Choosing the best hummingbird feeder can be tricky, with so much to choose from, and dozens of different design choices, but what’s best?
In this article, we’re going to look at the difference between hummingbird tube feeders, hummingbird dish feeders, and answer some important questions to get hummingbirds into your garden quickly.
If you’ve ever seen those videos of people feeding hummingbirds on the move from adapted hats and wondered how hummingbirds are attracted to feeders, then this is the article for you.
We’re not going to encourage close up feeding like you’ve seen trending, but we love these little birds and want to explore the science, and instinct of this tiny bird.
Best Hummingbird Feeders Product Chart
What are Hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds (scientific name: Trochilidae) are small hovering birds with a distinctive hum created by the extreme pace of their wings while they hover for food, and zip across the garden.
They are identifiable when resting by flashes of color across their bib and their uniquely long, narrow beak, designed to get right to the base of flowers.
Where Do Hummingbirds Live?
Hummingbirds aren’t capable of long migratory flights so are very much landlocked to the Americas, but have been seen as far north as Alaska in recent years, and as far south as the tip of Argentina.
To really understand the modern distribution of hummingbirds it’s important to discover a little bit of geological history.
Birds evolved from dinosaurs around 150 million years ago, at a time when the Americas were still firmly attached to Africa, and at its tip, Europe. Hummingbirds came a little later, with a pair of 30 million-year-old fossils found in Germany.
Earth’s current continents were still actively moving away from the supercontinent of Pangea at this point, and the North Pole hadn’t become the ice desert we see today, so the birds were likely able to travel between the continents, choosing the warmer tropical regions of South America, where they are firmly based today.
What Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hummingbirds eat a mix of insects and nectar so rely on sweetly scented flowers for a large portion of the sugars. Their protein is mostly from mosquitoes and spiders, often using spider webs as a binding material for their nests.
The best food to provide for hummingbirds at any time of year is nectar, either as a sugar syrup (without dye), fruit juices or natural saps if you can find it. The sugars help them to sustain their incredibly fast heart rate (hummingbirds have the fastest heart rate of any invertebrate on the planet so need as much as they can get).
While sugar syrups and nectar are a good food source for hummingbirds, they do require proteins, so while they may visit your garden in passing for nectar, the only way to keep them around is to encourage other wildlife, insects and invertebrates to give them the protein to sustain their growth and health.
Plant a wildlife garden with nectar-filled flowers and plenty of hiding spots for insects. Add trees and pergolas so your hummingbirds have a comfortable feeding height away from the ground too.
Most Common Hummingbird Species in America
1. Ruby-throated hummingbird
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most common hummingbird species in the Americas, and the one you’re most likely to attract to your garden. Their opalescent green bodies are smaller than the palm of a hand, with wings that beat 50 times per second.
The ruby-throated hummingbird has a distinctive mouse-like squeak that may help you identify resting birds nearby in the garden, particularly during nesting seasons.
2. Rufous hummingbird
I’d quite like to come back as a rufous hummingbird if reincarnation exists. Their handsome rusty feathers are neatly capped by a bright red bib in the males and they dash between feeders at a tiny 3 inches from beak to tail.
What’s most extraordinary about these minute birds is their migration, flying an astonishing 2,000 miles during their migration, making them one of the most widely seen hummingbirds in the Americas.
3. Anna’s hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbirds have adapted well to habitat loss. Despite the overall decline in hummingbirds, Anna’s hummingbirds have increased their population in recent years thanks to gardeners taking more care and attention to feeding them.
They are bright green during the mating season, but their plumage dulls later in the year so they go from fluorescent pink and green to a dusty red-throated green/gray bird.
4. Black-chinned hummingbird
The black-chinned hummingbird is a great example of ornithologists’ grasp on irony, as these birds have distinct purple flashes across their chins, paired with matt-black heads and soil colored back.
Their migratory routes are smaller than most hummingbirds, traveling between Mexico and the southwest of Canada.
5. Calliope hummingbird
The Calliope hummingbird usually looks more like they’ve spilled paint down their bib's informal groupings of violet feathers and grassy-green backs.
Calliope hummingbirds are commonly spotted at feeding stations like most other hummingbirds, but they’re also one of the most likely birds to stop and perch in your garden so you can get a really great look at them in full detail.
Hummingbird Feeders Buyer’s Guide
What are Hummingbird Feeders?
Hummingbird feeders come in all shapes and sizes, but the one they all have in common is small holes that are ideally suited for the hummingbird’s beak to fit into, preventing other wildlife from taking advantage of this important food source.
With reservoirs for syrups, nectar or sap, the feeders provide a slow release food source that hummingbirds can come back to time and time again. In migration seasons, they can be used up incredibly quickly!
How to Use Hummingbird Feeders
Hummingbird feeders are easy to use, and typically come with a screw-off cap for a reservoir that either works as a covered plate or a drip feeder. Both styles of feeder work well, and hummingbirds are really clever birds that are able to find food and are quick to find feeders when they move, or new feeders are introduced.
The most important things to consider with hummingbird feeders are the food you use, and their position.
