Choosing the Right Hummingbird Feeders
As spring approaches, bird watchers look forward to the return of hummingbirds. Those that have never observed hummingbirds before may wonder what to do to attract them and what type of feeder is best. There are two basic styles of feeder-inverted and saucer. An inverted feeder looks like it’s standing up. It is long and narrow. A saucer feeder is just what its name implies. It is shaped like a saucer and the nectar is in a basin.
Feeders come in many different styles, colors, and materials. They are plastic, metal, or glass and can be very simple and inexpensive or intricately designed and pricey. The design of the feeder does not have an impact on the hummingbird. A five dollar feeder can attract the birds as well as a thirty dollar feeder. The main element that will initially attract hummingbirds is color. They are drawn to the color red, so make sure your feeder, whatever style or material you choose, has this color. If you already have a feeder and it is not red or the red is faded, try using red nail polish to add color.
An important detail to consider when choosing a feeder is the ease of assembly and cleaning. The style of the feeder is not as important as maintenance of the feeder. If it is not easy to clean and refill, you will be less likely to keep up the task. A hummingbird may be drawn to your brightly colored feeder but if it is empty or the food is fermented, they will leave.
Although stores sell nectar mix, it is not any better than home made nectar. Hummingbird food is very easy to make at home, as it is simply water and sugar. Combine the sugar and water, making sure to maintain a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. This ratio is closest to sucrose levels in natural nectar and food that is too sweet will be difficult for hummingbirds to digest. Boil the water/sugar mixture for one to two minutes to dissolve the sugar and slow fermentation. Once the mixture is completely cooled, fill and hang the feeder.
Do not use sugar substitutes, honey or any other sweet replacement. Sugar substitutes do not have the calories hummingbirds need for energy and honey and molasses are not easily digested by the birds. Some people suggest adding red dye to hummingbird food, but it is not necessary to attract the birds.
The feeder should be cleaned at least once a week, more often in warmer weather. A cloudy solution is a sign of fermentation and the feeder should be cleaned immediately and the food replaced. To clean the hummingbird feeder, pour out any unused nectar and rinse the feeder with warm water. Once a month, soak the feeder for one hour in a solution of ¼ a cup of bleach or white vinegar to a gallon of water. Rinse well and refill the feeder.
Some plants naturally attract hummingbirds because of their color and nectar production. A few of these plants are azalea, butterfly bush, morning glory, columbine, and impatiens. These plants will help attract the birds, but are not necessary. Hummingbirds will find the food supply no matter where you hang the feeder. To help slow the fermentation process, avoid hanging the feeder in direct sunlight. Near a window where you can observe the hummingbirds is an ideal location.
The choices for hummingbird feeders may seem overwhelming, but the important thing to remember is the birds are not partial to a specific type. The easy part is finding a feeder that is attractive to you. The work comes in maintaining and cleaning the feeder, but the reward of attracting and keeping hummingbirds coming back is worth it.