Hummingbird Feeding

  Anna's Hummingbird (male)

Anna's Hummingbird (male)

As I've noted before, we humans have our ideas about what wild animals may need, and what they may or may not tolerate, but ultimately it's the animals that decide. In the case of hummingbirds, we were having very few visitors to our old feeder. I tried various things, then eventually ended up switching out the feeder, the nectar, the location, and our cleaning routines, before finally getting it all right. Now we have a steady stream of hummers to the feeder throughout the day, while also enjoying their longer perch times. Here's the setup:

Feeder: Best-1 8 oz. feeder for low traffic in the summer, Best-1 32 oz. feeder for the fall and winter months. These are very good feeders that are easy to clean and maintain. They don't leak, which can't be said of many of the feeders on the market. And, most importantly, the hummers seem to perch longer on these feeders than others I've tried, which probably has to do with the perch diameter, feeding port location, etc.

Nectar: 4-to-1 C&H pure cane sugar to water. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then mix 4 cups of water to one cup of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then let it cool before storing in the refrigerator. It'll keep approximately 2 weeks in the fridge. Do not substitute any other sweeteners for highly processed pure cane. Even organic white sugar has minerals in it that may be harmful to hummingbirds. Oh, and never add food coloring to nectar. It does nothing to attract birds and it may actually be harmful to them.

Cleaning Routine: In the summer, nectar should be changed at least every other day. Fully disassemble the feeder and wash in very hot water (no soap) before refilling. To prevent waste, only fill the feeder with enough nectar to cover a couple of days. In the cooler months, cleaning once a week is sufficient. This sounds like a lot of work, but it's estimated that somewhere around 10% of all hummingbird illnesses are a result of bacterial infections stemming from poorly maintained hummingbird feeders. If you don't have the time or inclination to keep your feeders clean, you're better off not providing the food.

Location: Our old feeder was hung on our patio for easy viewing from inside the house. The problem was that it was too far from cover and too close to human activity. Because of the exposed location, birds would only perch for a very short time. Now, the feeder is hung further away from the house under a shade tree. This new location provides more cover, and as a side benefit, the nectar stays in better condition because it's shaded from the sun most of the day.

These small changes resulted in more birds on the feeder, as well as longer perch times, which we're really enjoying! We're also happy knowing that we're now providing our little friends with clean, healthy food, in a way that appears to be more appealing to them.