Monday, September 23, 2019

Where should hummingbird feeders be placed—in sun or shade?

Once you have selected your hummingbird feeder you need to decide on the best placement. Where is the best place to put hummingbird feeders? Should you hang them in the sun or shade?

Hummingbird feeders should be placed primarily in the shade. Hummingbird nectar can go bad more quickly if the feeder is hanging in the sun all day. However, there are also good reasons for placing your hummingbird feeder so that it does get some sun during the day. And sun isn't the only consideration for proper hummingbird feeder placement.

An open line of sight for hummingbirds to find the feeder


Whether you put the hummingbird feeder in sun or shade it should be placed so that hummingbirds passing through can see it easily. Especially when birds first arrive in spring you want to attract their attention. So having your feeder highly visible from multiple angles is important.

You may also hang red decorations near the feeders to grab the attention of hummingbirds. Hanging baskets of red flowers will also work. Fuchsias and geraniums have red blooms in early spring that will quickly grab the attention of hummingbirds and add an attractive landscaping element to your entry or porch.

If your neighbors have active hummingbird feeders you may want to place your new feeder in line of sight of your neighbor's feeder. That way, if they show up for hummingbird food at your neighbor's feeder they will see yours also. Then they will quickly come to inspect it!

Once you have several hummingbirds regularly visiting your feeder you can move it if you think it is getting too much sun. How do you tell if your feeder is getting too much sun? Read on!

Photo of male Allen's Hummingbird in flowering shrub
Allen's Hummingbird
Photo by Greg Gillson

Beautiful morning sunlight for observing hummingbirds


There's nothing like the gem-like brilliance of iridescent hummingbird plumage in the golden glow of early morning sunshine. No doubt you'll want to have your hummingbird feeders set up to catch the first rays of sun. After the day starts to warm, though, you may want to have your feeder enter the shade.

Of course, you have to be able to see the feeder in order to enjoy it fully. The best place to hang your hummingbird feeder is where you will see it from inside your home. Hummingbirds visit your feeder first thing in the day. As soon as the day begins at sunrise hummingbirds start coming to your feeder. So, what window will you be looking out first thing in the morning? This will be your "morning feeder."

Hummingbirds also increase their visits to feeder in the evening, frequently well after sunset. They load up on calories to get through the cooler nights. It may be that you will want to set up a second hummingbird feeder to watch the hummingbirds in the afternoon and evening. There's no reason not to have more than one feeder!

Remember, too, that your most dominant hummingbird will choose an exposed perch in view of the hummingbird feeder. From this taller vantage point the dominant bird (often a male) will chase away any other hummingbirds. But also, this exposed perch will also likely be in the sun showing the brilliant plumage to great advantage.

Is it ok to put hummingbird feeders in the sun?


You might think that nectar in a glass hummingbird feeder might get very hot in the summer sun all day. Could such hot liquids burn the tongue of hummingbirds? No one would want to do that! Should hummingbird feeders be placed in the shade for this reason?

Evidently not. According to the information I could find (source), liquids in a hummingbird feeder only get a maximum of about 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than surrounding air temperature. That wouldn't be hot enough to burn skin (or tongue) even on the hottest summer day. That's very good to know.

Hummingbird feeders placed in direct sun will not burn the hummingbirds coming for a drink. But there is another reason for placing hummingbird feeders in the shade.

Keep hummingbird feeders in the shade to keep the nectar from spoiling quickly


The most important reason to keep the hummingbird feeder in the shade is to make the hummingbird food last longer without spoiling. That sugar water in the sun can quickly grow colonies of bacteria and mold. Bacteria often displays as cloudy hummingbird nectar. Mold is dark patches growing on the inside surface of the hummingbird feeders.

If your hummingbird food is cloudy, or if you see dark patches growing on the inside of the feeder, take your feeder down immediately. Discard the remaining liquid. Clean, wash, scrub, and rinse the feeder. Add fresh hummingbird nectar.

Even if you do not notice signs of bacteria or mold it is a good idea to change your nectar every 3 days in hot weather and at least once a week in cool weather. If you notice that hummingbirds aren't feeding as often, appearing perhaps to have abandoned a feeder that still has liquid in it, it may be a good idea to clean the feeder and change the nectar.

Remember to always thoroughly wash your feeder between fillings. Do not "top off" a feeder. Always wash the feeder before adding more nectar. It may be a bit of work, but it is worth it to keep your hummingbirds healthy and coming back.

Obviously, the more sun your feeders receive the more quickly the nectar will go bad. Feeders in the full summer sun all day may need changed every other day to keep from spoiling. Feeders in the shade will last longer before spoiling.

I always recommend only filling feeders with as much nectar as the hummingbirds drink within the time period that the feeders need cleaned. Thus, feeders in full sun should only have enough nectar that hummingbirds drink it all in 2 days. That way you never have excess nectar spoiling in the sun. Hummingbirds will quickly return to an empty feeder if you clean and refill it with a day or two.

Photo of hummingbird feeder placed in the shade of a patio
My current hummingbird feeder hangs at the corner of the patio.
It receives morning sun, quite a bit of shade during the day. It's outside my desk window.
Large plants protect it from the wind and provide hiding places for the birds.

Protecting the hummingbird feeder from the wind


Hummingbird feeders tend to swing in the wind. The food can quickly spill out in windy conditions. Besides offering an empty feeder to the hummingbirds, the spilled sugar fluid will likely attract ants or other pests.

A location with shade may also offer some protection from the wind, whether it is under the eaves, next to a wall, or under a tree. Hummingbirds don't mind if the feeder is gently swaying in the soft breeze. But they will likely avoid a wildly swinging and twisting feeder in strong winds. So a shaded location may provide this added calming benefit.

A place for hummingbirds to hide


A feeder placed out in the open may leave hummingbirds feeling exposed and vulnerable. They may desire a substantial bush in which to hide or rest within 5 feet or so of the feeder. If protection is farther away the birds may leave the yard completely every time they are startled just a bit. If they have a nearby place of safety they are likely to spend more time in the yard.

A dominant hummingbird will also try to chase away all interlopers. A dense bush nearby for the less dominant birds to hide in may allow them to wait their turn when the dominant bird is chasing someone else!

Do you have a large shrub or small bushy tree that can provide both shade during the hottest part of the day and protection too? That's be the best place to put hummingbird feeders.

Hummingbird feeders should be off the ground at least 5 feet, though. This will keep them above the pouncing height of most cats. Cats may lie in wait on the ground under a very dense bush to try to get to birds at your feeder. This includes hummingbirds.

Conclusion


We discussed having an open line of sight so hummingbirds can find your feeder as they fly by--especially in spring when the birds first arrive.

We talked about where to set up your feeders to view them from your windows that you'll be looking out in the morning.

It is okay to have hummingbird feeders in the sun all day, but the nectar will last longer without spoiling in the shade.

Having some protection from the wind will keep nectar from spilling out.

Placing feeders near a bush or small tree may provide a hiding place for the hummingbirds and make them feel more secure in your yard, as well as provide some additional shade.

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