and follow the steps below to prevent mold growth on your feeder.
  • Change locations: Placing feeders near flower beds or planters may naturally attract more hummingbirds to your feeder. Feeders should be hung or mounted closer than 3 feet from a window or farther than 15 feet from a window to help prevent fatal window collisions.

What should I put in my hummingbird feeder?

The formula for hummingbird food is simple: about one part white granulated sugar to four parts water. Boil the water for approximately 2 minutes, add the sugar, and stir to dissolve thoroughly. We do not recommend adding red dye to the nectar mixture. Cover and allow the nectar to cool before using or pouring into a clean storage bottle. A large batch of nectar can be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. This makes refilling the feeder easy so you won't mind doing it every few days.

hummingbird feeder filled with clear nectar

How do I keep mold from growing on my hummingbird feeder?

It is inevitable that sugar water will eventually break down and cause mold, fungus, or other harmful bacteria to grow inside of a hummingbird feeder. To prevent mold growth, hummingbird feeders should be taken down and cleaned at least every 4-5 days. To clean, take down your feeder and discard any unconsumed sugar water. Take apart your feeder and flush it with warm water. If mold is present, you can sanitize the feeder by placing all dishwasher-safe parts in the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning. If washing by hand, soak and clean the feeder thoroughly with a solution of ¼ cup bleach to one gallon of water. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely before refilling.

Since mold growth can be accelerated by heat, especially in the warmer summer months, try keeping your feeder in a shaded area. Keeping the nectar cool helps to delay fermentation which is the process that causes nectar to spoil and mold to grow.

How do I prevent bees at my hummingbird feeder?

Bees, wasps, and hornets are hardly welcome guests at any feeder and can be harmful to hummingbirds if stung. Typically, if bees don’t have access to the nectar, they should eventually move on from the feeder to a more rewarding source. Here are some additional tips to help deter the bees:

  • Keep it clean: Make sure there is no exposed nectar on or around the outside of your feeder and thoroughly clean it with warm soapy water every 4-5 days at minimum.
  • Change it up: Periodically move your feeder. Birds will usually look around and find a relocated feeder, but insects will not.
  • Lower the nectar level: If using a dish style feeder, try decreasing the amount of nectar in your in the dish to keep it lower than the feeding ports. This will make it more difficult for bees to reach. Keep in mind that a hummingbird’s tongue is twice as long as its beak so it can easily reach near the bottom of the dish.
  • Get in the shade: If the feeder is currently in the sun, try moving it to a more shaded area.

How do I keep ants off my hummingbird feeder?

Although hummingbirds do eat insects, they do not eat ants. The presence of ants on your hummingbird feeder can prevent them from using it, or the ants may enter the feeder and contaminate the nectar which can be harmful to hummingbirds. Here are some ant-proofing tips to try:

  • Use an ant moat: Many hummingbird feeders have built-in ant moats, which trap ants in a small cup of water before they have the opportunity to reach the feeder. If your feeder does not come with an ant moat, you may choose to purchase one separately. Be sure to keep it full of water! If the weather is particularly hot and the water is evaporating quickly, check it regularly to prevent it from sitting empty.

    ant moat
  • Keep it clean: Make sure there is no exposed nectar on or around the outside of your feeder and thoroughly clean it with warm soapy water every 4-5 days at minimum.
  • Change it up: Periodically move your feeder. Birds will usually look around and find a relocated feeder, but insects will not.
  • Get in the shade: If the feeder is currently in the sun, try moving it to a more shaded area.
  • Try fishing line: You may try hanging your feeder using fishing line, as it is very difficult for ants to climb. Keep in mind this may not be feasible for heavier feeders.
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