There’s nothing particularly mysterious or difficult about attracting hummingbirds. Appeal to their sweet tooth and you have them hooked! Although a large part of their diet consists of tiny insects, they gorge on sweet nectar and visit almost any flower that has a good supply. And in between times, when flowers might be scarce, you can keep them interested with feeders. Here’s a plan for a garden that hummingbirds will love!
Facts on Feeders
Choosing a Feeder
There are all kinds of hummingbird feeders available. Most are made of plastic, glass or ceramic. Any kind, filled with fresh nectar, will attract hummingbirds. So look for those that will be easiest for you to keep filled and clean. Once you’ve made the commitment to provide a feeder for your hummingbirds, you have to stick with it. They come to depend on you. Basin-style feeders, like the one in the photo above, top the list in our book. They’re large, flat pans with no narrow necks that need brushing and no corners to harbor bacteria, so they’re easier to keep clean than the inverted-bottle types. Take a look at Garden Gate‘s issue 51 for our recommendations for quality hummingbird feeders.
It’s all in the Nectar
Where should you hang feeders? Hummingbirds don’t instinctively recognize a feeder as a food source. But it won’t take these inquisitive creatures long to realize this odd-looking flower serves great meals. So just about anywhere will be a good location as far as the bird is concerned. For your enjoyment, hang a feeder near often-used windows, such as the kitchen or living room. Just be sure there’s something on or behind the windows to alert the little guys they can’t go in the window’s direction. Decals, flags or even miniblinds will be enough to keep them from flying into the glass. And if you’re going to hang several feeders, keep them out of sight of each other. These creatures are territorial terrors, jealously chasing away any other hummingbird that comes by for a drink. Separating the feeders from each other will give more birds a fighting chance to get some nectar.
Speaking of nectar, the food in a hummingbird feeder is really only a supplement to their natural diet. It’s a quick boost of fuel to give the birds the energy they need to hunt insects and forage at flowers.
Natural flower nectar is primarily glucose and water, so simple cane sugar is the only food that should be used to make synthetic nectar for a feeder. Honey ferments rapidly in the warmth and light, and will poison the birds. Flavored gelatin, brown sugar, fruit juices or red food coloring are also no-nos. The birds don’t require the vitamins, protein or other things added to commercial nectars. They get everything they need from the flower nectar and insects they eat.
|A simple recipe for sugar nectar|
|One part ordinary white cane sugar to four parts water|
|Bring the water to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in the sugar while the water’s still hot, then let it cool before filling the feeder. Store extra syrup in the refrigerator no more than two weeks.|
Keep it clean
It’s absolutely vital that your hummingbird feeders be kept clean. A deadly disease organism called “candidiasis” can infect hummingbirds from dirty feeders. The infection causes their tongues to swell. It becomes impossible for the birds to eat, and they die of starvation. Mother hummingbirds can pass this infection on to their chicks.
To protect the birds, discard old nectar and wash your feeders in hot water every two to three days. Scrub all the surfaces with a bottle brush until they’re squeaky clean.
If a cloudy, whitish material has formed in the nectar, or the surface of the feeder has spots of black mold growing on it, you’ve waited too long for a cleaning. Discard the solution at once and thoroughly clean the feeder.
Once a month, soak the feeder for 10 minutes in a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water, rinse thoroughly and then let it air dry and refill with fresh nectar.
Unless the feeder is obviously dirty, wait until dark, when the birds are finished feeding for the day, to clean it. Rehang it before sun-up so it will be ready for the first meal of the day.
Where to buy Hummingbird Feeders
Aspects, Inc. makes the HumZinger hummingbird feeder in 8 oz., 12 oz. and 16 oz. sizes. You can find the HumZinger at pet stores, home improvement stores and garden centers nationwide. Or order online direct from Aspects at www.birdfeeding.com
Perky-Pet® brands make all kinds of decorative hummingbird feeders, including the classic bottle and tube model and the daisy-shaped basin feeder featured in Garden Gate issue 51. These products are available at pet stores, garden centers and home improvement stores nationwide. Or order online from www.petco.com
The sculptural, hanging feeder comes from Wayside Gardens. www.waysidegardens.com