On this page, you will learn about attracting and feeding hummingbirds.
Choosing the right feeder(s), nectar, cleaning, how to deal with ants, wasps and much more.
We go to great lengths to attract hummingbirds.
We go out of our way to learn what flowers we must plant in our gardens to attract these flying jewels.
We buy special jars, saucers, glass and plastic containers to hold the sugary mix.
Be wise in your choice of feeders.
Look for one that is both practical and functional for both you and the hummers.
The collection of sugar water containers you may use are just part of the equation. what you put in it is much more important.
According to the "Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center", the average nectar or sugar content in flowers that attract hummers is 26%.
That's the average, some flowers have less while others can have nectar contents up to 50%.
Hummingbird sugar water is typically 4 parts water to 1 part sugar gives us a content of 21% to 22%. Close to the 26% average in flowers, but 1 parts to 3 is even closer.
According to some studies done on captive birds, feeding hummingbirds on a higher concentration "might" be harmful to the birds
That's just a maybe................
That is on captive birds!
Caged birds that are offered a high doses of nectar on a regular basis.
Birds stuck in a caged area where they aren't flying around exercising and burning up calories like hummingbirds in the natural world.
If you ate steak and potatoes everyday and sat around, it wouldn't be good for us either!
But, feeding hummingbirds in the wild don't eat the same everyday and they don't come to our offerings all day long either.
They fly around from flower to flower and eat insects in between.
I'm not suggesting you offer a 50% mix to your hummingbirds. That mixture can and will be harmful to your birds.
If nothing else, your hummers may die of thirst, because they wouldn't be feeding as much as they would feel full and energized from the 50% content.
During migration, I do in fact juice things up to a 3 part water to 1 part sugar mixture.
This gives the feeding hummingbirds that added boost and helps to pack on some needed weight after a long trip North and before the long voyage South.
Much like the marathon runner that eats pasta before a race.
Temporary ratios of 1 to 3 will not harm the birds and I never see the hummers sitting at my feeders all day, do you?
That still doesn't come close to the nectar content in some Monarda or Bee-balm that climbs to 50%.
A hummer must double its weight before heading South, from .10 of an ounce to .20 of an ounce and I want to help the little guys to get there and back.
More recent studies indicate that it is okay to fluctuate the ratio in your feeders, as many flowers have different ratios.
One difference is this...................
The higher the octane, the less often they need to feed.
As you may know by now, more birds die of starvation during migration then from all other tragedies.
And what about the times when flowers offer little to the hummers or an early frost kills off flowers and nectar sources?
Weather plays a big part on nectar production.
Too hot or to cold. Maybe to much moisture or to little. All effect the nectar production of flowers.
Weather also plays a roll in the amount of insects available for the tiny birds.
Plant plenty of flowers that attract tiny insects, packages of protein for your hummers.
You may even strategically place some rotting fruit to attract gnats and fruit flies.
Watching hummers eat the bugs is entertaining as well.
That being said, offering hummingbirds a 4 to 1 mixture is a good thing. It's pretty close to what Mother Nature provides and is a nice number to measure and deal with.
On average, hummers need to eat every 15 minutes or starve to death.
Your nectar water offers all the sugar needed to survive, but for migration, a bit extra helps them add weight and give them that boost they need.
Offering hummingbirds sugar water isn't science, but there is a bit of science to add.
There may be some debates over sugar.
According to the "American Sugar Producers", beet sugar and cane sugar have the same chemical make-up.
That's right, the same number of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon atoms make up the molecular structure in beet and cane sugar. They produce glucose and fructose and that equals ........ sucrose!
Not all regions sell cane sugar, as beet sugar is now the number one sugar produced in North America.
Sucrose is the nectar found in flowers.
When feeding hummingbirds, offer a sugar water and be sure to use pure cane or beet sugar (sucrose).
Feeding hummingbirds honey, molasses, raw sugars and artificial sweeteners are a big no, no.
Artificial sweeteners provide zero food value.
Honey, raw sugars and molasses have impurities and bacteria that cause harm to your hummers.
Another note on hummingbird sugar water.
Stay away from powdered sugar as well.
Powdered sugar contains corn starch. Corn starch is a thickener and will gum up the plumbing of a delicate bird.
What about the so called instant nectar found in packages?
While this may seem like a convenient way to offer nectar water, it may cause more harm then we realize.
Many formulas say they add vitamins and minerals that hummers may need.
Feeding hummingbirds get these trace elements from nature and offering them more or to much can do more harm.
Red dye #40, MMMM, MMMM
Boy that sounds appealing doesn't it?
Something I really want to offer birds.
Now toss in preservatives to keep them packages fresh.
Makes you question why companies produce these products doesn't it?
They sure don't have the birds well being at heart.
Boiling water serves a couple of purposes.
Many of us live in the city or suburbia and have chlorine and fluorides in our water. Boiling the water rids it of these chemicals and kills off any remaining bacteria.
Boiling water also helps to melt the sugar. Make sure to let it boil for a minute or so and cool down to room temperature before you fill your feeders.
You don't want to melt your feeders and you surely don't want to burn the tongue of your feeding hummingbirds.
All you really need to do is warm water enough, to melt the sugar, let it cool and serve.
It's that simple.
Refrigerate what you don't use....... this will keep up to 2 weeks with no worries.
Once a feeding hummingbird dips its tongue in the nectar water, it is no longer sterile so boiling your water wont prevent contamination all together.
Hummingbirds need clean feeders and cleaning is a responsibility you must accept.
Cleaning should be done every 3 to 5 days and more often in real hot weather.
Sugar water can go bad in a hurry.
