Like addresses for popular diners, successful hummingbird feeders depend on the same real-estate strategy: location, location, location. Backyard birders beckon hummingbirds by strategically placing feeders that cater to the feeding habits, territorial tendencies and safety of these tiny creatures.
As migrating hummingbirds make their migratory trek from Mexico each spring, the best location for a feeder is near early-flowering plants. After the flowers capture the initial interest of migrating hummers, nectar feeders help keep the birds in your backyard. Azaleas and rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.) are early-flowering hummingbird favorites in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. In USDA zones 5 through 9, red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) blossoms during the rufous hummingbird spring migration.
Hummingbirds are valiant defenders of their territory, which includes feeders. To minimize territorial fighting, it's better to provide several small feeders with single feeding ports than one larger feeder with several ports. Male hummingbirds typically defend an area up to 1/4 acre, while females guard the smaller areas surrounding their nests. As a rule of thumb, space feeders at least 10 to 15 feet apart. Dr. Paul Thomas, University of Georgia horticulturist, recommends providing six to eight feeders for each 1/2 acre.
The Elements and Predators
Sun and wind compromise the nectar solution in a hummingbird feeder. In direct sun, the sugar water ferments more rapidly than in shaded feeders, causing the growth of harmful mold and bacteria that can make birds sick. If you are diligent about rinsing feeders and refilling them with fresh nectar every few days, you can place them in full sun. But if you cannot keep them rinsed and refilled this frequently, choose a shadier spot. Because windy areas cause feeders to sway, which spills the nectar, find a sheltered spot to minimize dripping.
When placing hummingbird feeders, assume a cat's-eye view and be sure to place feeders out of the reach of curious felines.
Helping With Breeding
Female hummingbirds build the nests, incubate the eggs and raise the babies with no help from the males. By hanging some feeders underneath tree canopies, you'll help the females from having to stray far from their nests to feed, and they won't have to compete with the more aggressive males. In contrast, male hummingbirds mate with numerous females and prefer open feeding areas and larger territories. So hang some feeders in open areas for the marauding males.