Blog / Hummingbirds
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?
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.
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.
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!
Spotting a hummingbird in your backyard can be a fleeting but rewarding experience. That’s because hummingbirds do everything in such a hurry that they can be difficult to sight!
Because of their hurried behavior, hummingbirds have been tricky to research and study at length, leading to many misconceptions about how they drink. Did you know that scientists used to believe that hummingbirds used their beaks as a straw? Find out how exactly a hummingbird eats, what their beaks are used for and how much nectar they can consume.
Does a hummingbird have a tongue?
A hummingbird has a tongue that can stretch twice as long as its beak. Their tongues are forked and are lined with lamellae, which are tiny, hair-like barbs that extend outwards as they open their beaks and stick out their tongues. When they retract their long tongue back into their beak, it coils up inside their head, wrapping around their skull. The average hummingbird’s beak can range from 15mm-21mm (.59in-.82in) in length, meaning its tongue can stretch up to 1.6 inches long! [Image credit: Bob Lewis, www.wingbeats.org]
How does a hummingbird drink?
As a hummingbird extends its tongue into a flower, dish or nectar feeder port to drink, the lamellae spread from the forks in their tongue, capturing the nectar by quickly curling back up towards the tongue and trapping it as the tongue fully retracts into their head. Hummingbirds can flick their tongues in and out of nectar as many as 20 times per second!
What do hummingbirds use their beaks for?
If they don’t use their beaks as a straw, then what purpose does a hummingbird’s beak have? Hummingbirds have a flexible lower beak that helps them snatch insects in flight. Some also use their beak for self-defense, often against other hummingbirds for territory assertion. Perhaps the simplest use for a hummingbird's beak is as a protective covering for their tongue.
How much does a hummingbird drink per day?
A hummingbird can consume about half of its body weight in sugar water per day and can feed about 5-8 times per hour.
What do hummingbirds eat?
Have you ever wondered how a hummingbird can live off of sugar water alone? The short answer is - they don't. Even if a hummingbird visits your feeder several times throughout the day, they are often out scavenging for tiny insects and spiders that supply protein and other essential nutrients. A hummingbird’s diet may consist of 50-60% insects. Because of this, we recommend homeowners avoid the use of broad-spectrum pesticides in their yard, as it could potentially eliminate this crucial protein source that makes up a healthy hummingbird diet.
Because of their small size, quick flight pattern and migratory nature, hummingbirds can be tricky but rewarding to spot. Setting up a hummingbird feeder is one of the simplest ways you can attract hummingbirds to your yard. There are many types of nectar feeders available including saucer, window, gravity and more. With so many possibilities, consider these factors when choosing a hummingbird feeder for your yard.
When are hummingbirds in your area?
Where will you be placing your feeder?
Placing feeders near flower beds or planters may help you attract more birds to your yard. Most hummingbird feeders come with hanging hooks so you can hang them from a pole or tree. You may even consider a feeder with an additional hanging hook built into the bottom, like the So Real 3D Flower Hummingbird Feeder - Pink, so you can connect multiple feeders from top to bottom, increasing amount of hummingbirds you can feed in one location.
For a close-up view of the hummingbirds, you may want to put up a window feeder. Window feeders, like the So Real Window Hummingbird Feeder - Honeysuckle, are built with a suction cup mounting system that attaches directly to your window, giving you a unique opportunity to see these flying jewels up close like never before.
How many hummingbirds do you typically feed in a season?
If you receive only a few hummingbird visitors in a season, you may opt for a lower capacity feeder like the Mason Jar Hummingbird Feeder or the So Real Mini 3D Hummingbird Feeder. Less nectar is needed in these smaller feeders, making it less wasteful for you and fresher for the hummingbirds.
If you regularly feed or sight ten or more hummingbirds in your yard, you may need a large capacity feeder like the Artisan Gravity Hummingbird Feeder - Sunny Day or the So Real Gravity Hummingbird Feeder - Pink Fuchsia. These types of feeders can hold 20+ ounces of nectar, ensuring that you have enough food for all of your visitors.
Which style of hummingbird feeder do you like best?
Nectar feeders come in seemingly endless beautiful, unique and traditional designs. Looking for a durable, hand-blown glass feeder with colors that won’t fade over time? Check out the Garden Hummingbird Feeder - Molten. Or how about a feeder that looks like a real flower, like the So Real series? Give the So Real 3D Flower Hummingbird Feeder – Purple a try. Looking for a classic design? Our Traditional Gravity Hummingbird Feeder is sure to be a favorite for both you and the hummingbirds.
