Many of us put out special nectar feeders each spring to try and attract hummingbirds to our yard. If you’re one of those people, you may wonder if hummingbirds are the only bird that likes to drink nectar. Are there other birds that drink nectar from hummingbird feeders?
Yes, there is actually a pretty wide variety of bird species that enjoy the sugary goodness of nectar. In this article we will find out what other types of birds you may see at your hummingbird feeders, and even what you can do to encourage other birds to drink from nectar feeders.
Birds that Drink Nectar From Hummingbird Feeders
Sugar isn’t the easiest high-energy treat to find in the wild. Hummingbirds have evolved everything from their beak shape to hovering ability to take advantage of the high-energy nectar found deep inside flowers.
But other birds enjoy sugar too. It provides quick calories and energy that help feed their high metabolism. Flowers aren’t the only natural source of sugar. Tree sap is a source enjoyed by many birds (and us on our pancakes!). Certain berries and fruits also contain natural sugars enjoyed by birds.
Because of this, it is often birds that already incorporate tree sap and fruit in their diet that are drawn to hummingbird nectar.
Here a few of the North American birds that you might catch trying to take a sip from your hummingbird feeders:
- Gray Catbirds
- Escaped or naturalized parrots
Orioles are perhaps the most commonly seen birds at hummingbird feeders (well, other than the hummingbirds!) They love fruit, and often people attract them to their yard by putting out orange halves, grapes and jelly. So it’s no surprise they would be interested in nectar as well.
In fact, you can purchase nectar feeders specifically made for orioles, like this nice one from Perky Pet. The general idea of the feeder is the same, with some slight tweaks designed for orioles larger bodies.
Oriole feeders tend to have orange on them as the attracting color, rather than the red of hummingbird feeders. An oriole feeder will also have larger feeding port holes to accommodate their larger beak size. It will usually also have larger perches, and may include a place to put fruit or jelly.
Making Oriole Nectar
You can make your own oriole nectar the same way you make hummingbird nectar, but make it slightly less concentrated. Instead of the 1:4 ratio of sugar to water that you use for hummingbirds, use a 1:6 ratio for orioles. This seems to be the standard across reputable sources I have seen.
I haven’t found any information that says a 1:4 ratio will harm the orioles, only that 1:6 is closer to the level of sugar in the fruits they would eat naturally, so it may be healthier for them in that way.
Woodpeckers are used to the sweet treat of tree sap, so it’s no surprise they would try their luck with the hummingbird feeder. Smaller species, such as the Downy, are a common visitor. I’ve had Downy’s visit my hummingbird feeders almost every year.
However I’ve seen reports that even the large Norther Flicker will take a sip if they are able to get solid footing. This can sometimes be problematic as woodpeckers that are particularly determined might damage the feeder ports or bee guards trying to get to the nectar.
Is it bad if other birds drink from hummingbird feeders
Is it harmful for larger birds to drink from hummingbird feeders? Not necessarily, especially if you just get the occasional curious visitor. Many of the birds that may stop at the feeder won’t be able to get their beaks in the hole and really drink much.
Some may just be curious or could even be attracted by ants or insects that are checking out the feeder. I have had woodpeckers and house finches visit mine, but not cause any problems that I could see.
However sometimes when one of these larger birds decides your hummingbird feeder is an all-you-can-eat candy shop, there can be some unwanted side effects. The main complaints include:
- large birds may drink all your nectar quickly
- knocking your feeder over, spilling the nectar and attracting bugs
- they scare away the hummingbirds
- damage to feeder ports
- if the large birds hang around too long, they may poop all over your feeder
How to keep other birds away from your hummingbird feeder
If you are having some of the problems listed above, there are some things you can do to discourage other birds from using your hummingbird feeder.
Take away their perches
Hummingbirds have the ability to feed while hovering in the air, so technically they don’t even need a perch to stand on. Most hummingbird feeders have a perch that allows them to rest, but it’s not 100% necessary.
Any other type of bird trying to drink from your hummingbird feeder is going to need somewhere to stand or grasp onto in order to feed. So by taking away perches, you can greatly reduce or eliminate the ability of any other birds to access the nectar.
But, that may not be quite enough. If you have a saucer shaped feeder hanging from a wire or chain, some birds may be able to grasp onto that and hang down to reach the feeder ports. This is where having a hummingbird feeder that is not only perchless, but tall, will be your best bet.
This “lantern” feeder from Perky Pet is a great example. With a tall reservoir and no perches, it would be very difficult for any other type of bird to find a way to drink from it.
Put up a separate oriole feeder
Try putting a nectar feeder made for orioles in your yard, away from the hummingbird feeder. The oriole feeder will be easier for larger birds to access, and hopefully that will make it a much more attractive option than your hummingbird feeder.
Put out a suet feeder
This method is more for distraction, but a suet feeder can give birds more food options and they may visit your hummingbird feeder less. Many of the birds that will seek out nectar also enjoy suet, such as woodpeckers, catbirds, tanagers and orioles. You can even buy suet that has berry and fruit flavor in it for birds such as orioles and tanagers.
Nectar is a source of quick energy that many bird species enjoy. While they may not drink from flowers much in the wild, when presented with a nectar feeder they will gladly take a drink. This only becomes a problem if they are scaring away your hummingbirds or causing damage. In that case, a perchless feeder or additional nectar feeders in the yard should help you avoid the usual problems.