Plastic vs. Glass Hummingbird Feeders (Pros & Cons)


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Hummingbirds will drink from both glass and plastic feeders. 

The choices for someone to purchase one come down to preferences and the pros and cons of each. By understanding them, a bird lover can find a feeder that best suits their needs.

Glass and plastic feeders have pros and cons related to design, durability, and longevity. Glass tends to last longer and is available in stunning colors, but may have fewer ports or perches, and plastic parts that break down over time. Plastic feeders come in more styles, yet can warp and leak, needing more frequent replacement. 

Ultimately, a hummingbird feeder should include features that make drinking sugar water easy for hummingbirds.

These include features such as perching spots, insect guards, and feeding ports that are red, orange, or yellow.

Read on to learn more.

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Pros And Cons Of Plastic And Glass Hummingbird Feeders

Hummingbird feeders are typically made of glass and plastic. These materials will not corrode with exposure to sugar water and outdoor elements. They are also durable and easy to clean.

This table gives a brief look at the pros and cons of plastic and glass hummingbird feeders. These are described in greater detail down below in this article.

Type of Hummingbird FeederProsConsMixed
PlasticVariety of styles and sizes with ample perches and portsDiscoloration

Shorter longevity

Toxic BPA
Lightweight (pro) makes it susceptible to leaks or damage (con)

Inexpensive (pro), but replaced more often leading to higher cost over time (con)
GlassStunning appearance

Sturdy
Less variety in design; fewer perches and ports

Breakable
Longevity (pro) as a material, but also has plastic parts and seals (con)

A Closer Look At Plastic Feeders

Pro

Variety Of Choices

Plastic hummingbird feeders come in a variety of styles and sizes, holding nectar ranging from a few to many ounces. 

They may have bars for perching, multiple ports, saucer bottoms, top-fill design for ease, or molded into other shapes. 

This gives people lots of choices for garden decor and functional feeders.

Cons

Discoloration

Plastics can discolor and fade over time, especially with exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. A hummingbird feeder can be hung in partially shaded areas out of direct sunlight, but can still fade. 

However, if a feeder is in constant shade the hummingbird may not be able to detect its colors and use it as a food source. (More on that below.)

Some plastics are also prone to warping or cracking under temperature changes or repeated handling. 

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This will result in feeder leaks, which shortens the food supply and also invites other animals to the feeder such as bees, ants, raccoons, or bears.

Longevity

Since plastic hummingbird feeders are more prone to leaks, fading, and warping. They will need to be replaced more often. 

This can unexpectedly cause you to spend more than you planned.

Bisphenol-A (BPA)

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a strengthening compound used in some plastics (polycarbonate and epoxy resins). This chemical can leach from the plastic into food, water, and soil. 

Often you will see “BPA-free” labels on plastics that consumers use for food or water usage. 

Some studies are finding that this is also affecting animals, including birds. Not all hummingbird feeders are BPA-free. 

Refer to the feeder’s labeling or contact the manufacturer for more information about the plastics used.

A Pro And A Con

Lightweight

Larger plastic feeders are going to be considerably lighter than similarly sized glass ones. 

This can make it easier to handle and allows you to hang it from more spots such as a branch that will not bend as far down as it would with a glass feeder.

Conversely, a plastic feeder’s lightweight characteristic makes it more easily swayed or tipped. This can lead to greater amounts of sugar-water leaking.

Cost

In general, plastic costs less than glass because it is less expensive to produce. 

However, plastic feeders tend to have reduced longevity. As a result, more money may be spent over time to keep and maintain a plastic feeder in your yard. 


A Closer Look At Glass Feeders

Pros

Appearance

Glass feeders offer a large array of colorful styles in blown or cut glass. This glass can sparkle and reflect, adding to the beauty of decor and landscaping.

Sturdy

A glass feeder’s heavier weight keeps it stable as it hangs from its post. They are less likely to sway greatly, reducing the chance of leaks. 

If larger birds visit the feeder, such as orioles, leaking is less likely to happen.

Cons

Design

Glass feeders tend to have fewer design features as compared to plastic. Glass cannot be molded like plastic, so for example, there may not be as many perches or ports. 

Therefore a hummingbird may have to hover and drink, making it harder for you to observe them.

