Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds
Unlike seed-eating birds, hummingbirds must have a reason to visit you. That reason is food. Hummers are all about eating and must eat every 15-20 minutes throughout the day. Providing fresh nectar will place you on their "must visit" list.
Most hummingbirds are migrant and visit North America in the warmer seasons. Feeders should be put up in time for their arrival. This will vary greatly depending upon where you are located. In the Florida area they arrive as early as January, and in the Upper Great Lakes they arrive in May. In Missouri, arrival date is usually around April 15 (tax day). It is important to know the average date they arrive in your specific area to get your feeder up 5-10 days before the average date so they will see your feeder early and possibly stay for the season in your backyard! Hummers will not stay if there is no readily-available food source.
When you first introduce a hummingbird feeder, it should be placed near flowers so the birds can find it easily. A big red bow or several red ribbons will help hummers spot it. Once the feeder has been discovered by the birds you may remove the bow and move the feeder to a new, permanent location if you choose. Distance from your house, shade, and cover are all-important factors when selecting a site. Feeders should be within 10 to 15 feet of the nearest cover. The feeder should ideally spend most of the day in the shade. If possible, place your feeder within easy view from your windows so you can enjoy and monitor the hummingbirds.
The pictures on the left were sent to us by a very happy customer from Kansas City, MO. He placed the feeder right outside their window and added a couple of red ribbons as we suggested. Before long, he was able to remove the ribbons and begin taking pictures of their hungry visitors.
Making the nectar is very simple and a commercial mix is not needed. Mix 4 parts tap water to 1 part sugar. Do not use distilled water. Use only white table sugar. Never use honey or artificial sweeteners, for to do so may kill the birds. Use no artificial colors (red dye does NOT help attract hummingbirds and may be harmful to them) or other additives. Sugar will dissolve better is you use hot water. Unused portions of the mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks (check for fermentation or mold if longer than 3 weeks); let mix warm to room temperature before filling feeder.
Nectar should always be fresh. Sugar water will ferment when left outside. In early spring and late fall, nectar will probably last 5-6 days. However, in the heat of the summer, replace it every 3 days. Once the nectar starts to go bad, your hummers will abandon the feeder and you will have a difficult time convincing them to return. If the nectar begins to turn cloudy, discard it, clean the feeder, and refill with fresh nectar. Use a mild bleach solution to clean the feeder and rinse well; detergent leaves a residue that the birds don't like and the bleach will kill any mold that might be forming. Remember to clean the feeding ports as well!
Hummingbirds are aggressive with each other and chase one another away from the feeder. Having multiple feeders ensures that the less aggressive birds will be able to obtain nectar. If you go on vacation or miss a week putting out feeders, don't worry; Hummingbirds know other food sources for several miles in all directions. Hummingbirds will NOT delay migration if a feeder is present; they are driven by forces more powerful than hunger.
Thanks to Cam and Shirley Schutte for sending the pix and allowing us to post them!
Copper Garden Art