Things To Consider When Feeding Hummingbirds

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Fellow hubber alahiker28 stated 2 hours ago: "Nice hub! I have lots of them (hummingbirds)stop by, but they don't seem to like the nectar I buy. Any ideas on what they REALLY like to eat?"

"It may seem ironic that the world's smallest bird is the one most preoccupied with food, but with the fastest metabolism of all vertebrates, a hummingbird could die within a day if it fails to take in more energy than it losses."

This is all due to the fact that nectar - which is the main source of the hummingbirds diet - "is digested within an hour, and 97 percent of it is immediately converted into energy". - so stated the book, Hummingbirds, by Melanie Votaw.

While a small portion of a hummingbird's diet consist of tiny insects, according to the book Hummingbirds, "hummingbirds can drink the nectar from as many as three thousand flowers a day, eating every ten minutes, and consuming up to 75% of their body weight."

Therefore by human standards, the hummingbird is a confirmed sugar addict. However, what if you set up the feeders, fill it with nectar/sugar water, and the birds still don't come?

Here are some things to consider when feeding hummingbirds in your yard.

* The Right Equipment.

According to the book Hummingbirds, finding success at feeding the hummers in your area initially begins with attracting the birds to your area.

This requires three things:

  1. Acquiring the needed materials
  2. Putting in the required effort for gardening or feeder maintenance
  3. Ample space for a feeder or a garden

A.) The Necessary Materials.

In order to attract hummingbirds to your area, it is vital to acquire the necessary materials.

This would include the right plants that will attract hummingbirds, as well as feeders filled with enticing sugar water.

Here are some gardening considerations:

  • Attract hummingbirds with a natural garden full of their preferred choices. These include but are not limited to: azalea, butterfly bush, cardinal flower, coral bells, crab apples, foxglove, honeysuckle, impatiens, lilac, lily, morning glory, tree tobacco, wisteria, rose of Sharon, and many more - always check with your local nursery to see which preferred flowers grow best in your region.
  • Plant flowers that bloom at different times of the year - this will provide hummingbirds with their favorites anytime of the year.
  • Because of their delicate nature, hummingbirds are extremely susceptible to pesticides. Therefore, never use pesticide in a hummingbird garden. Instead, look for safer and natural pest control methods.
  • Plant gardens away from hornets' and wasps' nests, and ensure to have any removed in the event they make nest over an already established garden. Hornets and wasp can hurt hummingbirds and their chicks.
  • Plant gardens in areas where hummingbirds will be protected from excessive wind.

Here are some feeder considerations:

  • Ensure that feeders are shielded from wind, and that there are object nearby for perching.
  • Placing preferred flowers nearby feeders will help draw the hummingbirds - in the event you do not have a garden or flowers, "place overripe fruit in a secluded area to attract fruit flies, which will also attract hummingbirds."
  • Until the birds become accustomed to your presence, keep your distance.
  • In the event your feeders are near windows, always add window decorations to prevent birds from flying into or attacking the window.
  • Never place feeders where your cat/cats roam. If you have an outdoor cat, it is best not to put feeders up at all.
  • When choosing a saucer feeder, opt for ones with a roof to prevent rain from diluting the sugar/water mixture.
  • Red seems to attract hummingbirds, so red feeders are the most commonly used.
  • Avoid yellow feeders, these may attract wasps or bees - they could attack the hummingbirds, and have also been known to steal sugar water.
  • Put up several feeders with and without perches in the event competition arises for feeders between hummingbirds or other nectar-feeding animals (such as bats, bees, wasps, and other insects).
  • In the event space is lacking to put up several feeders, opt for feeders that are equipped with moats or guards that prevent insects from reaching the nectar solution.
  • Never place duct tape or use oil around feeders to discourage insects from drinking the nectar solution. This harms hummingbirds.
  • Since bats have been known to raid and empty feeders during the night, be sure that they are refilled by dawn - before the hummingbirds come to feed.

B.) Required Maintenance.

