Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures who are, on the whole, friendly towards humans. After all we are so much bigger than them and we feed them so why would they want to attack us?
Reasons Hummingbirds Can Attack
Considering their size, hummingbirds can be aggressive, but most of the time if they get up close to you, they’re just being nosey. If they do attack there’s a good reason for this behavior.
- Hummingbirds are very territorial, which is why you may see them attack one another in your garden. Some hummers just don’t like sharing a bird feeder with others so they will warn other birds off. If they think you are a threat to their supply of sugar water, you may find they give you a warning too.
- Female hummingbirds are also protective of their nest and young. You may not even know that you’ve wandered too close to a nest until the mother decides to let you know to back away. If you see a nest, don’t just walk up to take a look as this will make them feel threatened.
Hummingbirds don’t generally do any harm if they attack humans and mostly they’ll just be giving you a warning to move away. The thing you do need to be careful of is their beak as this is long, thin and sharp so be sure to react quickly if a hummingbird tells you to.
Is Hand Feeding a Hummingbird a Good Idea?
While they may be aggressive if they feel under threat, hummingbirds are also gentle creatures and will happily come and feed from your hand if they feel safe.
Hummingbirds are nosey by nature but they are also cautious so it can take time to get them to come close to you to feed. If you follow these simple steps you will soon experience the joy of feeding hummingbirds out of your hand.
The first step is to make sure you attract hummingbirds in to your garden. Make sure it’s prepared in plenty of time for their arrival, and remember that some early migrators may arrive 2-3 weeks before the others.
- Hummers like red and tubular flowers which are high in nectar. Make sure you plant plenty of blooms to attract them.
- Get your feeders out up to 3 weeks before they are due to arrive but make sure you check the sugar water even if the feeders have not been used. You don’t want the hummingbirds to arrive and find the nectar has gone moldy.
- Water is important too as they do need to keep clean. You don’t need a lot of this as it needs to be very shallow for them.
2. Gather information
When the hummingbirds have arrived, keep a note of where they prefer to feed and what times. They feed mostly at dusk to fill up with energy for the night ahead and also in the early morning. They do feed constantly throughout the day so keep track if there is a certain time of the day where they are busier.
3. Gain their trust
This one is the one which may require some patience on your part. You can’t expect the birds to get near you on the first day and you must remember that some birds are always nosier than others.
- After working out the best time and which is the most popular feeder, place a chair or table by it. You will need somewhere to sit while they learn to trust you. A few minutes before you know they are due to feed, go out and sit at the table. Sit quietly and let the birds fly around you. Don’t try to interact with them, just let them get used to you sitting there.
- Over the next few days go out and sit at the same time until the birds feel comfortable with you there. You can take a cup of coffee out with you as long as you don’t make sudden movements. There is no timescale how long it will take for the hummingbirds to feel confident feeding while you are there so you may need to be patient.
- When you think the time is right, take a feeder out with you. Place it on the table in front of you. Try to keep as still as you can as any movement may scare them away. As they get closer you can progress to the next step.
4. Hold the feeder
You will need a small feeder to place in your hand. Some people use bottle lids filled with sugar water or other small containers, but this can lead to sugar water getting on to their feathers. This can be very difficult for them to clean off so you need a feeder with holds all the nectar inside. Ideally you need a closed top hand feeder. This will sit in the palm of your hand without the risk of any nectar dripping out.
Place your arm in front of you across the table and put the feeder in your hand. Keep very still as the hummingbirds come down to feed. It may take a few days for them to pluck up the courage to feed from your hand, but they will. You may even find they use your fingers as a perch.
As the birds gain in confidence you may be able to move around more as they feed from your hand.
If you want to try to attract hummingbirds to feed from your hand remember:
- Keep your pets indoors. These will probably scare the birds away.
- If you have children make sure they sit still and quiet.
- Don’t try to stroke the birds as this can harm them or scare them away.
- Be patient. The best things can never be rushed.
Remember you can’t tame hummingbirds but if you show them patience and don’t do anything to scare them, they won’t harm you and instead will be inquisitive when they see you. They’ll soon get to realize that you’re the one who tops up the food and may even fly around you while you give them fresh nectar!