Choosing a Hummingbird Feeder — Types, Colors and Design

Which hummingbird feeder will attract the most hummingbirds? Find out how to invite as many hummingbirds as possible to your backyard.

Pet stores present you with a wide variety of hummingbird feeders. You might be tempted to just go for the cheapest or the most flashy hummingbird feeder in the store, but hummingbirds don’t look at the price tag, after all.

Hummingbirds want a feeder that allows easy access to the food. They find some colors more attractive than others. They don’t like it when they have to compete with other animals and insects that also eat from the feeder.

Give the hummingbirds what they want and they will readily come to your backyard. It’s easy, really. Start by choosing the right type of hummingbird feeder.

Hummingbird Feeder Types and How They Work

Generally, hummingbird feeders fall into two categories:

  • Inverted bottle feeder — This feeder has a bottle that contains the sugar solution at the top. The liquid feed either flows into a reservoir or comes out of a small opening at the bottom of the feeder. When a hummingbird drinks the sugar solution, a vacuum forms at the top of the feeder, preventing the rest of the liquid from draining out.
  • Saucer or basin feeder — This feeder consists of a container and a cover with holes. The hummingbirds would stick their long beaks through the holes to reach the sugar solution.

Both types will attract hummingbirds, but saucer feeders tend to have fewer insect problems. The level of liquid in a saucer feeder stays low so that insects can’t reach it. It’s also less likely to leak, which means that ants are less likely to find it.

Saucer feeders also tend to be easier to take apart for cleaning and refilling, which you need to do every two to three days. Without proper maintenance, bacteria and fungi could form in the feeder, causing fatal diseases.

The Color of the Hummingbird Feeder and Other Design Elements

According to the University of Cincinnati, hummingbirds have good eyesight. They depend on their sight rather than their poor sense of smell to find food. As such, the plants that require pollination by hummingbirds usually have bright-colored flowers and no smell.

Choose a red feeder. Hummingbirds find the color red more attractive than others because they face less competition from bees at red flowers or feeders. According to the University of Kentucky, bees can’t see the color red well and usually don’t feed on red flowers in nature. Some scientists also speculate that hummingbirds like red flowers because they contain more nectar.

Other design elements like flower drawings don’t affect hummingbirds.

Is a Perch at the Hummingbird Feeder Necessary?

Unlike many other flowers, hummingbird-pollinated flowers usually don’t have perching platforms. Hummingbirds hover while feeding from these flowers, which often point downward and have long corolla tubes. In this way, these flowers exclude most insects.

Some hummingbird feeders have perches. When using these feeders, hummingbirds would rest on these perches while feeding, allowing them to conserve energy.

Some experts believe that feeder perches cause thousands of hummingbirds to die each year, but this theory is still under dispute. According to the University of Wyoming, hummingbirds start eating at around 5 a.m. when it’s cool. A hummingbird would rest on a perch, consuming cold sugar solution in cold temperatures. Its muscles become chilled because it is resting. When it tries to fly away from the feeder, it falls to the ground and becomes easy prey for predators. Without a perch, the hummingbird would hover while feeding, keeping its muscles warm.

Perches also allow other birds to use hummingbird feeders, including orioles, downy woodpeckers and Cape May warblers. If you only want to attract hummingbirds, remove the perches.

Safety and Durability of a Hummingbird Feeder

During its use, a hummingbird feeder goes through falls, bumps and constant exposure to the elements. Get a sturdy feeder that will survive falls of five feet onto grass and has replaceable plastic parts. Generally, plastic feeders withstand collision better, but glass feeders are easier to clean.

Companies like Opus and Par-A-Sol manufacture blown-glass feeders. Manufacturers of plastic hummingbird feeders include Perky Pet, Droll Yankees and Hummzinger.

The feeding port should not be too deep because a hummingbird could fracture its beak during a quick withdrawal.

Other Hummingbird Feeder Tips

Place the feeder at the most effective location in your yard to attract hummingbirds. Also grow plants that hummingbirds like if you happen to have a green thumb. Regularly clean and refill the feeder with a homemade sugar solution, which is healthier and cheaper than commercial mixes. Take the feeder down in the fall when the hummingbirds migrate.