Into The Air

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How to Keep Unwanted Birds Away from Hummingbird Feeders

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Photograph by Chris Selvig via Flickr

The past few weeks, we’ve been writing about keeping your hummingbird feeders free from pesky ants and flying insects. One of our readers brought up another threat to hummingbird feeders, other birds.

Orioles are known for raiding hummingbird feeders, but they’re not the only ones. Woodpeckers, House Finches and other species tend to invade hummingbird feeders for a chance to drink the sweet nectar. And when these bigger birds eat the nectar, they usually scare away the hummingbirds, which defeats the whole purpose.

So here’s what you can do to protect your hummers from unwanted birds.

Get an oriole feeder, suet feeder and/or seed feeder

One of the best solutions is to simply get more feeders. If you mind having orioles coming to your hummingbird feeders, you can buy feeders especially for them. Oriole feeders are essentially the same as hummingbird feeders, but they can accommodate fruits and jelly as well as nectar. For woodpeckers, you can also put up suet feeders for them to get nutrition. You can do the same thing with other feeders, depending on the species hanging around your hummingbird feeders. Remember to make sure they’re always full, so the birds don’t have to turn to your other feeders for food.

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Opus Glass Hummingbird Feeder

Get a hummingbird feeder without a perch

Small, perchless feeders essentially keep out every bird except hummers because most birds need to perch while eating. A simple feeder like the Opus Glass Hummingbird Feeder requires the birds to be in flight while drinking the nectar. A larger bird like the woodpecker wouldn’t be able to mob the small feeder. You can also trim down the perches on your existing feeders.

Buy or make a bird baffle

Even if the feeder itself doesn’t have a perch, sometimes birds are able to perch on top of the feeder or grab onto the wire that holds it up. You can put a standard baffle or create your own makeshift one out of an old CD.

Separate the feeders

If you have separate feeders for orioles and woodpeckers, but they’re still going to the hummingbird feeders, try separating them. Putting them farther apart will make it less tempting for an oriole to move over and target the hummingbird feeder.

Please let us know any solutions you found.

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41 Comments

  1. Robert Banzet

    Owl & Hawk, plastic birds do not work. Owls feed at night and do not hunt during the day. Cooper hawks hunt and do eat small birds, i do not believe they hunt Humming Birds, at least I have never seen a hawk try to catch one.

    • Sandy

      Oh yes, hawks, do eat hummers. I have seen then come to my feeder and gobble them up. Have even had 2 or 3 at a time sit on the eave of the house waiting for them to show up. Don’t be deceived…they will eat them.

  2. connie

    Bluebirds are sitting on the two sided post hanger that holds the hummingbird feeders and not only do they chase the hummingbirds and oreoles away but they leave their droppings right on the feeders making them a mess. How can I get them to stop hanging around there.

  3. Susan

    I have found that if you buy a hummingbird feeder with bee guards on it the other birds can’t drink from it. I like the Perky Pet model with bee guards.

  4. Mahoney

    The birds have found that if they jar the feeder liquid is spilled which they drink I’m thinking of doing away with mine and just let the hummers feed on the flowers

  5. I have tried giving the orioles a separate feeder, they ignored it in favor of my hb feeder. I tried a baffle. It scared the hummers away. The only thing that has worked is removing the perches.

  6. Julianne Bergstrom

    We have talented woodpeckers and flickers. They are able to hang onto the little round glass feeders base and drink from it. Because they do that, they end up pulling the bottom of the feeder off and spilling the contents!!

  7. Jane

    The Orioles siphon the nectar out of our feeders very quickly, and if they fight over it, they spill it onto the porch.
    Its like a F-15 attacking where a Cessna is supposed to be.

    Then the little Woodpeckers discovered it, but a compact disc hanging and flopping around on the wire just above the feeder, keeps them away.

    But the Orioles? The only thing that keeps them away is a human waving at them, or our Yellow Lab jumping under the feeder.
    She hasn’t caught one yet,,,,,,,,,,

    I read that a perch-less feeder will solve this problem, as the larger birds cannot eat unless they are perching on something, while the hummers can eat in flight.

    We would love to buy one, as we dont want to cut and alter our feeders.
    Also I read that a bee-guard won’t accommodate the large beaks of the Woodies and the Orioles.

  8. Bats will empty the feeders over night,,,,only way to stop this ….move feeders to a protected area, yeeper.

  9. I JUST BOUGHT ONE OF YOUR WOODPECKER PROOF HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS, AND THE MINUTE I HUNG IT UP, A WOODPECKER HUNG ON IT AND SPILLED ALL THE LIQUID ONTO MY PATIO. WHAT AM I DOING WRONG ???

    • MissAZ

      Nothing! I have yet to find ANYTHING that will keep woodpeckers off my hummingbird feeders…except standing by the feeder and chasing off the woodpeckers myself. If only I had all the time in the world.

      • Mary Anne W. Johnson

        Me too I’m in Fountain Hills I really dislike the woodpeckers.

  10. Edith

    I have a ‘perchless’ HB feeder and continuously little 4 inch birds hook their toes between the glass top & the plastic bottom, hanging upside down & tilting & spilling HB nectar on concrete which then attracts ants. Any solution? It is maddening!

  11. Jane

    We have tried everything too, but my husband said that the other birds need to eat too. So we just put out more feeders, move them, fill them constantly, and they all seem happy. The hummers will go to a feeder which we have moved, sometimes where only the small birds can get to it because we place it under thick branches.

