Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are easy to attract to feeders because they are intensely curious. They will not hesitate to approach any red object, even human clothing, looking for potential food sources.

Feeders should be set out in mid-April to provide food for the earliest arrivals. The best nectar solution to offer hummingbirds at any time of year is a 4:1 mixture of water and sugar. Honey and other types of sugar are not recommended, and food colouring should not be added. Higher concentrations of sugar are not recommended in cold weather because hummingbirds have very basic kidneys and can not easily process excess amounts of sugar. Excess sugar concentrations could harm or even kill hummingbirds. Protein solutions are not recommended either. The hummingbirds will find protein sources in the environment. If a protein solution is offered, it is important to also have a regular 4:1 water and sugar solution available as well.

Glass feeders are recommended because soft plastic can break down in heat and sunlight, potentially adding chemical residue to the nectar. Choose a feeder that is easy to take apart for cleaning. Clean the feeders with warm, soapy water and rinse well every 3-4 days in cool weather and more often during the hot summer months.

If you live in an area that doesn't host a large number of hummingbirds, you can avoid waste by only filling your feeders ½ or even ¼ full. Keep extra nectar in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Nectar made with boiling water should keep about two weeks in the fridge while nectar made with cold or warm tap water should last one week in the fridge.

Check the nectar in your feeders and in the fridge for cloudiness, black mold, or stringy white particules and discard it immediately if they appear.

Feeders should be left out in the fall until freezing becomes a problem. This will not prevent hummingbirds from migrating but will provide a food source for late migrants. It may also attract the attention of a wandering Rufous Hummingbird or other rare visitors.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds provide hours of entertainment at the feeders as the aggressive males chase rival hummingbirds, other species of birds, and even butterflies and bees.

Use our plant lists, broken down by province, to guide you in attracting hummingbirds to your garden.