Are Hummingbirds Attracted To The Color Red?

Hummingbirds are some of the most desirable animals to attract to your garden. Not only are they pollinators that will help your flowers thrive, but they are also colorful and exciting to watch. 

Most gardeners know that there are two main things needed to draw hummingbirds: a nectar-filled flower and/or a nice full hummingbird nectar feeder. But does the color of either of these things matter? Are hummingbirds attracted to the color red?

Two brown Violet-ear hummingbirds feeding from red flowers, in front of green background.

Hummingbirds are drawn to bright colors, but not necessarily red in particular. Hummingbirds in some regions of the world will be attracted to the primary colors of the flowers in that specific area, whether it be blue, red, purple, or even orange. 

Almost all hummingbird feeders are made with red bases that will supposedly attract hummingbirds better, but it turns out the specific color doesn’t matter as much as how bright the color is and how rich a source of nectar it is. 

In this post, we’ll explain the hummingbirds’ odd attraction to the red color and other bright colors and how this translates to their lives as wild birds!

Are Hummingbirds Attracted To The Color Red?

Whether hummingbirds are actually attracted to the color red is more complicated than you might think because some of the time, they are attracted to red, but other times, they prefer different bright colors.

Hummingbird feeding on the red flowers of a Red Yucca plant.

Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red in areas where red flowers and hummingbird feeders are consistent places to find food. For example, if the area that the hummingbird lives has more nectar-filled purple flowers, the hummingbirds in that area would be more attracted to purple than red.

These tiny birds are much smarter than most people realize, and their amazingly accurate memories are even more incredible! Once a hummingbird has a fulfilling meal from a patch of red flowers or a red hummingbird feeder, they will continue to seek out that same color of red in hopes of finding more food. 

Hummingbirds need to eat almost constantly when they are awake, and the ability to remember exactly where to find food and which colors relate to food help them to stay fed during their long daily flights. 

Green Collared Inca hummingbird feeding from red flowers.

Are Hummingbirds More Attracted to Red Than Other Colors?

Hummingbirds are more attracted to red than other colors in areas where red is more closely related to food. In North America, many nectar-filled flowers hummingbirds like to feed on are red, making the hummingbirds seek out red in the future. The same is true for the red hummingbird feeders people hang up.

In most areas in North America, the most common color of hummingbird feeder is red. If a hummingbird finds a suitable feeder that provides them with food consistently, they will remember the color of this feeder and what it looks like, so they can seek out similar ones in the future regardless of whether it is a red feeder or not. 

These memories are why so many people think hummingbirds are more attracted to red. Often, red really is the color hummingbirds are most attracted to, but in some areas of the world where red flowers and feeders are few and far between, another color might reign supreme in a hummingbird’s mind. 

A female Ruby Throated Hummingbird that is drinking from a red and yellow feeder.

Do Hummingbirds See Red?

Yes, hummingbirds can see red. In fact, hummingbirds are thought to see reds and yellows better than humans because while we have 3 types of cones in our eyes, hummingbirds actually have 4 types of cones! This helps them see more clearly, and in a broader spectrum of color and identify the plant that can provide food. 

It’s strange to think that a hummingbird sees the world in entirely different colors than the ones we are used to, but it’s true. Hummingbirds can sense bright reds and yellows better than almost any other color they see, including blues, which comes in handy during feeding time.

Do Hummingbirds Need Red Food?

No, the best food humans can feed hummingbirds is a simple mixture of sugar and water. The red dye in some commercial hummingbird foods is toxic to some hummingbird populations, so stick to brightly colored feeders and clear nectar. 

Rufous hummingbird feeding on red Crocosmia flowers.

The idea that hummingbirds prefer the color red has persisted for a long time, but red food dye isn’t necessary for attracting hummingbirds. These tiny birds will be much more excited about the sweet, clear hummingbird food made with white sugar and water than they would be for red food artificially dyed to attract hummingbirds. 

To make safe hummingbird food, you will need:

  • Water
  • White sugar
  • A clean hummingbird-specific feeder

All that you need to do is mix 4 parts water with 1 part sugar and mix this solution into the sugar until it is completely dissolved. For example, you could make a batch with 4 cups of water and 1 cup of white sugar OR 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of white sugar. 

Multiple hummingbirds at red glass feeder, some drinking nectar, some hovering waiting their turn.

Place this homemade nectar into a feeder made specifically for hummingbirds, but skip any red coloring that might come included with the feeder. Hummingbird feeders are made specifically to keep bugs and other critters out while still allowing the hummingbirds access to their delicious homemade food. 

Remember to empty and clean your hummingbird feeders often because sticky feeders are unpleasant for little hummingbird feet, and messy feeders can attract unwanted guests like bees and flies. 

You should also skip over using other sorts of sweeteners because, over time, they can ferment or grow bacteria. Plain water and sugar are best!

Are Hummingbirds Color-Blind?

No, hummingbirds are not color blind. It’s actually quite the opposite! Hummingbirds have impressively good sight and use this sight to gauge which areas are best to feed in. 

Hummingbirds are especially adept at seeing different shades of bright colors. Flowers, which contain the life-sustaining nectar that hummingbirds need, are often brightly colored.

Strangely enough, in areas where dull flowers have the most hummingbird food inside, the local hummingbirds will form an affinity for the duller colors of the flowers instead of bright reds and yellows. 

How well we see color is dependent on how many color-sensing cones are in our eyes. Humans have 3 types of cones, but they are slightly outpaced by the hummingbird, which has 4 kinds of color-sensing cones.

Related Post: How Big Is A Baby Hummingbird?

Final Thoughts on Why Hummingbirds Are Attracted To The Color Red

It’s safe to say that hummingbirds are definitely attracted to the color red, but it’s not for the reasons you might think. While red is a color that hummingbirds can see very well, they don’t necessarily prefer it over other colors. The truth is that hummingbirds are generally attracted to brightly colored objects because they often represent nectar-rich flowers.

So, if you want to attract hummingbirds to your yard, make sure to put out a brightly colored bird feeder filled with clean, fresh sugar water to create your own hummingbird nectar! You’ll often see more red options at your garden center or local store, but it’s ok to choose a different color, as long as the feeder is a bright color.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for these beautiful little creatures as they zip around your yard in search of the sweetest nectar!

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