Make Your Back Yard a Hummingbird Hilton

A hummingbird feeding on some flowersThis is peak season for hummingbirds but if you want them to be your guests, you'll have to offer some hummingbird hospitality. This means providing them with the same services you'd expect in a good hotel: appealing food and drink, and a comfortable place to sleep. When you translate that into the world of hummingbirds, all you have to do is prepare a sugar solution and put it into a well-designed feeder. That's their food, drink, and lodging right there.

Wait a minute, you might say. You talk about lodging, but I didn't even know hummingbirds sleep, let alone sleep on a hummingbird feeder.

Yes, these flying miracles with hearts that beat up to 1,000 times per minute and wings that carry them as far as 6,000 miles over the course of a year, do stop and snooze. And one of the places they've been known to snooze is on the perches of hummingbird feeders. Just check out this one-minute video on YouTube. (Amazing what you can find on YouTube: there's also a one-minute video of a hummingbird snoring.)

So the key to having hummingbirds visit your yard is simply to put out feeders and fill them with sugar solution. In a previous article we discussed hummingbird feeders, the information still holds up and we stand by our recommendations.

Today we'll go into detail about the sugar solutionhow to make your own and the right way to use it. This might seem a simple matter, and it is in certain ways, but if you don't do it right, the hummingbirds simply won't come, or, even worse, they could be harmed.

Sugar Solution

You've probably heard a fancier name for it: hummingbird nectar, but there's actually no such thing. Hummingbirds extract nectar from flowers but nobody sells flower nectar. However, the ingredient in the flower nectar that nourishes the hummers is sucrose, and white table sugar is 100{2261234e244c7fbba74d51dca74a268749f09f18a1ee8a57e0936953fe40690d} sucrose. Since flower nectar is approximately 20{2261234e244c7fbba74d51dca74a268749f09f18a1ee8a57e0936953fe40690d} sucrose, all you have to do to create a viable substitute is make a solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Bring it to a boil to eliminate any bacteria or mold, and when it cools down to room temperature, you're ready to go.

Hummingbird sitting on a feederBut here are some details to keep in mind: use the purest water available and choose a brand of granular white sugar that contains no preservatives or additives (Domino, for example), and DO NOT substitute brown sugar, honey, or any other kind of sugar or sweetener. This is critical. For example, hummingbirds can die from the mold that will start to grow if you substitute honey.

And another thing: DO NOT add red dye to your sugar solution. It is true that hummers are attracted to the color red, but you'll be pouring your solution into a red feeder anyway, so the addition of red dye is unnecessary. More important, the systems of the hummingbirds are so delicate and sensitive that it could do them harm over time. Hummingbirds feed 5-8 times an hour and they consume up to two times their body weight in nectar and insects every day. If their daily diet includes red dye, that could mean a lot of dye over time, perhaps enough to hurt them. So it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid it.

You'll want to change the solution in your feeders every two or three days. If you see no signs of mold or fermentation (odor, or change in the color of the solution) you can get away with doing it less often. But the hotter the weather, the faster the solution will spoil; during very hot spells you might even need to change the solution every day.

Before you add your sugar solution to your feeders, rinse them out thoroughly. At least once a week clean them with some soapy water and a bottle brush; some people use white vinegar. After you've filled up your feeders, refrigerate any unused solution; it should last for about a week but you should use it as soon as possible.

Creating a Hummingbird HabitatHummingbird-Nesting-Material

Much more important than avoiding red dye in your sugar solution is to avoid pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in the area where you're offering hummingbird hospitality. The tiny kidneys and livers of the hummingbirds simply can't handle any toxic substances, so it's essential that you offer them as pure an environment as possible.

What will give your back yard value-added appeal in the eyes of your little bejeweled patrons is the presence of their favorite plants. In a previous article we discussed four such plants: MonardaButterfly BushLantana, Zinnia and Fuchsia. We would also like to suggest Salvia and Sage as additional plants for your hummer garden. Hummingbirds will want to dine out at these fine nectar-bearing plants and you can be sure that they will appreciate the enhanced ambience those blooms provide in your back yard as much as you do. For a list of plants that will bloom all season long, read our blog article: The Ultimate Dining Guide for Hummingbirds.