This video shows a hummingbird feeding from a glass feeder, which only has one perch:

Breakable

If the glass hummingbird feeder falls or is dropped onto a hard surface, it is more likely to break

The feeder can be hung at eye level over a soft, grass-covered surface to reduce the impact of a feeder fall. 

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People should also take care not to drop it when refilling it or cleaning it since it can become slippery when wet.

A Pro And A Con

Longevity

Glass does not warp or discolor like plastic. Therefore it is less likely to need replacement over time.

However, hummingbird feeders also may have plastic parts and seals. These can become warped, discolored, or cracked with use and exposure to the elements. 

These plastic parts will need to be replaced or a new feeder with functioning parts will need to be purchased.

Some feeders have a glass reservoir and a plastic perch and base that screws onto the bottom. In this case, the plastic perch may need to be replaced over time, yet the glass can be retained.


Considerations For Plastic And Glass Hummingbird Feeders

Cleaning And Sterilization

The ease of cleaning a feeder depends more upon its design. 

All parts, seals, and more need to be cleaned and sterilized each time the feeder is refilled to keep bacteria and mold out of the sugar water. Spoiled or moldy nectar is detrimental to the hummingbird’s health.

Generally, dish detergent and warm soap can effectively clean out a feeder. 

A soft toothbrush can scrub the small parts, seals, and ports. 

Rinse it with cool water and allow it to fully air dry before refilling it.

Color

Choose a colorful feeder that brings beauty to your decor, and has colors that invite hummingbirds to your yard.

Red, orange, and yellow colors on feeders are attractive to hummingbirds. This is because flowers in these colors tend to have a higher nectar content

A feeder can have other colors as well but opt for ones with red, orange, and yellow in them as well. Aim for feeders that offer these colors around the feeding ports. 

However, keep in mind that bees also like the color yellow.

It is not recommended to use red-colored water, which has an additive that can be detrimental to the hummingbird’s health. 

Nectar is colorless in flowers, yet the bloom serves as a colorful port to the food source. Feeders can offer the same visual directions.

Insect Prevention

Bees

If your hummingbird feeder has yellow on it, bees may also come to the feeder to drink. Opt for a feeder without yellow or one that is designed to keep them out, and is labeled as such. 

However, if the feeder is leaking, or you spill sugar water on the ground when refilling it, the bees will still come.

Ants

Some feeders will have an ant moat on them or a domed, hooked cap from the hanging apparatus. These help to keep ants out

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The domed cap can also be purchased separately, for use with either plastic or glass feeders’ hangers.

Size

Hummingbirds drink a lot of nectar for their high metabolic needs. To conserve energy at night they go into a state of hibernation-like torpor to conserve energy and survive nighttime cooler temperatures. 

When they awake, they feed immediately to warm and wake up. Generally, the sugar water should be replaced every 3 to 4 days. 

Consider purchasing a feeder that holds a larger amount of sugar water to accommodate this schedule. Therefore, it will not have to be replaced as often, and the hummingbird has plenty to drink.

Keep in mind that glass feeders will be heavier than plastic, especially when full of liquid. The bigger its size, the heavier it will be. Heavier feeders will need to be secured onto a post or branch that can bear the weight.

If you have a larger feeder, more hummingbirds may come, although they can be protective over food sources. If they are, hummingbirds will be seen chasing others away.

Small plastic ring-style feeders can be used for hand-feeding hummingbirds. They also serve to offer the hummingbird a quick snack. 

Consider purchasing several different sizes in both glass and plastic.


In Conclusion

Hummingbirds are not picky about feeders and whether they are made of glass or plastic. They prefer attractive colors in reds, oranges, or yellow tones, especially around the feeding ports.

The choice of a glass or plastic feeder comes down to the person that purchases it. 

Glass feeders come in stunning color palettes that add beauty as yard decor. They are sturdy and while they may have plastic parts, need less replacement over time.

Plastic feeders tend to be less expensive than glass, but will warp, fade, and crack over time with use and exposure to the elements. 

Some plastic feeders may also be made with Bisphenol-A (BPA) which can be harmful to wildlife. 

Plastic feeders come in a variety of shapes to offer different holding capacities and shapes.

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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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