    Our Yellow Lab helps sometimes, as she will scare the Orioles if she gets up on her hind paws under the feeder.
    However we did find a way to deter the squirrels before we stopped feeding the birds. Thats another story, and it worked.

  12. Donna

    Our HOA only allows hummingbird feeders, no other bird feeders. Unfortunately, there are still many large, pesky birds hanging out on my patio & roof. Will the flash tape I put up to keep the larger birds away also scare away the hummingbirds?

  13. Jim

    a shot gun is the best deterrent for bully birds!

  14. Jane

    POW! that would get rid of a couple, but it would blow your feeders to oblivion! And there are plenty of back-up bully birds.
    This year, we are going to set up the feeders inside of some of our Azalea branches so that the thick branches will surround them. See if the little hummers can get into there to feed. And my husband will put a few other feeders in plain sight so the bully birds can get to them, and of course provide plenty of entertainment for our Yellow Lab. Though she wont catch any of them, just scare them a bit.

  15. Leslie

    Has anyone ever made a cage like the ones for birdseed feeders to go around the feeder? That seems like the best solution. I’m going to try to make one. Just not sure if it will scare the hummers or if they’ll figure out how to fly through the squares to get to the feeder.

    • Dianne

      I was going to do the same thing but feared it wouldn’t get out or the woodpecker would get trapped. They’re all feathers. I think they could squeeze through.

  16. Camille

    My husband saw a woodpecker at our hummingbird feeder, a first for us! When I went to refill the feeder, I realized that the white bee guards were all missing. Evidently the woodpecker remodeled the feeder to its liking. Anyone else have that occur?

  17. Jane

    Thats interesting! Those little woodpeckers are quite clever.
    We have some Orioles this spring, and they seem to intimidate the little woodies, so they are not coming onto the porch in plain sight of the Orioles very much.

    We have more Catbirds than ever this year, and feed them raisins on our picnic table. The Cardinals love the raisins too. And the woodies are very wary of these birds also.

    But I know this is not the solution either. We just are living with it, making more sugar water and putting out more feeders.

  18. Howard

    Something is removing the yellow flower covers on the feeder and draining it. Could house finches do that? We have a lot of those around the feeders

    • Steve

      We had two HB feeders with he yellow bee guards. Found the woodpeckers came and somehow got them off and carried them off. Found most of them about 50′ away. Didn’t bother to put them back. Still have woodpeckers after the HB feeders.

  19. Linda Mattison

    Struggled to attract hummers in NJ for years. Moved to Scottsdale and THRILLED with hummer visits. After 3 years suddenly now birds attack feeders until they’re empty. So angry!! Even if big birds can’t get to ports they still spill it. Trying perchless next

    • Jane

      For some reason, a hanging plant with a lot of ‘interference’ is working for us.
      I think the larger birds cant navigate around those plants. The woodpecker will try, but is discouraged, especially if the winds move those plants.

      Another thing my husband is trying, is to fill the feeder only to a level which just so that a long beak can reach in.
      Even tho the woodies can tip the feeder, they cant get their fatter beaks in far enough to get to the juice.

  20. barbara

    i had ants on my hummingbird feeders last year i bought ant guguards you can buy them at lowes or walmart i used them this year also no ants but this year i have mockingbirds sitting on top of my hunfeeders and scared both of my humming birds away

  21. Tina

    Sat with a squirt gun last night shooting the darn woodpeckers away worked for a little time.

  22. nancy hayden

    the problem I have is they don’t eat, they just leave bowel movements that block the feeder holes

  23. Denise Baran

    In all the years I have never had a problem with other birds on my hummingbird feeders. This year I have woodpeckers and other birds draining them even tho I have suet feeders, seed feeders, oranges and grape jelly out. What gives? It’s annoying.

    • SJ

      Apparently they have changed their tastes? Who knows, maybe they enjoy ‘junk food’ sweets? In the 20 years I’ve had hummer feeders up (as well as black oil seed feeders) I only had the non hummers start this past year in 2016 and again now in 2017.

      • I fed hummers ( and only hummers) in Sc for over 20 yrs. Moved to Nc 5yrs ago. Started with just hummers…3yrs ago woodpeckers started….this year add finches to the gang.The woodpeckers and finches both frequented my other large bird feeder have no idea why they have added the hummer one to their menu!

  24. Jane

    Now we have the babies, and they are learning from their parents how to use the hummer feeders.
    We sort of gave up, and just keep filling the feeders all the time, and both the woodies and the hummers seem to get along.
    Thats as long as they arent trying to be on the same feeder at the same time. Yes, they do poop on our porch under that particular feeder, I have to scrub and wash it off.
    Oh, well, they are hungry too.

  25. chuck

    I have the woody problem this year, thats why I’m here. I just looked at my feeder
    and the perches are detachable by a screw.

  26. SJ

    I have hilarious video from last year. The Orioles consistently went to the Perky Pet Hummingbird feeder and the Hummers consistently went to the Oriole feeder – I finally just took the Oriole feeder down and now they both share the Perky Pet one. Since the bee guards have fallen off this year, now the house finches are there as well. None of them seem to spill and they seem to share – and of course the two hummers that come dive bomb one another but …

  27. Andrea

    Had an ant problem. Took a cotton ball and wiped the hanging pole and top of the feeder with cinnamon bark oil. No more ants. They hate cinnamon.

  28. Michael Roempke

    My HB feeder recently installed, seems not to feed. It was purchased and using the store bought nectar solution is bright red. The white flowers at the base have a two inch tube with orifice I think is large enough for the birds. As I watch even the Finches don’t seem successful with drawing the nectar through the ports inside the flowers.

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