As with anything else, maintenance is required for the proper upkeep of the natural garden or feeders used in keeping hummingbirds fed.

Here are Some Garden Upkeep Considerations:

  • If you are not the best gardener, avail yourself to the help local nurseries, books, and other experienced gardeners to determine the best way to keep your natural garden in good condition.
  • Always use natural pest control methods to keep your garden healthy and flourishing.
  • Keep your garden free of weeds to prevent them from choking the hummingbird's flowers of preference.

Here are Some Feeder Upkeep Considerations:

  • Ensure that hummingbird feeders are cleaned every 3-4 days, more if the weather is unusually warm - warm weather provides the perfect breeding ground for bacterial and deadly fungi to grow.
  • Ensure that hummingbird feeders are not in a state of disrepair. Frequently inspect for damaged and clogged feeders, feeders that have torn edges due to being damaged from falls, and torn handles that could cause the feeders to fall.

When cleaning a hummingbird feeder follow these simple instructions (as adapted from the book Hummingbirds, by Melanie Votaw):

  1. Empty the feeder of its contents and flush out with hot water.
  2. If more cleaning is required, use a mixture of vinegar and warm water (never use soap).
  3. If mold is present, soak the feeder in mild bleach water (1/4 cup of bleach with a gallon of warm water) for about an hour.
  4. Use a brush to remove any residual mold.
  5. Rinse repeatedly with clean warm water - a good gauge to tell if all the bleach has been removed, is by a simply smelling the feeder.
  6. Allow the feeder to air dry.
  7. Refill the feeders with the nectar solution and have them back up before dawn.


How to make homemade nectar

* Commercial Nectar or Homemade?

According to the book Hummingbirds, while there are commercial sugar water or nectar solutions readily available on the market, "they are no better than your own solution and may actually spoil more quickly."

Therefore, it is better to mix a solution of your own.

A homemade nectar solution consist simply of mixing four parts water to one part white cane sugar. It has been advised to never use sugar substitutes, honey, or brown sugar - solutions like these are dangerous to birds.

Simply:

  1. Boil the water (add extra for water that boils away).
  2. Add four parts water to one part sugar.
  3. Allow sugar to dissolve.
  4. Allow the mixture to cool completely before adding it to the feeders.
  5. If there is some left over, it can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days (some sources say two weeks).
  6. Never add red food coloring to the mixture.
  7. Never use distilled water in the mixture.
  8. Never increase the amount of sugar in the mixture - hummingbirds dislike it and it may harm them.

* I've Followed These Suggestions but Birds Still Do Not Visit My Feeders. What Do I Do Now?

If weeks have gone by and your feeders have still not been visited by hummingbirds, hanging a red ribbon from the feeder, or adding orange or red tapes on areas of the feeder where the birds do not perch may attract their attention.

Keep in mind that if the birds are unfamiliar with the feeders, than it will take them a couple of days to try it and become accustomed to it. In addition, fewer birds are seen during the summer months since this is when the females are nesting.

Once you've done all you can to attract hummingbirds to your garden or feeders, it's a simple matter of sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the sight of vibrant and colorful hummingbirds flitting and darting about in your yard.

ref: Hummingbirds, by Melanie Votaw, and Hummingbirds - Jewels in Flight, by Connie Toops

copyright © 2010

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Comments 30 comments

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

Lots of great information here. My feeding station is beneath a patio umbrella. The birds love it though I've noticed hummingbirds don't like to share their space with the other birds. Great Hub.


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you suziecat7 for stopping by, reading and commenting.

I fell in love with these little creatures when I lived in Alabama for a while. My friend had her feeders right before her kitchen window, surrounded by a bevy of flower bushes. It was a joy to see them. And boy were they fiesty.

I would watch in amazement as they would fight other birds (other hummingbirds as well) for their territory.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

This was a really comprehensive, informative hub. I would dearly love to see them in my garden but no hope in England. They are so beautiful


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

This is great info, and you have perfect timing! hubby is getting ready to put up our feeders now.


