Feeding Hummingbirds

Recipe for the Best Hummingbird Nectar

Ingredients:
1 cup of white cane sugar
3 or 4 cups of spring water

Directions & Tips
Dissolve the sugar in the water. No red food coloring! Unused mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

  • Cane sugar is highly recommended, although beet sugar is okay.
  • Do not use any other sugar — not turbinado, raw, or brown sugar etc OR ORGANIC SUGAR* — and never use honey or artificial sweeteners.
  • Spring water is preferred, but most tap water is acceptable.
  • If too many bees are being attracted, change the mixture to five cups of water for every one cup of sugar. But a bee problem is, in fact, a feeder design problem, and you need a different feeder--one which makes it impossible for the bees to access the mixture; usually this is by having an air gap between feeder port and the liquid below it.
  • Taking down the feeder: In the fall, wait until you haven't seen even one hummer for three weeks before taking your feeders down to reduce the risks to late migrants.

 * If cane sugar is not PURE WHITE, it may not have been sufficiently purified to remove trace amounts of molasses. As we know, molasses is rich in iron; this is helpful to humans but is a toxin to hummingbirds in all but the tiniest, tightly monitored amounts.

Tips for Feeding Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds do not live on sugar water and nectar alone. They eat insects and tiny spiders to supply protein and also feed on tree sap (see this great video). We assumed that supplying fresh spiders for your hummer population might not exactly be your idea of a good time and only included our top tips for hummingbird feeders below. A recent product that seems to be effective in providing fruit flies is the Humm-Bug Protein Feeder.

16 Tips for Hummingbird Feeders

Type & Size:

  • Choose a feeder that you are able and willing to clean.
  • Look for a feeder that has the ports above the pool of liquid to avoid drips, because drips will attract ants and bees.
  • Use feeder(s) whose size matches your population.
  • Don't fill the feeders all the way if they aren't being fully consumed between fillings.
  • More feeders will support more hummers and help reduce territoriality.

Freshness:

  • Change the mixture every four to five days - more frequently if temperatures are over 90° F.
  • If the liquid appears cloudy or you see mold, wash the feeder thoroughly right away.

Location:

  • Put your feeders at least four feet above the ground so they are beyond the reach of cats and other predators
  • Never place a feeder too close to a nest, because doing so may cause predation.
  • If possible, the feeder should be in a shady spot.
  • Placing the feeder where you can see them through the window is a good idea too!

Maintenance:

  • Feeders must be cleaned between refillings - don't "top off" without cleaning.
  • Use a mild detergent and water; rinse thoroughly.
  • About once a month, soak the feeder in a solution of bleach and water (1 Tbsp. of bleach per quart of water); rinse very thoroughly!
  • Some feeders can be put in the dishwasher for sterilization.
  • If your feeder is attracting ants, use a moat or AntGuard® to stop them.

 

link to view The Hummingbird Connection, member magazine of the Hummingbird Society











Photo: Wally Nussbaumer

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