Hummingbird Feeder Care
Even the most nectar-rich plants may not be able to deliver the amount of nectar required by hummers fully. In addition to plants, having a hummingbird feeder in the garden will help supplement the nectar supply.
Avoid Feeding Risks
From time to time, mixtures other than sugar water have been proposed for feeding hummingbirds. All of them present unacceptable risks. This is especially true of honey-water mixtures. Not only is honey an unnatural food for hummingbirds, but it spoils much more quickly than sugar water and contains a bacteria that causes a fungal disease on the tongue. The disease is always fatal.
White sugar, on the other hand, is a sucrose sugar like the sucrose in flower nectar. The strength of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water closely approximates the strength of flower nectar. Stronger concentrations have been found to adversely affect the liver of captive birds; weaker concentrations are less attractive to hummingbirds.
Other mixtures that are unsafe and that should be avoided are those that contain nutritional additives. Hummingbirds supplement their nectar diet with foods they find in the wild; therefore, protein supplements are unnecessary; they are also potentially harmful.
The same is true of red food coloring. An artificial dye, red food coloring is often added to mixtures so that hummingbirds, with their well-known affinity for red, will quickly be attracted to the feeder. The safety of red dye has been questioned regarding its use in foods for human consumption. Nearly all commercial feeders are already decorated with red plastic flowers or tinted with red. Therefore, the addition of red food coloring is unnecessary, as well as potentially harmful. Once hummingbirds discover a feeder, they continue to come to it regardless of its color.
Placement And When To Put Up
- First of all, place feeders outside for arriving hummingbirds in mid-late April; and leave up through September.
- Place them within 10-15 feet of cover plants (trees, shrubs, and vines)
- Once you start feeding hummingbirds, you should continue every year after; hummingbirds will return each year expecting a reliable food source!
- Place feeders near nectar-producing plants to help hummingbirds find feeders; they can be moved later if needed.
- Placing feeders in the shade helps to keep the solution from spoiling rapidly.
- Use ready to mix solutions or make your own (see recipe below)
- Clean feeder(s) every 3 days in hot weather; 6-7 days in cool weather. See cleaning details below)
- Use bee guards or slippery substances; such as petroleum jelly, salad oil, or mineral oil to keep unwanted pests from feeders.
- Do Not Use Pesticides to control unwanted pests. The hummingbird and small insects they need for food could be adversely affected.
Preparing A Syrup Solution
- Make a hummingbird solution, using the recipe below (taken from the Ortho Book, How to Attract Hummingbirds & Butterflies) - Do not substitute any ingredients.
- The standard syrup solution for feeding hummingbirds consists of 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water.
- Begin by stirring the sugar into the water
- Bring the solution to a boil over low heat-two minutes is long enough
- Boiling is important as it kills mold spores and bacteria and, through evaporation, reduces any chlorine or fluorine that may be in the water. Prolonged boiling is unnecessary-over boiling will remove too much water, making the solution stronger than a 1:4 ratio.
- After the solution has been allowed to cool, it is ready to be placed in the feeders.
- Refrigerate if any excess solution for future use.
Furthermore, feeders need to be cleaned every 3 days in hot weather and every 6-7 days in cool weather. Leaving solution for any longer can give a cloudy appearance (a closer inspection will show harmful mold/bacteria beginning to form on the inside of the feeder.
*Harmful bacteria & mold present health risks to hummingbirds & could kill them*