Cloudy water is a sure sign of "it's time to clean and put in fresh sugar water".
Clean it before mold starts to grow.
Mold and bacteria will kill your precious hummers.
Just a few moments out of your daily routine is all it takes to clean and fill your feeders.
You may make it part of your routine during hummer season.
Some people keep an extra feeder (clean) to replace the dirty one so there is no lull in the action.
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Ants, if not public enemy number one, they are a close second.
Ants secrete "Formic acid" when they drown. The same chemical that puts the pain into their bite and sting. A deadly chemical that can kill a hummer and humans.
Unlike many other ants, fire ants do not really bite, they sting. The fire ant will bite with its pincers, but that is only to get a tight grip on you. Then they sting you from their abdomen and inject a toxic alkaloid venom called solenopsin.
Ants can be managed with proper feeder placement and with ant moats. You can also make your own ant moats.
Stay away from petroleum jellies and other greases that might get on feeding hummingbirds and other birds as well.
I'm sure you've seen pictures of birds when they are covered with oil from spills.
This isn't to that extreme, but the results will be the same..... dead birds!
Instead, you can hang sprigs of Monarda or other plants in the mint family near your feeders. You may also want to try pure mint oil from a health food store.
Only a dab or two.
Ants don't like the smells and stay away.
Because birds have a poor since of smell, feeding hummingbirds aren't bothered.
Ants also avoid the smell of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and other smelly herbs and spices such as hot pepper.
Hang a mint tea bag with the feeder.
Get creative and make a sachet filled with spices. This should last a few weeks, replace when ants appear.
If you feel creative, you can tie your sachet with some decorative red ribbon.
A little cloth sachet filled with cotton balls sprayed with mint oil will keep ants and wasps at bay.
You can place your sachets on and near your feeders.
As a food item, the plants herbs and mint oil will not harm your feeding hummingbirds.
Are wasps and bees a problem as well?
With the proper feeder like "Aspects Hummzinger Ultra" wasps are no longer an issue.
These feeders have newer feeder port designs to deter wasps and bees.
Well designed, they also come with perforated "nipple guards" that keep insects out, but allow the hummers to still feed.
Stay away from yellow feeder ports. You know, the ones with the plastic yellow flowers. Yellow attract bees.
Now you are feeding hummingbirds and not the pests.
If you are using other feeders, "Mint Oil" seems to do the trick for me.
Mint is a natural neurotoxin and wasps stay clear of it. Once it gets on them, it kills them dead and right now.
Hang "mint sachets" on and around your feeders.
Your feeding hummingbirds will appreciate the effort.
Again, mint is a food item and wont harm the birds.
As with most insects, ants, bees and wasps mainly hunt by smell.
The use of herbs and spices messes with their sense of smell. Some smells they flat out avoid.
What a sigh of relief, knowing you have deterrents in your spice cabinet.
You may consider placing a soda bottle with a stronger sugar solution or maybe some rotting tuna fish nearby (not my choice).
Wasps and bees are like like most insects hunt by smell and the soda bottle may attract more wasps once they find it.
Okay, those problems are now minimized, now it's time to
Clean and disinfect your feeders.
Feeding hummingbirds, molds and other things make for a dirty feeder.
The standard for cleaning is a 10% bleach solution. Soaking and washing your feeders in this solution will kill off molds and bacteria. Do this to often and it also brakes down the composition of your less expensive feeders.
Feeding hummingbirds can easily lick up a tiny piece of floating feeder and choke to death.
Soaking in warm soap water is also a good consideration.
When using any kind of chemical, thorough rinsing is mandatory, even the smallest amount of soap or chlorine can do a little bird in.
Audubon suggests using cider vinegar and rice.
Fill the feeder with a water and vinegar solution, toss in a small hand of rice and slosh it around. The vinegar disinfects and the abrasive rice scrapes off the mold. Rinse and no harm done because vinegar is a food item and evaporates.
Pipe cleaners are ideal for keeping the ports clean.
Feeding hummingbirds need clean ports as they can easily get dirty and full of germs.
Some folks keep a couple of extra feeders on hand to minimize the rush on cleaning.
Simply fill and replace and clean the others at your leisure.
While you're at it, consider a source of water.
There is no need to fill it full when you throw most of it out a few days later.
Don't waste it, put in less or get a smaller one. This works for most of us.
Making nectar for your hummingbirds is easy.
You may follow the 4 parts water to 1 part sugar ratio.
If you are like me, go 3 to 1 the first few weeks of both migration periods. Your feeding hummingbirds will thank you for the extra umph you are providing them.
Be sure to make enough to keep a fresh supply on hand.
Keeping a jar of sugar water in the fridge is a good thing.
It will last up to two weeks refrigerated, so make enough to last you a week or two at a time.
If you have several hummers, you may want to keep a couple of spare feeders to set out while you are cleaning the others.
Insects are a very important part of a hummer's diet. Protein is needed for muscle.
Don't under estimate the need for bugs, as insects are a good one third of a hummer's diet.
They enjoy a good meal protein rich meal as they feed in fruit flies, gnats, mosquitoes and other tiny bugs.
Besides planting nectar flowers, plant some open faced or flat flowers like Zinnias.
Small insects are attracted to the nectar and feeding hummingbirds will gladly feed on the insects.
You may want to place some rotting fruit to attract fruit flies. Hummers love fruit flies.
Just because a bird isn't at your offerings every minute doesn't mean they aren't around.
Your flying jewels are wild and hunt for natural food from flowers to insects.
They may be in wild most of the time.
When it is nesting season, you may see even less of your lady birds.
Always read and learn from others.
While you're at it, consider a source of water like a
mister or shallow birdbath.
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