For more information on the Living With Wildlife series, contact the WDFW Wildlife Program



Hummingbird at feeder


Select feeders that have red on them somewhere to attract hummers. Feeders with several feeding ports seem to work best. Choose feeders that come apart easily so they can be cleaned thoroughly. Molds and bacteria will spoil your sugar solution after several days of hanging in warm weather.

Don’t forget to clean and change the solution in your feeders about every 4 to 5 days. Clean feeders thoroughly with a bottle brush, hot water and a little vinegar to discourage mold (do not use any soap or detergent). Don't hang out more feeders than you have time to clean and maintain. Poorly cleaned feeders are a hazard to the birds' health.

Some commercially-produced solutions offer a formula complete with vitamins and minerals. Any solutions with dye, food coloring or flavoring in them are considered unsafe and aren’t needed. Red coloring isn’t necessary because most feeders already have something red on them to attract hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds can get fatal hardening of the liver from eating a heavy sugar syrup. For that reason a solution that is no more than 1 part sugar to 4 parts water is recommended. Boil the water, stir in the sugar, and remove the solution from heat. This will retard mold growth. Let the solution cool before filling your feeder.

Don’t use honey or artificial sweeteners in your feeder. Honey helps fungus grow and contains botulism toxins that can kill hummingbirds. Birds may quickly starve to death eating artificial sweeteners because they contain no calories.

Place your hummingbird feeder where you can watch it and where it can be easily reached for cleaning and refilling. Shady spots are best for keeping the sugar solution cool, which keeps mold growth down.

Since hummers tend to fight over feeders hung close together, placing them far apart or out of sight of each other will attract more birds.

Plant or place nectar-producing blossoms near feeders so hummingbirds will also have insects and natural nectar for a more balanced diet.

If your sugar solution attracts ants, bees or wasps, apply petroleum jelly around the openings of the feeders and on the wire from which it hangs. Or try moving the feeder to another spot. Don’t use insect sprays or repellents to control insects on or around the feeder. If stinging insects are a problem, try spraying a fine mist of water from a hose onto the feeder. The water will at least chase away the insects for a while, and the hummers may enjoy the shower.