What Is The Best Food for a Hummingbird Feeder
The best food for hummingbirds is flower nectar, but unless your garden is filled to the brim with nectar-rich blooms all year round, the next best thing is a simple sugar water solution.
Flower nectar is a naturally occurring sugar source, so the simplest syrups are the best as they mimic the simple sugars these beautiful birds would be receiving in the wild.
Do not add red dye to hummingbird syrups as it may harm them. While there is no proven evidence of red dye causing harm to the birds, it is unnecessary, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry. The safest hummingbird foods contain no dye or artificial colors or flavorings.
Hummingbird Feeder Recipe:
- 1 cup of sugar
- 4 cups of water
- Mix 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water until the sugar dissolves. There is no need to heat the water.
- Pour the sugar water into hummingbird feeders.
- Store any extra sugar water in the fridge (to make large batches stick to one part sugar to four parts water (1:4)
Where to Place a Hummingbird Feeder
Hummingbird feeders should be placed out in the open, somewhere visible to the birds. They have fast reactions so are quite happy to feed in the open as they can easily escape most predators.
Either hang a feeder with red parts from the branch of a tree or use a feeding spike in the center of a lawn where hummingbirds will be able to spot the feeder for miles.
What to Look for When Buying a Hummingbird Feeder
The best feeding type of Hummingbird feeders are the hanging type, which encourages hummingbirds to hover while they feed, and discourages other birds from trying to access the sugar reservoir.
For example, Orioles love sugar water, but can’t access the small holes so can damage the feeder if you use plate-type feeders. Hanging reservoirs tend to stay cleaner for longer too so need cleaning less often. Feed Orioles using the best oriole feeders instead.
There is some contention around whether red feeders attract hummingbirds because they are attracted to red flowers, or because they have learned that humans feed them from predominantly red feeders. Either way, red feeders are the best color for hummingbirds, whatever their reason for loving them.
Best Hummingbird Feeder Reviews
Hummingbird Feeders Top Picks 2022
Our Top Pick Hummingbird Feeder
I’ve just fallen in love with this hummingbird feeder. Wild Wings Top Fill Hummingbird Feeder might take more filling than other hummingbird feeders but it’s the best hummingbird feeder for me, and it’ll fit perfectly in the garden hanging from the tree near the kitchen.
Hummingbirds aren’t shy birds and are well known for feeding from handheld feeders, so you can place this right up close to the house so you’re always able to enjoy the beautiful birds as well as the beautiful hummingbird feeder.
Best Value Hummingbird Feeder
SEWANTA Hummingbird Feeder 16 oz is the best hummingbird feeder in terms of value. It might not be the best-looking bird feeder in the world, but it’s practical, easy to clean and if you set the two feeders up side by side you’re sure to get a flurry of hummingbirds in the garden every day once they realize it is there.
Premium Choice Hummingbird Feeder
The hue sugar water reservoir in the Woodlink Swirl Glass Bottle Hummingbird Feeder is great for anyone with loads of hummingbirds, meaning you won’t need to replace it every day in summer, and can therefore clean slightly less often too.
The way the glass catches the light is just perfect for passing birds too, who are attracted to light as well as red details on feeders, so Woodlink is making the most of these instincts on this feeder that does set itself apart as the best hummingbird feeder for anyone looking to buy something more substantial.
Hummingbird Feeders FAQs
Is homemade hummingbird food better?
Like any wildlife feeder, it's best to make your own food so you know exactly what’s in it, but most store-bought hummingbird foods are a great food source for hummingbirds provided they don’t have food coloring or additives. Realistically though, it’s a cheap recipe and costs much less to make your own.
What else can you feed hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds benefit from nectar-rich flowers, so planting tropical plants in the garden is a great way to attract the birds, and leaving overgrowth in winter to support insects in the garden will give them the protein they need to help balance out the sugars in their diet.
Can you feed hummingbirds honey?
Don’t use any artificial sugars or honey to feed hummingbirds. Candidiasis is a fungus that grows rapidly on syrups made with honey and can be fatal to hummingbirds.
This is the same fungus that causes yeast infections in humans. Stick to beet and cane sugar.
Can you feed hummingbirds without a feeder?
It’s really hard to attract hummingbirds without a dedicated feeder as they will have loads of competition from other nectar-feeding insects, birds, and mammals that will quickly learn there is an open plate of sugar water to drink?
If you don’t want to spend money on a feeder, you can pierce holes in the lid of a Tupperware as a DIY option.
Get the Best Hummingbird Feeder Today
Remember that hummingbirds need protein as well as sugar, so with any hummingbird feeder try to attract insects alongside it so they get a sugar hit as well as access to insects.
Placing fruit on spikes in the garden can attract flies that they will feed on and you’ll quickly start to see hummingbirds flying between the sugar and the fruit picking off flies.
With so many bird feeders, there are great DIY options you can try, but for hummingbirds, you really need a dedicated feeder to avoid competition from other birds. Hopefully, this guide has given you the confidence to go out and buy the best hummingbird feeder.