If you're just getting started feeding hummingbirds, choosing that first nectar feeder can be overwhelming. There are several types of hummingbird feeders to choose from, and each of those types is available in a wide range of sizes and designs. Selecting the best ones for your backyard birds is a matter of choosing feeder styles and sizes to suit the birds as well as your personal preferences.
Basic Hummingbird Feeder Styles
There are two basic styles of hummingbird feeders: inverted feeders and saucer feeders.
An inverted feeder has a central reservoir that is suspended over the feeding ports and releases nectar from above, keeping the ports filled at optimum levels. A saucer feeder is a simple shallow dish filled with nectar that has ports above the reservoir, allowing birds to dip their bills and tongues into the nectar supply. Each of these types of feeders has positive and negative features.
- Are easier to check nectar levels
- Typically have a greater capacity
- Are more prone to leakage and attracting insects
- Can be more difficult to clean and fill
- Are easy to fill, clean and assemble
- Can be more easily mounted on poles or railings
- Have a smaller capacity and must be refilled more frequently
- May be less visible to visiting birds
Choosing a Hummingbird Feeder
When deciding which type of nectar feeder to choose, birders should consider a wide variety of characteristics, including:
- Construction Material: Feeders can be made from plastic, metal or glass. Plastic feeders can discolor over time, but glass and metal feeders may allow nectar to ferment more quickly. Plastic feeders are lighter but can warp and leak, whereas glass and metal feeders may break more easily.
- Color: Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, and most feeders include red bases or decorative accents to attract the birds. Yellow accents, however, are also attractive to insects and will more easily attract bees and wasps to the feeder.
- Capacity: Hummingbird feeders are available in different sizes from 1-32 ounce capacities. Birders who only have a few backyard hummingbird guests may want to choose smaller feeders with a lower capacity so nectar isn’t wasted. If large flocks of hummingbirds regularly visit, larger feeders are more practical, but when visits are scarce, the nectar can ferment more easily.
- Feeding Ports: Most hummingbird feeders have 3-4 feeding ports, but smaller models may have only a single port and larger feeders may have 6-8 or more. A greater number of feeding ports allows more birds to access the feeder simultaneously and helps reduce the birds’ natural territoriality and competitiveness to guard the feeder.
- Perches: Nectar-producing flowers do not typically include perches for feeding birds, and perches are not necessary for hummingbird feeders. If the perches are available, however, the birds can feed more easily and may remain at the feeder for longer periods of time for birders to observe and identify them. Feeders with perches are also ideal for hummingbird photography.
- Mounting: Most hummingbird feeders are designed to be hung from poles, hooks or branches, but other mounting methods are also available. Smaller feeders can be attached directly to windows by suction cups and deck-mounted feeder designs are another option.
- Cleaning: Some feeder designs are easier to clean than others. Because feeders should be thoroughly cleaned 2-3 times per week during the summer, choosing an easy to clean feeder can make it easier to maintain the feeders properly.
- Insect Guards: Some feeder designs include bee or ant guards while others have fewer precautions against insects. If insects are a problem at your hummingbird feeders, consider feeders with these features, or find models that can be adapted with additional bee or ant guards.
- Cost: Basic hummingbird feeders can cost less than $5, while larger, more expensive models may cost $30 or more. Choose a feeder design you like that is within your bird feeding budget so you can enjoy visits from hummingbirds without breaking the bank.
- Appearance: Many hummingbird feeders are designed with decorative accents such as cracked or tinted glass, faux flowers and artistic swirls or decorations. While these features can make the feeders more expensive, it is up to you to choose a design you find attractive.
Where to Buy Hummingbird Feeders
Hummingbird feeders can be found during the spring and summer from most major retailers, including big box stores, home improvement centers and garden stores. Bird supply stores, pet stores and specialty wildlife product companies and online merchants should have a wide selection of hummingbird feeders available throughout the year.
Hummingbirds are voracious birds and will visit nearly any type and style of feeder design. By understanding the different options available, every birder can find a beautiful hummingbird feeder to become part of their backyard bird buffet.