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Do hummingbirds use birdhouses? - Answers from a computer vs an ornithologist

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Who will answer the challenge of this common bird question? The human with decades of experience and training, or the software with the entire world wide web at its fingertips? Two answers enter, and only ONE answer leaves!

A Rivoli's Hummingbird visits a hummingbird feeder.
A magnificent Rivoli's Hummingbird visits a feeder in southeast Arizona. This bird was previously named the Magnificent Hummingbird, and it's a travesty to have been renamed.

Where else can you find an ornithologist arguing with artificial intelligence? Nowhere! (Probably.) So join the flocking Flock to get more unusual content like this!

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Artificial intelligence has a multitude of uses in the world. It can probably make some aspects of our lives easier. But is it infallible? Not by a long shot. And the more complex or less well-known questions asked of these bots open up a Pandora's Box of bad, no-good information. Find professionals you trust, and go to them first. Information on the internet can be wrong or misleading. Even here at Flocking Around, I have had to make corrections based on new, updated research or a misidentification. If you ever have questions about the validity of an internet claim, reach out to me!

 

Want to learn more about hummingbirds of the world? This life-sized guide is a great resource!

Zach reading Hummingbirds: A Life-sized Guide
 

Have you purchased a hummingbird house?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Thanks for saving me from this scam!


Chat GPT Answer: Will hummingbirds use a birdhouse?

Hummingbirds are tiny, colorful birds that are known for their rapid wing beats and ability to hover in mid-air. They are found primarily in the Americas, with some species ranging as far north as Alaska and as far south as Tierra del Fuego. Given their unique characteristics, hummingbirds have become popular among bird enthusiasts who seek to attract these amazing birds to their gardens or backyards. One way to do this is by providing a hummingbird house, a small structure designed to serve as a nesting site or shelter for hummingbirds. But will hummingbirds actually use a hummingbird house? In this article, we'll explore the answer to this question and some related considerations.


Hummingbird houses come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but most are small and enclosed structures that resemble birdhouses. They typically have an entrance hole that is just the right size for a hummingbird to enter, and some may have a perch or a platform for the birds to rest on. Some hummingbird houses are also designed to hold nectar, a sugar water solution that hummingbirds feed on, and may have multiple feeding ports or a feeding dish attached to the outside.

 

Zoom into the zooming birds with the Sony RX10 IV!

Zach zooming a Sony RX10 IV

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While hummingbirds are known to use a variety of nesting sites, including trees, shrubs, and even spiderwebs, the use of a hummingbird house is less well-established. There have been reports of hummingbirds using birdhouses or similar structures as nesting sites, but the evidence is largely anecdotal. However, there are a few factors that may make a hummingbird house attractive to these birds.


One factor is the availability of suitable nesting sites. Hummingbirds typically build their nests in trees or shrubs, but in some areas, these habitats may be scarce or unsuitable for nesting. A hummingbird house can provide an alternative nesting site that is protected from the elements and predators. This is especially important in areas where natural nesting sites are scarce or destroyed by human activities such as deforestation or urbanization.


Another factor is the availability of food. Hummingbirds have a high metabolic rate and need to consume large amounts of food to maintain their energy levels. Providing a source of nectar, either in a hummingbird feeder or attached to a hummingbird house, can make a backyard or garden more attractive to these birds. This, in turn, may make them more likely to investigate a nearby hummingbird house and potentially use it as a nesting site.


However, there are also some factors that may make a hummingbird house less attractive or even dangerous to hummingbirds. One factor is the size of the entrance hole. Hummingbirds are very small birds, and the entrance hole of a hummingbird house needs to be just the right size to accommodate them. If the entrance hole is too large, other birds or predators may be able to enter the house and harm the nesting hummingbirds. If the entrance hole is too small, the hummingbirds may not be able to enter or exit the house.

Another factor is the location of the hummingbird house. Hummingbirds are sensitive to temperature and light, and the house should be located in a shaded area that is protected from direct sunlight and wind. It should also be located away from areas where predators like cats or squirrels may lurk. Additionally, the house should be placed at a height that is convenient for the hummingbirds to access but not too high that it is out of reach for the homeowners.


In summary, whether or not hummingbirds will use a hummingbird house depends on a variety of factors, including the availability of suitable nesting sites and food, the size and location of the house, and the presence of potential predators. While the evidence for the use of hummingbird houses by these birds is largely anecdotal, there is some indication that they may be attracted to such structures if the conditions are right.

 

This is my favorite hummingbird feeder: Juegoal 12 oz

broad-tailed hummingbird on a feeder

See my full list of recommended hummingbird feeders!

 

Ornithologist answer: Do hummingbirds use birdhouses?

No. Hummingbirds in North America are not cavity nesters. Documentation of such a nesting site is non-existent, and the artificial intelligence that wrote the answer above is wholly and flatly wrong. The 'right' conditions existing will not induce a hummingbird to use the scam birdhouses listed across the internet. Suppose you see a company listing a hummingbird house. In that case, I strongly urge you to avoid purchasing anything from that company... EVER. They are likely not an organization that cares for birds and wants to help maximize your backyard hummingbird experience.

close-up of a rufous hummingbird
No, this Rufous Hummingbird won't be nesting in your birdhouse.

Why won't hummingbirds use a birdhouse?

All species of birds nest in very specific conditions. Unfortunately, hummingbirds' needs do not include nesting within a cavity. Instead, they often choose nesting sites with overhangs that protect them from precipitation and predators. While a top covering protects the females, chicks, and nest from above, the females want the ability to quickly exit the nest. This requires openings in most other directions from the nest. And what type of structure would not allow for such an abrupt departure? A birdhouse.

 

A proper pair of nockies helps see hummers better!

Nikon Monarch M5 10x42

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How can I get hummingbirds to nest in my yard?

THIS. QUESTION. IS. CHALLENGING. First, do you live in a location where a hummingbird might breed? For example, do you live in the range of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Anna's Hummingbird, or another species? If the answer to this question is yes, move on to the next step! If it is a no, you likely will not be able to attract a hummingbird into your yard as a nesting neighbor. Second, do you have abundant native plant sources that flower and attract insects while avoiding pesticide use? Great! Then your yard may have sufficient food for hummingbird nestlings to grow. If not, check out National Audubon's Plants for Birds to create an outdoor space for supporting birds and other wildlife. Finally, do you have large, native trees and shrubs upon which hummingbirds can build a nest? Excellent! All you have remaining is to wait for the right birds to pick your yard. You might also put out a hummingbird feeder with homemade nectar that is cleaned regularly to give an artificial boost to your yard space, but it is not necessary. If you do not have mature trees and shrubs in your yard, do not fret! Hummingbirds will nest on artificial structures, but your most excellent chance to create a hummingbird home is to get some large, native shrubs and trees planted in the dirt. The birds will thank you in the long run.


Creating a happy hummingbird space is simple. It does take patience, effort, and perseverance. If you build it, hummingbirds will come.


The sweet nectar of information

Artificial intelligence has limits, and because AI software often depends upon the internet to answer questions, it can be VERY wrong. Instead, ask your local ornithologists and wildlife biologists. Trust people who do this for a living and do not depend upon <insert random website with bird in the title>. Trust that Flocking Around is dedicating hours to research the answers to these hard-hitting questions. Trust that we are ornithologists who will not offer solutions merely to generate revenue. Trust that I, Zach the Head Flocker, care about birds, your budget, and the joy of our connection with nature. You can flocking trust that.


Ornithologist > Artificial Intelligence. Game. Set. Match.


 

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