For a unique, decorative design, take a look at the Illuminated Hummingbird Feeder. It comes equipped with a solar-powered LED light that transforms it from a daytime feeder into a beautiful lantern at night!
What features are you looking for in a hummingbird feeder?
It’s important to be a responsible host for your hummingbirds to keep them healthy and safe. Nectar feeders should be cleaned 1-2 times a week, so be sure to choose a feeder that is easy to fill and clean. All Nature’s Way nectar feeders are dishwasher safe with removable parts, making them simple for you to disassemble and clean.
Bees and ants are naturally attracted to the sweet nectar inside a hummingbird feeder, but these insects can create problems for you and the hummingbirds. Many feeders come equipped with a built-in ant moat to deter these frequent feeder pests. If bees are a concern, look for a feeder with a domed bee-resistant design.
What is your budget?
Hummingbird feeders can range from less than $10 up to $30 or more. With a wide variety of features available at every price range, you’re sure to find a feeder with innovative designs at the budget you desire.
Still not sure which feeder is right for you?
Try taking our hummingbird feeder selector quiz to find the perfect fit!
As the days grow longer and the temperatures start to rise, you should begin seeing more and more signs that Spring has arrived - and with it, the hummingbirds! You may live in an area where you find yourself lucky enough to host hummingbirds year-round, but for the rest of us, we reluctantly say goodbye to these little beauties each fall and impatiently await their return in the spring. If you're like us, you find yourself checking the hummingbird migration map daily for sightings in your area. As we watch those little hummingbird icons inch ever closer, below are some quick hummingbird feeder tips to make sure you're ready.
The tried and true formula for hummingbird food is simple: about one part white granulated sugar to four parts water. This 20% sugar concentration best mirrors the sugar concentration naturally found in flowers preferred by hummingbirds. Also, the natural sugars found in flower nectar are primarily sucrose, like that of white granulated sugar.
Boil the water for approximately 2 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.
- We do NOT recommend adding red food dye or any artificial coloring to the nectar.
- Make sure to thoroughly clean your feeders before the first use of the season and before each subsequent refill (see below for more on cleaning).
- 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 hummingbirds 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 the hummingbirds.
- Higher concentrations of nectar can be used. In fact, offering nectar with higher sugar concentrations early in the season and again in the late summer can help hummingbirds recover from and prepare for migration. (Don't go too overboard though! Studies show that hummingbird nectar concentration preference caps off at about 50% or 2 parts water to 1 part sugar.)
Cleaning Your Hummingbird Feeder
In order to be a responsible host, you must keep your feeder clean and full of fresh nectar. Every four or five days take down your feeder and discard any unconsumed sugar water. Be aware, in periods of extreme heat (or if you hang your feeder in direct sunlight) the nectar may need to be changed more frequently as the fermentation process can happen quicker. If you notice that the nectar is turning milky, or that white strings or black spots are growing in it, pour the nectar out and clean your feeder immediately.
Take apart your feeder and flush with hot tap water – a little vinegar can be added to the water to help prevent mold from becoming established. Visually inspect the feeder for black mold. If mold is present, place all parts in dishwasher for a thorough cleaning for a glass feeder. For a thorough cleaning on plastic feeders, use a pipe cleaner or small brush when washing the feeder parts by hand with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water, or with a mild solution of unscented dish detergent and warm water. Be sure to rinse thoroughly with water and let dry completely before refilling.
This is where selecting your hummingbird feeders carefully becomes important! Always look for a hummingbird feeder with removable parts to make a thorough cleaning more feasible. Check out our selection of Easy Fill & Clean™ Nectar Feeders here!
Keeping Your Hummingbird Feeder Full
The need to change the nectar depends on the temperatures, where the feeder is hung, and number and frequency of hummingbirds feeding at your feeder. If the birds are not emptying your feeder between cleanings, it's unnecessary and wasteful to fill it completely. Fill only with the amount of nectar they will consume in a few days. Remember, hummingbirds to not use their beaks as straws for drinking nectar. Rather, they stick their beaks into the feeding port and then extend their tongue into the nectar. A hummingbird's tongue is quite long and has a very different structure than you might think, allowing them to reach rather deep for a drink. Depending on the species of hummingbird (and the individual bird) they will be able to reach pretty far down in a feeder to drink the nectar.
Over time you will get a feel for how much nectar to put in the feeder.
Happy Hummingbird Viewing!
Feel free to share your hummingbird stories with us in the comment section below - or find us on social media!