Do hummingbirds use birdhouses?

Hummingbirds are some of the smallest and most dazzling birds found in nature. Known for their fast wing beats and ability to hover midair, hummingbirds have captured the fascination of people for centuries. But do these tiny birds make use of birdhouses like their larger avian relatives?

The basics of hummingbird behavior

Hummingbirds are in the family Trochilidae and are native to the Americas. There are over 300 different species of hummingbirds, with the smallest being just 2 inches long and weighing less than a penny. Despite their tiny size, hummingbirds have incredible flight abilities. They can flap their wings up to 80 times per second and fly backwards, upside down, and in loops.

Hummingbirds are aggressive defenders of their territories and food sources. They do not migrate in flocks and typically live alone or in mated pairs. Hummingbirds have very high metabolisms and must eat frequently to fuel their active lifestyles. Their diet consists of nectar, tree sap, small insects and spiders.

Do hummingbirds use nests or birdhouses?

In the wild, hummingbirds make delicate, compact nests out of plant down, spider webs, lichen, moss and other soft materials. The female does most of the nest construction, though the male may help gather some materials.

Hummingbird nests are typically the size of a walnut shell and have a very shallow, cup-like shape. Nests are built on high branches, cliff edges or wires so they can rock in the wind for camouflage. Hummingbirds do not reuse nests after raising a clutch of eggs.

While hummingbirds build intricate open-cup nests, they do not use enclosed birdhouses or nest boxes. There are several reasons why hummingbirds avoid artificial housing:

  • They are territorial birds and do not nest colonially like some other species.
  • Their tiny size makes most birdhouses unsafe and uncomfortable.
  • They build exposed nests so they can easily watch for predators.
  • Enclosed spaces increase risk of parasites and diseases.

Providing hummingbird feeders and plants

Though they do not use birdhouses, hummingbirds can benefit from human provisions like nectar feeders and flower gardens. Here are some tips for attracting hummingbirds:

  • Get a nectar feeder designed for hummingbird feeding. Select a model with red accents since hummingbirds are attracted to red.
  • Use a nectar recipe of 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. Boil the water first and let it cool before filling the feeder.
  • Clean feeders every few days to prevent mold, bacteria or pests.
  • Place feeders in shady spots near trees, flowers or fountains. Hummingbirds like to have perches nearby.
  • Grow native plants with tubular red or orange flowers that provide nectar.
  • Add a hummingbird bath or mister for drinking and bathing.
  • Avoid using pesticides which can be harmful to hummingbirds.

Special hummingbird houses

While regular birdhouses don’t attract hummingbirds, there are a few special housing options designed just for them:

Hummingbird dormitory

A hummingbird dormitory is a long, narrow box with multiple small compartments. Each compartment has a perch and shelter, but no enclosure. The open design allows hummingbirds to sleep without being trapped inside. Dormitories are hung near feeders to provide overnight roosting spots.

Hummingbird high-rise

This consists of multiple perches, feeding stations and tiny shelters stacked vertically on a stand. It lets numerous hummingbirds access the feeders at once while also giving them places to rest in between meals.

Mason bee house

Though intended for solitary mason bees, this style of house may also attract hummingbirds. It has a series of open tubes along the sides where the small birds can shelter.

Warnings about artificial hummingbird feeders

While specially designed shelters can help supplement wild hummingbird habitats, there are also risks involved with artificial housing:

  • Small enclosures may trap and injure hummingbirds.
  • Unsanitary beds promote spread of diseases.
  • Feeders may attract predators like cats to site.
  • Sugar water and artificial nectar lack nutrition.
  • Close human contact disturbs natural behaviors.

If providing specialty hummingbird shelters, be sure to follow these precautions:

  • Clean and disinfect all materials regularly.
  • Use only open-cup, tube or perch designs, no enclosures.
  • Place feeders and shelters well away from trees where predators roost.
  • Limit human interaction so birds retain natural instincts.

Hummingbird habitats

In addition to feeders and plantings, there are some other ways to transform your yard into a hummingbird haven:

  • Include a water feature such as a mister, drips or shallow pond for drinking and bathing.
  • Provide shrubs and trees that offer protection from weather and predators.
  • Eliminate pesticide use which can be toxic to small birds.
  • Set out cotton, wool or plant down for nest building.
  • Install a few perches where hummingbirds can rest and preen.

With a little care and creativity, you can design a safe, welcoming space where hummingbirds will thrive. Focus on providing their basic needs like food, water, shelter and nesting materials rather than trying to mimic artificial housing.


In summary, hummingbirds are unique birds that do not use standard birdhouses or enclosed nesting boxes. They prefer to build tiny, cup-shaped nests on branches and cliffsides. While hummingbirds won’t take to basic birdhouses, they can be attracted to specially designed shelters and feeders. With an understanding of their natural behaviors, you can create a habitat that nourishes hummingbirds without disrupting their normal activities.

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