- Introduction


- Feed/feeders

- Attracting

- Resources


Hummers 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 yard.

The 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.

It 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.

Do 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.

Depending on the temperature, unused solution should be changed every 3-5 days. Watch for mold or discoloration of the feeding fluid.

There 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.

The 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 frame.

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.

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