CassidyS profile image

CassidyS 6 years ago from OK

Thanks so much! I've been wanting to put up a hummingbird feeder but didn't even know where to start or what works-thanks again.


susanlang profile image

susanlang 6 years ago

Wow, Ms. Allen. After reading this super information packed hub on the beautiful amazing hummingbirds, I wish to share this with you. When I was 22 years old, I had a small feeder attached to my window and one day, a hummingbird showed up to feed. It was so graceful and wonderous, I just couldn't help but study it with my eyes. For 3 weeks it came back to feed, at least I thought it was the same bird. Then one day while I waited for it to show up, it didn't. Even though that was a disapointment...somehow I knew, somewhere, someone else was enjoying that beautiful bird! Thank you for this well thought-out hub Ms. Allen. Peace!


daisyjae profile image

daisyjae 6 years ago from Canada

I wish i could put up bird feeders but i have too many cats!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Terrific hub. I love hummingbirds, and there was a lot of very good info in this hub. Thanks!


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Wow! I didn't expect this much feedback. Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy lives to read and leave wonderful feedback.

Hello, hello - thank you for your wonderful comment - I do wish you could experience these little creatures first hand as well.

Habee - I know you guys are going to love watching these little birds at work collecting all that sweet nectar from your feeders.

Cassidy - I hope this hub helps if you decide to put some birdfeeders out in your yard. We live in an apartment complex and I haven't found "the right spot" to place a feeder as of yet.

Susanlang - thank you so much for your lovely experience. While your hummingbird visitors have gone on elsewhere, I am sure they are bringing others just as much delight as they brought you.

Daisyjae - sadly, putting up feeders and posessesing cats usually don't go hand in hand. It would be nice thought would it not? You could have a bit of both worlds. :) Thank you for stopping by.

Paradise7 - Thank you for your compliment. I too love hummingbirds. I haven't seen them in person in some time. So I am getting my "hummingbird fix" through these hubs, pictures, and other peoples personal experiences with these fascinating creatures.


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Great Hub full of info. We do not get these where I live sadly. I have seen them in Greece though. Beautiful


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you so much ethel smith for stopping by. These are exquisite little creatures are they not? Although they are here in the state of Georgia, I have not seen them this year as of yet. I hope I will soon though.


Paige Masters profile image

Paige Masters 6 years ago

Wow, this is an unbelievable excellent hub!!! The hummingbird and I definitely have one thing in common: sugar addiction.


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

LOL! I know Paige - I must say I have that in common with this awesome creature indeed. Thank you for taking the time to stop by, read, and comment. Welcome to hubpages!


alahiker28 6 years ago

Thanks for the information. I tried the sugar cane mix and it worked perfect.


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

I am so glad it worked alahiker28 - now you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful hummingbirds. Thanks for stopping by and letting us know how things turned out.


TheListLady profile image

TheListLady 6 years ago from New York City

I need all this information and you have covered it all. I'm glad you included the flower list. How interesting that the nectar is digested so quickly.

Must bookmark this for reference - and the pleasure of reading it again and again.

Thanks so much!


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

I just love hummingbirds.... thanks for bookmarking this. I am glad the information was useful.


Esmeowl12 profile image

Esmeowl12 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

For inexpensive entertainment, put up some hummingbird feeders. I never tire of watching the territorial hummers "fight" over possession!


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

I agree Esmeow12.... never was I so entertained when I watched the spectacular show the hummingbirds put on in my friends yard (when she placed hummingbird feeders in her yard).


Grandmaw 6 years ago

It is the first of September here in north east Alabama and I was rather surprised to see a female hummingbird light on the feeder and a male came up and bred her right there. Will she nest and lay eggs at this time of the year? What will happen to the young birds if they hatch? Will they be able to grow big enough to migrate?


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you so much Grandmaw for stopping by. What a great question. I had to do a little research on this since it has never been my privilege of witnessing a hummingbird breed during this time frame.

