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I'm trying to increase the hummingbird population in my yard in Northeastern United States. I grow certain types of flowers specifically designed to keep them happy, and have often found them drinking from flowers people say they'll completely ignore.

I have one plastic feeder which I keep filled with nectar. I make that at home, or buy a bottled product made only of sugar and water, because red dye and other additives generally found in commercially prepared nectars are dangerous, and sometimes fatal.

My plan is to increase the number of feeders, but I'm not sure about the best way to position them.

Specifically:

  • Is proximity to other types of bird and squirrel feeders a consideration?
  • Is there a sun or shade preference?
  • Does the height from the ground matter?
  • Should they be near trees and bushes, or is it okay to put them in an open field?
  • Can they be close, or attached, to a window?
  • Can they be near each other, or should there be a distance between them? (I ask this because I was told that hummingbirds are territorial, and a male can guard a perimeter of up to 3 feet, making it important to keep their feeders at least that far apart.)
  • Should they be among the flowers they like, or is the feeder a good way to attract them to different parts of the yard?

If you know of anything I haven't mentioned, I'd appreciate all suggestions.

2 Answers 2

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My mother and her husband feed hummingbirds rather religiously. They have feeders all over and in every conceivable condition you could possibly imagine.

My mother refills all of her feeders on a daily basis, and the birds have learned it is her providing the food. When one of the feeders has gone empty and the others are too crowded, the hummingbirds will hover outside her kitchen window to get her attention.

This is not a joke, nor an exaggeration. The birds will hover around her while she's refilling the feeders.

In one case, a hummingbird failed to fly south for the winter, and they kept one feeder filled and warm to prevent freezing and they successfully helped that hummingbird overwinter in the mountain tops of North Carolina.

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    It's is anywhere with an anecdote as to why it doesn't seem to matter so much as consistency in keeping the feeder fresh and filled
    – Escoce
    Mar 21, 2016 at 19:26
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    Personally I think it's obvious. Put the feeders where you will enjoy them. That's the whole reason to put them out there is to attract the birds to a place where they can be seen and enjoyed.
    – Escoce
    Mar 21, 2016 at 20:10
  • I am not making it up either. My mother lives in NC and I live in CT, but when I went to see here I am amazed at how the birds would circle her, and when they came to the kitchen window she told me it meant one of the feeders was empty, and it was. There is also that really cool YouTube video of that guy who can coax a hummingbird into his house and the bird will sit on his finger while drinking syrup. Though I note the bird never gets between the feeder and the man, it's still amazing. Before I was married and had children I had wild critter friends, that ended with children...wonder why?!?
    – Escoce
    Mar 25, 2016 at 22:35
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One thing to consider is how territorial (or not) the hummingbirds in your area are. The Anna's Hummingbirds that we have in western Washington (USA) are reputed to be very territorial. From what I've observed that seems to be true, in the summer we have half a dozen "one bird" feeders that are at least 10' (3m) apart and the birds seem willing to get that close.

Since the the Anna's overwinter here we got some feeder heaters when the temperatures dropped below freezing. They didn't fit our small feeders we got some "four bird" feeders as well. The sales person at Wild Birds Unlimited claimed to have seen multiple birds using those feeders, but that's not what we're seeing -- the birds actually seem to guard "their" feeder and chase "invaders" off. I'm not good enough at identifying individual birds to know if everyone eventually gets a turn or not.

So, learn about the birds you're likely to get and make sure that you select and place the feeders so that they are all likely to get used.

You may also find this edition of BirdNotes Attracting Hummingbirds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology helpful. Some of the main points are:

  • Use small (test-tube) feeders -- these single bird feeders reduce conflicts between these territorial birds and the food will also get consumed faster which help to avoid the nectar going bad in warm weather.
  • Placing the feeders in sheltered, out of the wind, locations can help, especially if you have winter resident birds.
  • Offer the birds places to perch and observe the feeders.
  • Hummingbirds also eat (and need for protein) small bugs, so hanging banana peels in areas that the birds frequent is another way to help them out with food and you get to watch them go after the bugs.

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