How To Fill a Hummingbird Feeder: Top Essential Tips

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Providing a man-made feeder for hummingbirds can help you aid and welcome these beautiful birds into your garden. It is always best to plant flowers to provide natural food sources for our feathered friends. You should also take steps to provide a biodiverse habitat in your garden, which provides hummingbirds and other wildlife with everything they need.

But even when we have space for flowers and other plantings to create a hummingbird habitat, hummingbird feeders can provide additional energy for these busy birds, providing a nectar substitute.

If you have never thought of adding hummingbird feeders before, you might wonder what you should use to fill your feeders, how to add the feed to the feeder, how full your feeder should be, and how to clean out and refill your feeder.

Read on to find the answers to these simple questions and get started.

What Should I Use To Fill a Hummingbird Feeder?

The first decision you will have to make when filing a hummingbird feeder is which hummingbird nectar solution you will choose. You can either fill feeders with a commercial hummingbird feed or make your own sugar-water solution.

Making your own hummingbird feed to fill a hummingbird feeder is easier than you might think. Most will choose to fill their bottle with nectar – or rather, a homemade nectar substitute. Filling the feeder with water and sugar solution is usually the best option.

Just add one part of refined sugar to four parts of boiling water, and stir well until the sugar is dissolved. Leave the solution to cool, then you can add it to your feeder or feeders.

When choosing or making a hummingbird feeder to fill hummingbird feeders, it is important to make sure that you avoid anything that could harm the birds. Never use unrefined sugars (which are often high in iron, which can kill the birds), and remember that honey is also not suitable for hummingbirds.

Some hummingbird feeds have red dye, or red food coloring added. The idea is that this makes the solution easier for hummingbirds to find since they respond most strongly to red and reddish hues. But this is not necessary.

Hummingbirds can find a clear solution just fine. Consider choosing a red feeder or a feeder with red elements on it. But avoid adding red food coloring to the mixture itself. It’s unnecessary and may pose a risk to the birds.

How To Add Hummingbird Feed to a Feeder

Most commercial hummingbird feeders that you can buy for your garden are inverted feeders or saucer feeders. Inverted feeders have reservoirs that empty to feeding ports, into which hummingbird feed is released from above.

Saucer feeders have a shallow dish below, with ports that allow the hummingbird to dip their beaks and tongues into the nectar supply.

Before you think about filling a new hummingbird feeder, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with it and how it opens. Some are top-fill feeders which can be opened on top to add the nectar, and some others are inverted and filled from the base.

You will need to be able to clean out and refill the feeder regularly, so it is a good idea to choose one which makes this process as simple and easy as possible.

How Often Should You Fill a Hummingbird Feeder?

How To Fill a Hummingbird Feeder

How often you need to fill a hummingbird feeder to meet the needs of visiting hummingbirds will depend on where you live and, of course, how many hummingbirds are using it. 

Those who have large numbers of hummingbirds where they live will obviously find that nectar levels go down far more quickly. In contrast, those who see only a handful of hummingbirds may find that the level of the hummingbird food goes down only slowly.

However, whether the level of the hummingbird solution in your feeder drops quickly or barely drops at all, you will still need to empty, clean, and refill your hummingbird feeder around every 2-7 days. Other factors that affect the refill rate include the feeder type, location, climate, time of year, temperatures, and other conditions.

But it is important to change the solution in a hummingbird feeder regularly to prevent spoiling of the sweet nectar, pest problems, and potential harm to the birds.

How Full Should I fill a Hummingbird Feeder?

Typically you will fill a hummingbird feeder to around one inch below the top. It is important not to overfill a hummingbird feeder, and you should take care to avoid any spills. Be tidy and ensure that no solution has smeared or spilled on the outside of the vessel. If you have a messy feeder, this can attract unwanted visitors like wasps or ants.

However, it is not always necessary to fill a hummingbird feeder with nectar right to the top. If you have a large feeder and only a few hummingbird visitors, filling your feeders to capacity may just lead to a lot of waste. Remember, whether or not the ‘nectar’ has been taken, the feeders will have to be emptied and refilled regularly.

How to Clean Out and Refill a Hummingbird Feeder

When you need to clean out and refill a hummingbird feeder, you should carefully remove it from where it is hanging. You should tip out any remaining hummingbird feed solution carefully to avoid spills. 

Next, take the feeder apart to gain access to the different sections. Thoroughly clean each feeder part with hot tap water and a soapy solution. Make sure that you use a natural, eco-friendly soap to avoid any potential harm to the environment or the birds.

Be sure to rinse the parts thoroughly to ensure that all traces of the soap are gone. Even when you are using natural and bird-safe soap, it can affect the taste of the hummingbird nectar and make hummingbirds steer clear.

Leave the feeder to dry. Then, once it is thoroughly dried, you can reassemble the parts of the feeder and fill it up once more.

Once your hummingbird feeder has been filled, you can hang it in your garden. And, you should be able to enjoy watching hummingbirds flitting around outside your home.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.