10 Hummingbird Feeder Mistakes You Should Never Make


Hummingbird feeders benefit both you and the hummingbirds. They get a safe, reliable source of nectar, and you get to enjoy their beautiful colors in your yard.

But as easy as it is to hang a hummingbird feeder, there are still common pitfalls you have to avoid. If you want to have the most successful hummingbird feeders, here are 10 common mistakes you should never make.

10 Hummingbird Feeder Mistakes To Avoid

1. Using Honey In Your Nectar Feeders

Nectar is very easy to make, as it only requires two ingredients: sugar and water. The water part is easy, but some people make the mistake of using the wrong kind of sugar.

It may be tempting to use honey in your feeder, but this can be very harmful to hummingbirds.

Honey and nectar are not the same, and plain honey is too thick for hummingbirds to eat. It can also get stuck in their feathers and they have a hard time getting them clean.

If you try to add water to the honey to create a nectar substitute, this will have its own problems.

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Undiluted honey has such a high sugar content that it dehydrates bacteria, killing them. But watering it down lessens the dehydration while still leaving enough sugar for the bacteria to eat, so they multiply.

These bacteria can cause illness and even death in hummingbirds that eat honey or honey mixtures. You should only use plain white table sugar when mixing homemade nectar.

2. Using The Wrong Ratio Of Sugar And Water

Even though nectar is simple to make, mistakes still happen. A common one is not using the right ratio of sugar to water.

Too much sugar makes the nectar hard to drink and encourages bacteria. Too much water, though, reduces the amount of necessary nutrients in the mix.

The ideal ratio for homemade nectar is one part sugar to four parts water. Make sure the sugar dissolves completely before you add it to your feeder.

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3. Using Nectar With Red Dye Added To It

If you buy nectar from the store, you’ll probably see a lot of options that add red dye. This is because the color red is attractive to hummingbirds. You’ll also see many hummingbird feeders in red for this reason.

But the benefit of attracting hummingbirds with red nectar doesn’t outweigh the risks. To start, the dye adds no nutritional value to the nectar. It could also be harmful to hummingbirds in the long run.

Research hasn’t proven one way or the other, but since it’s not necessary for hummingbirds, why take the risk? Skip the red dye and fill your yard with red feeders and naturally red plants.

4. Using The Wrong Feeder

Now that you understand the best options for nectar, you need to choose the correct feeder for your hummingbirds. Hummingbirds don’t eat traditional bird seed or even suet.

Obviously, you need a feeder that can hold liquid nectar instead of the standard bird seed. 

But there are different types of nectar feeders as well. Inverted feeders work well, but they can allow bees and other hungry insects to eat the nectar, too.

A saucer feeder keeps the nectar level further away from the feeding ports, making it harder for bugs to access. Some inverted feeders also have places to attach bee guards so you don’t have to buy a brand-new feeder.

5. Not Using An Ant Moat

Even with a saucer feeder or bee guards, you may still find you have trouble with one insect: ants. Because they’re so small, it’s easy for them to slip into the feeding ports.

Not only does this take food away from the hummingbirds, but ants can contaminate the nectar they leave behind. If you don’t want ants to ruin your nectar, you need to use an ant moat.

Ant moats come in several different forms, but the principle is the same for all types. They create a barrier of water that ants can’t cross.

You can use a cup-like ant moat that hangs above your feeder, or one that wraps around the base. Either way, ant moats are vital if you want to keep your nectar only for the birds.

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6. Only Using One Hummingbird Feeder

The key to drawing in birds of any kind is offering them food, water, and shelter. You don’t want the levels to run too low or become unusable, or the birds won’t come back.

That’s why it’s important to have more than one hummingbird feeder. This solves several issues that can arise when attracting hummingbirds.

First, having more than one feeder makes it less likely that you’ll run out of food.

Second, hummingbirds can be territorial, so having multiple feeders gives more options if a feeder gets taken over by bullies.

And finally, multiple feeders let you feed more hummingbirds at one time. Even if you keep your feeder full of nectar, there’s still only room for so many birds. Multiple feeders mean more hummingbirds.

7. Not Putting Your Feeders In The Right Place

Where you put your hummingbird feeders can have a significant impact on their success.

They need to be far enough off the ground that the hummingbirds are safe from predators like cats. But don’t place them too high; they should be near where hummingbirds would normally feed from flowers.

Hummingbird feeders also need to be near cover. This makes the birds feel safe from predators and protects the feeders from the elements.

However, you need to make sure they’re not completely covered. That way, the hummingbirds will notice them and have room to maneuver around them. Try placing your feeders about ten feet away from the cover.

8. Not Changing The Hummingbird Feeder Regularly

Providing nectar for hummingbirds isn’t just about making sure there’s enough. You also have to make sure it’s safe to eat.

Part of this involves changing out the nectar on a regular basis, even if there’s plenty left in the feeder. This is because, over time, nectar can go bad and grow bacteria.

Change your nectar at least once a week in milder weather. When it gets warm, increase the frequency to every two days or so. Nectar spoils faster in the heat, especially if it’s in direct sunlight.

9. Topping Off The Feeder Instead Of Refilling It

It might be tempting to simply add more nectar to your feeder instead of emptying it out. But you should always empty out your hummingbird feeder before adding any new nectar.

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You don’t know what kind of shape the old nectar is in; it could be harboring bacteria that you can’t see. Changing out your nectar completely is the only way to know that what you’re offering your hummingbirds is safe.

If you find that you always have a lot of nectar left over, simply put less in the feeder. Find the right balance of nectar for the number of hummingbirds you have visiting your yard.

10. Not Cleaning Out The Feeder

Feeders need to be completely cleaned every so often, not just emptied and refilled with nectar. Leftover nectar can get stuck in hard-to-reach places, and eventually spoil. This can then contaminate the fresh nectar you put in the feeder.

To keep your feeders clean and safe, completely empty them and clean them once or twice a week. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific feeder.

A good rule of thumb for any feeder, though, is to use hot water and mild soap.

Always rinse the feeder thoroughly before refilling; you don’t want the hummingbirds to ingest any soap residue by accident.

In Conclusion

Providing nectar in hummingbird feeders can be very rewarding. You’re helping your local hummingbird population and you’re adding color and life to your yard at the same time.

But you want to make sure your feeders are only helping the hummingbirds and not harming them. So, use our guide to learn about the ten mistakes you should avoid when using hummingbird feeders.

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Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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