Feeding Hummingbirds

Every spring, I await the return of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. They are such mighty, yet delicate creatures (weighing less than a penny!) that spend all summer and early fall zipping around the feeders on our back deck, and the flowers I plant for them.

If you live east of the Mississippi River, you will only see the Ruby-throated variety. If you live west, there are 15+ species to identify, and closer to the equator, there are more than 325 species! They travel a great distance for their migration every year and arrive in central Illinois in May. Hummingbirds have incredible “GPS” and remember exactly where they spent time feeding the previous summer upon their return. In fact, two years ago in mid-April before I had set my feeders out, I was looking out my kitchen window and saw a flash of red zip by and hover in the spot where a feeder hung the previous year! Realizing there was nothing there, he zoomed away.

Since then, I make sure to set my feeders out in mid- to late-April, at the latest. They are attracted to red, so to get hummingbirds to find you, it is recommended that you use a red feeder, or have red flowers in the area. I find that my green antique bottle feeders work great since they have little red painted “flowers” at each feeding well. While you can purchase a red concentrated syrup to mix for your feeders, it’s easy and cheaper to just make your own and keep the extra “nectar” stored in the fridge. Here’s how:

  • Boil a kettle of water.

  • In a large mixing bowl (I use a glass Pyrex bowl with a handle and a spout for easier pouring), pour in 4 cups of hot water.

  • Add 1 cup of granulated sugar and stir to dissolve.

  • Once cool, pour the syrup into a carafe and store in the fridge. Let the syrup cool down further in the fridge before filling your feeders.

Be sure to change the syrup and clean your feeders frequently! When it gets hot and humid, it is a good idea to clean them out daily. Hummingbirds will not feed when their feeders are dirty. Also, do NOT dye your syrup. The dye is not good for them, and they are just as happy to feed on the clear “nectar”. Hummingbirds are very territorial and consider the feeder they adopt to be their personal flower, so the more feeders you hang, the more hummingbirds you can enjoy!


A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding

A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding

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  1. Melva Breitenstein says:

    I absolutely LOVE the antique bottle feeder! It is so much more attractive than the red ones I have in CA! You have inspired me to start a search for them!

    • Genevieve Neal says:

      Isn’t it pretty? I posted a link here where you can order the exact same one if you like. Even though it doesn’t have a ring around it like most of the red ones, they still have enough room to perch 🙂

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