Another help in creating the prefect backyard for your hummingbirds is to offer them nesting material. If you don't have access to a prepackaged supply, they will also use moss, cotton fluffs, bits of willows, soft plant pieces, dryer lint, and leaf hairs.

Hummingbirds don't make reservations, but to see the travel itinerary of the ruby-throated hummers, visit In the meantime, roll out the grass carpet and follow our hummingbird hospitality advice. You may soon find that your back yard has turned into a Hummingbird Hilton.

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  • Reply
    April 18, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Big thanks to Jeff Costa Rica Photography for the photo of the Green-violet Ears Hummingbird!

  • Reply
    How To Make Your Backyard A Hummingbird Hilton - Plant Care Today
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  • Reply
    sudie goodman
    April 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Sugar prices have gotten too expensive.\

    I will plant flowers that Hummer love instead.

    Thanks for great infomation

  • Reply
    Gail Ballard
    April 20, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I’m very surprised you say to use soapy water. If you don’t rinse it very, very, VERY well, the residue will harm hummers. Stick with the plain white vinegar.

    • Reply
      April 29, 2013 at 10:41 am

      Gail, that is a good point, we were assuming folks would rinse as well.

  • Reply
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    May 20, 2013 at 10:42 am

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  • Reply
    September 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Thank you….but I have problems getting them to go to the feeder. I have 2 hummers that are always out. I do have 2 lrg.plants they love.Butterfly bush and coral bush. Is that the reason they will not go to the feeder??

    • Reply
      October 10, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      Donna, what do you feed your hummers in the feeder and how long do you leave it in there before changing?

  • Reply
    Catherine McCormack
    April 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Critical for the the health and well being of the hummingbird!!!

  • Reply
    Brenda Maxson
    April 19, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    How do you keep the ants from trailing up to the bird feeders besides pesticides?

    • Reply
      April 21, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      Brenda, does your hummingbird feeder hang from a wire?

  • Reply
    Karen Bush
    April 22, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I’m wondering about the ants as well !! My feeder hangs on a hook off the deck. Can’t keep the ants off.

    • Reply
      April 24, 2014 at 7:25 pm

      Karen, the easiest method is to use an Ant Guard seen here,

      One can also make a water moat out of a Styrofoam cup (if your hummingbird feeder has a wire it hangs from). Cut the cup down so there is about 2-3 inches left. Poke a hole in the middle of the cup bottom run the feeder wire up through it, push the cup all the way down till it sits on top of the feeder, now use a sealant around the hole, let dry, keep filled with water, no more ant problems!

      Good luck, Joe

  • Reply
    April 25, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    I use a little bit of vaseline at the base of the shepherd’s hook or top of feeder to keep the ants off. They won’t cross it.

  • Reply
    Lela Walker
    June 6, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    so don’t use red food coloring in the juice for the hummers?

    • Reply
      June 9, 2014 at 11:20 am

      That is correct Lela. If you want some color to attract them, tie a red ribbon onto the hanger.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    I use Pam spray on my hooks! It also keeps the bees and wasps from chasing my hummers away!

    • Reply
      June 9, 2014 at 11:19 am

      That is a great tip Elenore. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Reply
    May 23, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Plant mint around your home and anywhere to detract ants.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Do NOT use oils/petroleum products on feeders or hooks. If the hummers get it on their feathers they can not preen it off and it will harm them.

    • Reply
      May 27, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      Michelle, great tip, thanks!

  • Reply
    July 15, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I set up a feeder in my yard over a week ago. No birds yet. I’ve never had a feeder for them. How will they find it AND does central Florida even have hummingbirds?

    • Reply
      July 15, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Hello April. Yes central Florida has hummers. The best way to attract them is by tying a red ribbon a few feet above where the feeder is at. It is also important to keep fresh nectar in the feeder. If the weather is hot, 3 days is the max. Good luck. GHS

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