Hummingbirds are nature’s iridescent winged jewels, flitting in your garden, bringing a sweetly exotic touch to your landscape. If you’d like to attract these beauties as regular visitors, you should provide them with nectar, the high energy drink that hummingbird feeders can supply that gives them the strength to catch their main protein source: bugs.
Since hummingbirds use a great deal more energy hovering in place at feeders, it’s good to have a feeder that allows for perching to provide necessary rest.
Cleanliness is essential for a successful hummingbird feeder. Each time you refill the feeder, it should be taken down and flushed with hot tap water and scrubbed with a bottle brush. Hummingbirds do not like the taste of soap residue, so if the feeder needs a more thorough cleaning, such as it would if you notice black mold, then it’s best to soak it for an hour in a mixture of 1/4 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water. Rinse thoroughly and refill with your nectar mixture. This bleach soaking should be carried out at least once a month. Nectar should be changed at least every 3 to 4 days when temperatures reach above 80 degrees (F), and every 2 days when temperatures rise above 90 degrees (F). In addition, if the nectar mixture becomes cloudy, it means it is spoiled and the feeder must be emptied, cleaned and refilled. It’s been said that hummingbirds would rather starve than drink spoiled nectar.
Providing nectar for the hummingbird feeder is a very simple matter. Simply combine 1 part white cane (not beet) sugar to 4 parts water. This formula best reproduces the amount of sucrose naturally found in flowers that North American hummingbirds prefer. It is sweet enough to fulfill the little birds’ needs but not so sweet that it unduly attracts insects such as wasps, bees, and ants. Unused syrup may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Never put brown sugar, Jell-O, honey or fruit in the feeder. Because honey ferments rapidly when mixed with water, it can be fatal to hummingbirds.
Depending on where you live, you may wish to leave your hummingbird feeder up year-round, as it will not delay migration patterns. In the winter, some western hummers may visit feeders in the southeastern United States and hummingbirds wintering near Mexico will welcome your feeders in that part of the country. Parts of the U.S. Pacific Coast and extreme southwestern Canada are home to a non-migratory variety known as Anna’s Hummingbirds. Feeders will be visited by these hummers year-round.
Taking care of the hummingbird feeder so that it can take care of the hummingbirds’ needs does require a little effort, but it is more than worth it to view these lovely little birds in your own backyard or patio.