feed primarily on flower nectar,
supplemented with small insects as a
source of protein.
When first starting to
feed hummingbirds, locate your feeder near their
natural food source. If you do not have
flowers already attracting hummingbirds
you may still be successful in attracting
the hummers but it will usually take
longer for them to locate your feeder.
Once the hummers have located your feeder,
it can be moved to other locations in your
feeding solution that you use in your
feeder can be a commercial mix or you can
simply make your own. To make your own
solution mix one part sugar with four
parts water. The mixture should be heated
to the boiling point and stirred to ensure
the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove
the mixture from the heat as soon as a
strong boil is reached or the
concentration of the mixture will increase
beyond the desired level. The 4:1 ratio of
water to sugar is the maximum suggested.
Higher concentrations do not do a better
job in attracting the birds and may be
harmful to them.
is probably not necessary or even
desirable to add red food coloring to the
solution. The feeder you use will have red
"flowers" or other bright colors to
attract the hummingbirds.
not substitute honey for the sugar. Honey
solutions spoil more quickly and and are
more likely to support the development of
fungus infections in the birds.
on the temperature, unused solution should
be changed every 3-5 days. Watch for mold
or discoloration of the feeding
are a variety of feeders on the market
that range from a simple, single feeding
tube to larger feeders with multiple
feeding stations. Some people elect to
locate several smaller feeders throughout
the yard and feel this approach helps
attract the hummingbirds.
most important consideration in selecting
a feeder that is easy to disassemble and
clean. If you purchase a commercial feeder
make sure that it can be disassembled and
cleaned easily. If you purchase a larger
feeder make sure to replace any unused
feeding solution every 3-5 days. Consider
partially filling the feeder at first
until you learn how much the birds will
consume in the 3-5 day time
If you feed hummingbirds you will eventually have to deal with insects. Ants can usually be foiled with water barriers or the use of petroleum jelly on the "hard" approaches to the feeder. Flying insects such as bees and wasps can be more difficult. Bee guards are available for many feeder brands and some have bee guards built-in. Spreading petroleum jelly or mineral oil on the surface of the feeder can also be effective in controlling the airborne intruders.
Put up your feeders as the hummingbirds start to arrive in the spring. Lanny Chambers maintains one of the top hummingbird Web sites and tracks arrival times and migration patterns for ruby-throated and rufous hummingbirds. Peak southward hummingbird migration occurs in many parts of the country in mid to late September and early October. Depending on your part of the country feeders should be left up until well after fall migration. As the birds move south feeders can be a welcome source of energy.
There is also very little evidence that feeders will entice the birds to stay into winter, at a high risk. The migration instinct is strong and almost all healthy birds will head south at the right time. Late fall and winter birds found at feeders are usually juvenile or "confused" birds that have strayed from their normal migratory path and removing your feeder will do little to reactivate their migration efforts.