We all love hummingbirds! These tiny little flying jewels zip around our yards and gardens in summer, slowing down ever so briefly to sip some nectar from a flower or from our feeders. Their popularity has grown over the years and in 2019 it was estimated by Science Daily that 57 million households actively feed backyard birds including hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds have one of the biggest brains in the avian world proportionally to its size. They remember a reliable food source from year to year which is why it’s important to be responsible hosts and follow these simple steps for the safe and healthy way to feed hummingbirds. We feed hummingbirds because we love them and enjoy them. With that comes the responsibility to do it right.
Place feeders where hummers can easily find them near flowering plants in your yard or on your patio or deck. Position feeders where you can enjoy watching the hummingbirds feed and where you can monitor the quality and quantity of the nectar.
Clear nectar and clean feeders are essential. A good rule of thumb is that when air temperatures get above 75 degrees you clean them every 2-3 days or more often, if necessary, when temps reach 100 degrees in August. Cloudy nectar and black mold have the potential of harming your hummingbirds. You wouldn’t feed your dog or cat spoiled food in a dirty dish, so please don’t feed your hummingbirds spoiled food from dirty feeders. There is no such thing as cleaning a hummingbird feeder too much.
Make your own nectar. It’s easy, simple and natural. Whether you’re making one cup or 15 gallons the ratio is the same. 4 parts water to 1-part white cane sugar. No artificial sweeteners, no honey, no raw sugar. Please don’t waste your money on ‘store-bought’ nectar. It may be convenient, but it’s expensive and contains preservatives and additives that are NOT necessary for hummingbirds, even the ‘clear’ store-bought nectar. Read the labels on those products before you buy them and think about this…Is flower nectar red? Does flower nectar contain electrolytes, vitamins or preservatives? The fact is you don’t need ‘red nectar’ to attract hummers. Most feeders are red, aren’t they? Not to mention all flowers hummingbirds are attracted to aren’t always red either. In my garden, my hummingbirds LOVE Salvia guaranitica and it’s purple. Does that mean I should start dying my nectar purple?? Of course NOT! The point here is red nectar is NOT necessary and we do not know the long- term effects it has on our birds so why take a chance?
Finally, plant native flowers and don’t use pesticides. It’s a known fact that 80% of hummingbird’s diet is protein. They get this protein from eating soft-bodied insects. A garden void of insects due to pesticide use is NOT a well-rounded haven for hummingbirds no matter how many feeders you hang because feeders are not all it takes to sustain hummingbirds. Bottom line, we feed hummingbirds because we love them and enjoy them. With that comes the responsibility to do it right. Enjoy!