Do Hummingbirds See Red?

Are Hummingbirds More Attracted to Red Feeders?

April 17, 2020
Hummingbird at Feeder

I love to watch the hummingbirds at my bird feeders. A friend told me hummingbirds are more attracted to red feeders. So, I tried an experiment.

I have a bird feeder close to my deck and another one is hanging on my front porch.  I had noticed wasps around the feeder and very little hummingbird activity. My friend suggested that I paint feeder red.

One weekend, I used some red spray paint and painted the feeder all red.

Like magic, the hummingbirds were back, and the wasps were gone! This isn’t exactly a true science experiment, but it made me investigate further.

Why are hummingbirds attracted to the color red?

It turns out that hummingbirds have a dense concentration of cones in their retinas. These cones contain pigments and oil droplets in shades of yellow to red, which seem to act like filters. The filters appear to heighten color sensitivity to red and also yellow, while muting colors such as blue.

Bright red flowers, and of course, red feeders are often rich sources of food for hummingbirds. The color signals “food” for hummingbirds. 

Hummingbird Food

I make my own sugar water (1 part white sugar to 4 parts water) and usually have to fill the red backyard feeder twice a week.

Of course, hummers also zoom towards any nectar-rich flowers. So, even though the birds have a heightened sensitivity to red (and yellow), they are speedy learners and will find nectar wherever they can.

See the Almanac article on Plants That Attract Hummingbirds.

How do you attract hummingbirds to your yard? What flowers do you recommend as hummingbird magnets?

About This Blog

Your Old Farmer’s Almanac editors occasionally share our reflections, advice, and musings—and welcome your comments!