Quality of food types will always take priority over quantity when attracting hummingbirds, but quantity is necessary in attracting larger numbers, and keeping them around. Some flowers have very little nectar and eventually drop to the bottom of the list for hummingbirds, so quality keeps them interested. However, if you have a small source of food available to them, but they consume far too much energy in returning to your garden, then it goes against the rules of survival. Every living thing on this planet goes by the same principle - gain the most by spending the least. If you had the option between a bowl of carrots on your left, and a bowl of carrots on your right with a smorgasbord surrounding it, it's easy to predict your decision. The same principle applies to hummingbirds. If they have a garden full of favorites on one side of the street and a pot of flowers on the other, I can tell you with all certainty that hummingbirds will spend the majority of their time in the full garden. Quantity, options and quality gets all of our attention. Give them reasons to return and they will.
Some people may be in a conundrum where they are limited for space. You also have options. Plant their favorites, and give them multiple feeder options. Don't just stick with one feeder. Surround your home with feeders, making them visible from all sides. This benefits you in several ways. One hummingbird won't dominate all feeders at the same time, and allows others to sneak in and get food. It also quadruples your attraction possibilities. If a hummingbird flies by your front yard, but you only have feeders in your back yard, you'll miss opportunities to attract new arrivals. When they know that they have multiple supplies of feeder nectar, they won't stray too far. Don't think that because you have a small garden that you can't attract hummingbirds. Once hummingbirds figure out feeders they will NOT forget them. They will nearly fight for their lives to get nectar from them. If you have garden space, make full use of it. Plant their favorites and stop at nothing in filling your garden with color. The more options you give them, the more likely they'll return, and the larger population you'll produce. It really is simpler than many think. Think like a bird. They see color, they're attracted. They see quantity, they're attracted. They see feeders, they're attracted. They see all of these things combined, they'll never forget your place.
Image: Juvenile male Ruby-throat hummingbird feeding from a favorite Delphinium flower. N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. August 2017
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