Keeping Your Backyard Hummingbird-friendly

Steps to Protect Your Hummingbirds So You and Your Family Enjoy Hours of Birdwatching Fun

Reading Time: 6 minutes

It’s summertime, and we’re all in a hummingbird state of mind.

We love reading about the joys our brilliant, small flying jewels bring to backyards across the country.

Their aerial acrobatics dazzle our eyes hovering, zipping up and down, sideways and back.

allens_hummingbird_intobirds
The Allen’s Hummingbird breed in a narrow strip of habitat along coastal Oregon and California

Hummingbirds Most Commonly Seen at Feeders

Depending on what part of the country you live, chances are you seeing one of these four hummingbirds commonly frequenting backyard feeders.

-Ruby-throated Hummingbird

-Black-chinned Hummingbird

-Anna’s Hummingbird

-Rufous Hummingbird

-Calliope Hummingbird

-Costa’s Hummingbird

-Allen’s Hummingbird

-Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are swift aerodynamic flyers that seem to move at lightning speeds on the average between 45 and 60 miles per hour.

These birds can dive at a speed of up to 50 miles per hour.

Yet even at those speeds and a body mass of 4 to 6 grams, these tiny birds are vulnerable to predators and other dangers.

After going to such troubles to attract these treasured jewels, we want to make sure our backyards are free of perils.

Tips for Keeping Your Yard Hummingbird-friendly

1-Keep Feral Cats and Pets Away

It pains us to list cats as the first danger since we have two indoor cats, but they are the most common predator of backyard birds.

A hummingbird’s agile movements and fast reflexes make it natural to attract a cat.

Cats often wait in bushes, trees, or hang around feeders waiting for the chance the pounce.

We can’t keep the neighbor’s cats out of our yards. And even we struggle with a neighborhood cat named Pepe, whose owner thinks he should roam free.

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The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is by far the most common hummingbird seen east of the Mississippi River in North America

Steps to Cat-proof Your Feeders

So if we can’t eliminate the problem, then we have to take steps to protect our backyard sanctuary.

-Try placing your feeders at least 8 feet above the ground, where a cat will have difficulty reaching it.

-Be cautious where you are housing your feeder. Keep it far away from tree limbs, fences, stone walls, or high brush where a cat can hide.

-If possible, practice the best option: keep your cat indoors and let them birdwatch out the window.

READ: Most Microbes in Hummingbird Feeders Do Not Pose Health Hazard

2-Keep Hummingbird Feeders Clean

Choose hummingbird feeders with a wide mouth so you can easily dismantle and thoroughly clean them.

Hummingbird feeders require frequent cleaning, on average every 5-7 days.

Never use soap, instead soak the feeder in warm water or vinegar for a few hours.

Soap can leave a residue that changes the flavor of the nectar that displeases the hummingbirds.

After soaking the hummingbird feeder, use a long bottle brush to remove excess mold from the feeder and thoroughly rinse it before refilling.

As the temps begin to climb, it’s important to clean the feeder and change the nectar.

70 to 80 degrees: every 5 to 6 days

81 to 88 degrees: every 3 to 4 days

88 to 92 degrees: every 2 days

93 degrees and above: change daily

male_rufous-_hummingbird_intobirds
See Rufous Hummingbirds when they return to their breeding grounds in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Canada, and southern Alaska

3-Get an Ant Moat

Ants are attracted to the same sugar nectar that hummingbirds like, and they’re persistent in climbing hooks, chains, and poles to reach a nectar feeder, but they can’t cross a water barrier.

Not only do ants steal the nectar, but they also contaminate it, which discourages hummingbirds from using that feeder.

Skip using chemical products that can sicken the birds and instead, try hanging an ant moat above your feeder and fill it with plain water.

If you live in a hot, dry climate, be sure to check the water in the ant moat because it may evaporate too quickly.

Some feeders come with built-in ant moats, but they are usually small and will dry out quickly.

Be sure to add a larger ant moat, such as a cylinder or umbrella design, and keep it filled.

Other birds, such as finches, may even quench their thirst from the moat. We’ve caught our backyard squirrel, Fairuza, hanging from the hummingbird feeder enjoying a sweet drink of sugar water.

4-Use Window Decals

Hummingbirds have quick reflexes and a keen sense of spatial awareness to avoid collisions, but sometimes these birds collide with physical objects.

These objects include windows, cars, fences, and trees.

We can’t control many of the objects a hummingbird comes into contact with, but we can prevent the tragic outcome of window collisions.

The safest way to prevent window collisions is to apply specially-designed stickers to your windows, so the hummingbird doesn’t see the glass as open space.

