The hummingbirds are back! The hummingbirds are back! – revisited

Hummingbird - photo by Maria Corcacas

I wrote this last year and I had a big “crop” of hummers. We asked the Facebook crowd today whether they had spied any yet and received information some had been seen recently. The article below has some of my own tips for attracting and feeding the little guys. Check it out and get those feeders out there now.

Original Article

I am a very amateur bird watcher. I mean, I like to watch them and put out seed for them, but Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are my obsession.

Last year (2010) was a poor year for hummers around here, so last week when I saw my first hummingbird of the season, I was excited. Oh, and when I say poor year for hummers what I mean is we only had about 16 emptying our feeders late in the summer; the year before we probably had 50. Visitors to our home get buzzed on a regular basis. The demanding little birds even hover in front of me as I change their juice.

I want a bumper crop of hummingbirds this year again and I thought I would pass on some tips on attracting and keeping the little guys around.

Although hummingbirds love to sip nectar and sugar water, they also have a voracious appetite for bugs. They love soft insects and spiders. The sugar in nectar is just fuel for their high speed bodies to chase down their other prey. Provide the little guys with nectar and a good bug supply and you will have the winning combination for a lot of visitors.

Hummingbird Feeders

Hummingbirds will drink nectar from just about any source, but there is a reason that most commercial varieties of feeder are red and yellow. It seems they are very attracted to those colors. I have had some of those ornate blown glass feeders out with the standard plastic feeders, but the hummers hit the ugly feeders almost exclusively. So, in my opinion don’t spend the extra money on decoration, just go with the $10 plastic feeder. Stick with red and yellow colors as well.

The style of feeder I use has bee guards, but typically what happens is the bees somehow push through the guards and eventually die. Their little bodies clog the ports and the hummers won’t use that port very frequently. Just take a pipe cleaner and clean the guards when you find them clogged.

Another necessity for your hummingbird feeders are ant guards. If you don’t put the little moats up then you will soon find your feeder crawling with ants and not a hummingbird in site.

The Hummingbird Food

Many stores carry special hummingbird nectar mixes.

Don’t waste your money on these mixes.

The hummers only want sugar, they get the rest of their nutrients from bugs. Plus, many of these mixes have red food dyes in them to supposedly attract the hummingbirds, but think about it, how many flowers have red nectar? On top of that red food dye is one of the dyes doctors are lining up against as an additive in many foods kids eat. Let’s just say it isn’t good for us, our kids, nor the hummingbirds.

Save some money; make your own nectar.

Here is my recipe.

Ingredients

  1. White sugar (I tried organic cane crystals and unbleached sugar but the hummingbirds just wouldn’t go for it. I don’t know why, but they prefer the plain old $2.50 bag of white sugar)
  2. Water

That’s it. Sugar and water.

The water and sugar mixture is a 1 to 4 mixture. 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.

I usually mix it half and half and then cut it again when I put it in the feeders. I do this because I typically have to fill feeders every day; its just easier to store instead of mixing a new batch every day. Usually I will just dump a 4 lb. bag of sugar in a large pitcher and then fill another half with warm water (to allow it to mix easier), stir it up, then refrigerate it.

When it is time to fill the feeders, I fill them half full with the mixture and then add water to finish it off.

Placement of Feeders

I place mine around a flower garden I have in the front of my house. We have a butterfly bush that is basically taking over the front of our house and the hummingbirds love it. They perch on it’s branches and drink from the flowers. I think they feel safe in it’s maze of branches.

We used to have a Bradford Pear tree in the front yard, but it was destroyed when Ike pushed those winds and storms up into Indiana a few years ago. The hummingbirds seemed to play tag running around its many branches.

So place your feeders near some foliage, preferably other flowering bushes.

Basically that is the winning combination. Cheap feeders, simple nectar mix, and good placement.

On Cleaning

Your feeders will begin to ferment and grow green stuff, so eventually you will need to clean them. I use a 5% bleach mixture and soak the feeders in it for a few hours. Afterwards I rinse them and allow them to dry overnight. The bleach will become inactive in about 24 hours and won’t hurt the hummingbirds.

Good luck in your hummingbird endeavors. If you have any other questions or comments feel free to contact us below. Maybe you have a neat little trick for attracting them, let us know so we can pass it on.

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