Jul 25, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, August 2018

Helpful Hummingbird Tips

A hummingbird sips nectar from a red salvia. Photo by Connie Etter.

Deceptive Flowers for Hummingbirds

Horticulturalists typically breed flowers to be showy and colorful—characteristics hummingbirds find attractive. But such flowers aren't necessarily good food sources for hummingbirds. Begonias and tea roses, for example, don't produce nectar. Even petunias—which people often provide specifically for hummingbirds—produce small amounts of nectar relative to other flowers. Such flowers might attract hummingbirds, but ultimately, they'll disappoint. Better choices for hanging baskets that attract and feed hummingbirds include fuchsia, salvia, and lobelia.

Use Only Sugar for Hummingbird Nectar

Don't use anything other than white table sugar when making hummingbird nectar. Molasses, honey, and brown sugar (which contains molasses) are toxic to hummingbirds, and low-calorie sugar substitutes such as stevia and artificial sweeteners do not provide the calories hummingbirds need to fuel their speedy metabolism. A four-parts water to one-part white table sugar is a reasonable substitute for naturally produced nectar.

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  • I had a pair nesting for the first time this year at our farmstead in South Dakota. Boxes put out for Bluebirds which didn't come, but these were a very pleasant consolation.
    by fluffypeanutcat, Tue, 25 Sep 2018
  • This is a good point. While cleaning mine, I kinda got the impression the cheep cheeps were waiting on me since they started chirping as soon as I brought it outside again. I swear they are so smart. Within five minutes of filling the feeder up, they are there to feast.cheers Cheep cheeps!
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • Hahaha, I love the ending remark "that area will have already been well -fertilized!"I've noticed that there are more cheep cheeps right after I clean the bird feeder compared to how many there are right before it was cleaned...so cheep cheeps do like and appreciate a well maintained feeder and they are worth the effort. : )
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • The storm saying seems true so far. We had as party at our bird feeder right before our last storm... 6 at once but different cheeps cheeps would come and go so there were more than 6 for sure..and squirrels eating with the birds
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 13 Jul 2018
  • I know and do clean my feeders both for seed and for hummingbird liquid. I have a vase full of different size brushes that are only for this purpose. I have friends however who NEVER clean their feeders or bird baths, and it’s gross! I am ringing this article and will have to give out to the few offenders I know. I can’t imagine looking at such mess and not cleaning it, but not everyone thinks resale. Part of responsible bird watching/loving is to make the time and take the effort to do this.
    by Carol, Tue, 10 Jul 2018