These decals also prevent window collisions with songbirds at your feeders.

allens_hummingbird_intobirds
The Allen’s Hummingbird has a copper-red throat patch known as a gorget named after the protective metallic neck gears worn by warriors, pre-18th century

5-Keep Bees and Wasps Away

We can’t keep nature from existing in our backyard, but we can try to eliminate the nuisance they bring hummingbirds.

Bees and wasps hang around hummingbird feeders because they’re searching for water during the hot summer months.

We witness large bumblebees bullying our hummingbirds every day, so we use nectar guard tips so the bees can’t drink the water.

And we resort to reducing the hummingbird sugar to water ratio to thwart bees and ants.

It’s important to coexist with nature, so we don’t recommend putting up disposable yellow jacket traps.

If nothing else works, consider adding a bee watering station in your backyard.

Keep in mind that hummingbirds tolerate the disturbance from the bees for some time, but eventually, the birds will take up residence elsewhere.

READ: Male Hummingbirds Dive-bombing for Love

6-Beware of Praying Mantis

It was shocking to learn that a Praying Mantis is a little green killing machine and on the top 10 list of hummingbird dangers.

A Praying Mantis is 3.5 to 4 inches longs and can kill prey three times its size like a hummingbird.

The Praying Mantis relies on patience and waits for hours before attacking and capturing its victim.

It then holds the hummingbird in a death grip with its jagged and notched forelegs and sharp razor-like mandibles.

praying_mantin_kill_hummingbirds_intobirds
The Praying Mantis is a predator for hummingbirds, but contribute to pest control by consuming harmful insects in our gardens

This process can take all day as the Praying Mantis hangs on, never letting go until it devours the bird by eating its brains out.

Sorry for the graphic detail, but there’s no gentler way to put it.

Take that picture out of your mind, and remember that Praying Mantises are beneficial to our ecosystems.

They contribute to pest control by consuming harmful insects in our gardens, but we should discourage them from being around your hummingbird feeder.

We keep our hummingbird feeder away from the garden and bushes where we usually see Praying Mantis.

7-Don’t Use Chemical Pesticides

Google hummingbirds, and you’ll find these birds are on the decline.

The Rufous Hummingbird lost 62 percent of its population between 1966 and 2014.

The likely suspects are habitat loss, climate change, and fragmentation of breeding grounds, but new research shows neonicotinoid (neonics) insecticides are contributing to the hummingbird’s decline.

pesticide_free_intobirds
Make your backyard safe for hummingbirds by not using pesticides

Neonics in Garden Plants

Commercial agriculture uses neonics in plants sold to consumers for home garden use.

Once these insecticides get in water and soil, they last for months to even years.

The insecticide travels from the roots to leaves, all the way to the pollen and nectar.

Hummingbirds remember where their nectar flowering plants reside and return to the same locations for food.

There is concern among researchers neonicotinoids will disrupt the bird’s memory, making it difficult for them to navigate and find food.

You can make a difference by not using pesticides in your backyard and using organic or non-toxic remedies such as Neem oil for curing or protecting plants from insect infiltrations or diseases.

If using organic or non-toxic products, do it at night, so it has time to dry when the hummingbirds are sleeping to keep them protected.

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Ruby-throated hummingbirds move very fast. These birds are capable of rapidly beating their wings more than 50 times a second

8-Be Alert in Extreme Weather

When the temps reach above 100 F, it creates incredibly harsh living conditions for these tiny birds.

Severe heat and drought cause dehydration and is deadly for these birds, and during the hot summer months without shade, water or food can spell disaster.

Remember to change homemade nectar daily in sweltering hot weather (90 F or above) and every other day for temperatures in the 80 F.

Keep feeders in the shade to reduce bacterial growth from fermented spoiled nectar.

Provide bushes and trees in your backyard as a sanctuary for hummingbirds to rest and provide shade from the heat.

We place a broken section of a tree near our feeder so the hummingbird can perch and rest as it goes back and forth.

READ: Fresh H2O Makes Your Yard the Place for Birds to Go

Don’t Forget to Add Water

And of course, every bird enjoys having a water feature or birdbath close by in the summer heat.

We have yet to see our hummingbird use ours, and if they do, it will be incredible to see.

Now that you know the multitude of dangers facing these special, tiny, delicate birds, you can help keep your backyard hummingbirds safe and continue enjoying the beauty and wonderment of these glittering jewels with wings.

Hummingbirds are an incredible backyard gift and provide you and your family with hours of birdwatching fun.

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