Hummingbirds are one of the most exciting groups of birds in the world and this article gives the basics of how to invite them into your backyard.
Hummingbirds are almost a magical presence in the garden, like the famous pixie Tinkerbell from Peter Pan. The unusual humming sound of their wings, as they beat up to 200 times per second signals their presence. Often you only catch a glimpse of them as they flash from one area of the yard to the other. If you are one of the many who have not experienced the magic of a hummingbird, don’t worry, hummingbirds can easily be attracted to your yard by providing their basic habitat needs. Variety is the key word. By offering more choices, you increase the chances that a hummingbird will find your yard attractive and will come visit.
The basic needs of hummingbirds include food, water and cover. Hummingbirds are nectar drinking and insect eating birds. Nectar sources can be provided either in feeders or by planting nectar producing flowers. Hummingbird feeders are a great way to provide food to these exciting birds where you can easily observe them. Feeders come in a wide variety of styles. It is important to choose a feeder that can be cleaned easily. The sugar-water solution is highly susceptible to mold, harmful bacteria, or fermentation. If you this occurs, you may be risking the health of your hummer visitors. Before you consider putting one out You must be willing to monitor and clean your feeders. Feeders should be cleaned out at least every five days, more often when the temperature is above 80°F. If you see any discoloration in the water they should be cleaned immediately.
When considering a hummingbird feeder look for one that is easy to clean. Saucer style feeders like the Humzinger from Aspects or the Happy 8 from Droll Yankee can be opened completely and can even be put in the dishwasher. With other feeders make sure the base comes apart for complete cleaning. A port brush is great to have on hand for cleaning. Use the same cleaning standards you would for your own utensils.
Choose a feeder with a leak-proof design. leaking feeders can attract ants and bees. Saucer style feeders would only leak if tipped up far on their side. In some bottle feeders such as the Best 1, Schrodt Designs, and others the opening to the bottle is submerged below the feeding area so the water pressure keeps the nectar from leaking or rising above a certain point. These two styles have been the most leak free we have found. Feeders which work by a vacuum can be problematic. In hot weather the airspace created when the nectar level goes down heats and expands which pushes nectar out. The key with these feeders is to make sure the feeder is absolutely filled to the top and there are no air bubbles to weaken the vacuum. The manufacturers of these feeders assure us this will keep leakage to a minimum however they are not feeders we can recommend.
Realistically consider how much capacity you need. Since you will be cleaning and refilling the feeder every four or five days it makes sense to have a feeder that only holds what will be used in that time. Often 12 ounces is enough for one or two hummers.
Perches, while not necessary are appreciated by hummingbirds for resting and give the observer a chance to get a better look at these magnificent birds. If your feeder does not have a perch, attach cut branches nearby or place the feeder near natural perches.
Next look at how sturdy the feeders are – could they withstand a slight fall and would they hold up to repeated and energetic cleanings? Finally Feeders should have some bright red or purple on them; this mimics their favorite flowers.
The flowers hummingbirds search for have adapted to attract birds or insects, which in turn carry pollen from plant to plant for their nectar reward. The nectar is composed primarily of the sugar Sucrose, the same form as white table sugar. The Standard recipe for making hummingbird nectar is to add one part white sugar to four parts hot or boiling water. Boiling water mixes the sugar better and inhibits mold growth. You can make up a large batch and freeze what you will not use in 7-8 days because even if refrigerated, sugar solution will begin to spoil in about 14 days. Do not use honey. Honey is composed largely of dextrose and while dextrose is easily consumable, honey also contains large amounts of laevulose which takes more time and energy to digest. The greatest danger to hummingbirds from honey is that when honey ferments it contains a mold with botulism toxins that are fatal to hummers. Brown sugar does not as closely resemble plant nectar as does white table sugar. The 1:4 sugar ratio occurs in nature with some plants having as high as a 1:2 ratio. Weaker solutions may not be healthy for hummingbirds because of the energy they have to expend feeding and the extra work on their kidneys getting rid of the excess water. When feeding hummers in winter months a 1:3 ratio may be better both for the energy needs of hummers and that the richer solution resists freezing better. Never use red food coloring, it contains no nutritional value and any negative health effects of these chemicals could be magnified with the hummers tiny physiology. Most hummingbird feeders contain plenty of red on them anyway.
Hummingbirds will not initially come to a feeder they can’t see. So visibility and color are key. To attract hummers to your new feeder put it out in the open, preferably underneath a bright red sunshade. You can make your own out of plastic plate or other material, Erva Manufacturing makes a red metal sunshade with a built in ant guard that should last forever. Shading is useful as it prevents rapid spoilage and gives hummers a break from the heat. Hummingbirds will be more attracted to your feeder if they are placed near real or even artificial red flowers. You can also hang red ribbons nearby to attract passing birds.
Choose a location which will be safe for hummers to feed. Hummingbirds like to see around them on at least three sides and a location which offers protection from above. If cats are a problem put the feeder above 6’, away from a cats leap.
Sugar ants and bees can be a problem. The best solution for bees is a bee resistant (and leak-proof ) feeder where the nectar sits far enough below the feeding ports that insects cannot reach. If saucer feeders are over-filled bees may be able reach until the level goes down. Perky pet makes bee guards to place over the feeding tubes on their feeders and these will work on some other feeding tubes as well. However these vacuum style feeders usually always have a little leakage which will still attract bees. If this tube feeder is a family heirloom you can use commercial wasp traps or even make your own by putting out a jar with food and having a only a hole in the top. Ants will only be a problem if they find the feeder, perhaps as a result of leakage. There are wide variety of effective which hold Vaseline or water to prevent ants from crawling down hangars or string. Or you can make your own with a double sided hooks and a plastic cup. You can also coat the hangars with Vaseline or oil. With window feeders you can coat the area around where the suction cups attach with Vaseline.
The most common question we receive is when to put up and take down hummingbird feeders. Here in Southern Oregon some hummingbirds return by mid-March so many people put feeders out in early march, generally about a week before Hummingbirds expected return. This timetable varies widely with region. Consult a regional bird book or bird distribution pamphlet for your area.
You should take your feeder down two weeks after you’ve last seen a hummingbird using it in the fall. This gives late migrating hummingbirds a chance to fill up for their long trip south. A source of nectar is not enough to induce a hummingbird to risk over-wintering. In southern Oregon this falls in mid November, but this varies by region. However on the west coast, male Annas hummingbirds naturally over winter as far north as Vancouver Island, Canada. These birds subsist largely on insects and some Hummingbird feeders. They utilize a brief hibernation state called torpor for the worst conditions. For this species the reproductive advantage, of establishing the best territories is worth it even though a few might not survive the winter.
Aspects HummZinger Excel Hummingbird Feeder
– Keep your hovering friends happy with this high quality easy to clean hummingbird feeder….
Our Price $19.95