Here is what I found:

According to the website rubythroat.org, "Occasionally, because of cold, wet weather that kills the eggs or nestlings, or when windy storms blow down a nest, the female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (if this is the type of hummingbird you saw) will start the nesting process over again. If she returned from the wintering grounds early enough and linked up quickly with a male, she probably has no problem pulling off a re-nesting attempt, but if she got a late start on her first nest she may not have time to try again--especially in the northern United States and southern Canada where the nesting season is especially short. In the southern U.S., however, females have plenty of time for re-nesting; in fact, if an early-nesting female is successful with her first attempt she may even have time to double-brood (pull off a second brood) during one nesting season, and there's a possibility (they)could even triple-brood in Florida and the other Gulf Coast states." - Whether or not this is true of every species, I'm not quite sure.

In addition, according to the site, worldofhummingbirds.com, depending on the type of hummingbird, some migrate in late September or October, and since this same site states that the incubation period for hummingbird eggs last "approximately 16-18 days before they hatch - If the weather is cooler it may cause them to hatch a few days later", and the fact that hummingbird babies are ready to leave the nest a couple of days after their three week birthday, there could be a good chance that in the event she lays eggs, the baby hummingbirds will be big enough to migrate.

In addition, according to the website scottwiedensaul.com, "in recent years, growing numbers of western hummingbirds of almost a dozen species have been appearing in the East and Southeast, usually showing up in autumn and winter." Scott Weidensaul has a site (http://www.scottweidensaul.com/research_hummingbir... dedicated to the understanding and documenting of this emerging phenomenon.

The site went on to advise, "Although most Eastern homeowners take down their hummingbird feeders when the last rubythroats depart in August or September, these western species (which may be a species that you have seen) don't usually appear until much later in the fall – October or November, sometimes as late as December, in the latitude of Pennsylvania. For that reason, it's a good idea to leave at least one feeder up and filled through at least Thanksgiving – and to contact a bander if you have a hummingbird in autumn."

In conclusion, if you had the time and resources, I would watch (from a safe distance) and maybe document what happens. Very few people are fortunate enough to view the mating and breeding process of these beautiful birds up close and personal - so take advantage and enjoy this unique experience.

Thank you once again for stopping by, reading, and commenting.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 6 years ago from West Virginia

Veronica, I have these beautiful creatures. They do prefer one feeder though. I have had several other feeders and they just will not go to them. I also have noticed that I have to fill the feeder in the last two weeks twice a week, which is unusual for here. It didn't come to my mind aobut Bats. I do have them here in our area too. Now it makes sense as to why the feeder goes empty so fast. Thanks for this article.


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks so much Lady Guinevere for stopping by and giving us your personal experince. I'm glad you found this article useful.


kgnature profile image

kgnature 6 years ago from North Carolina

Great hub, Veronica. I usually feed seed- and suet-eaters and didn't know there was so much to know about hummingbird feeders.


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

kgnature - thanks for taking the time to stop by. Until I did the research, I didn't know what was all involved as well.


john000 profile image

john000 6 years ago from Superior, Arizona

Your article is informative and enjoyable to read. I have had up to 12 hummingbirds perched in a weeping willow while 6 - 8 drink at the feeder. Watching them has become routine as I take my first cup of coffee in the morning. They are beautiful little creatures. This article confirmed some of my beliefs. Thank you so much!


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you so much john000 for your comment. When I lived in Alabama, I truly enjoyed the frequent visits of these awesome winged creatures. Since my move back home I have not been blessed with their visits. It's probably due to our city and apartment living though. Enjoy them!


dave7x7 5 years ago

great article! i really enjoyed it. keep up the good work :)

http://freemakeupandmore.com


Tarta 5 years ago

Question: A hummingbird has been nesting near my apartment's kitchen window for at least 3 weeks now. I want to put up a feeder. But what if another hummingbird aggressively tries to incorporate my feeder into its territory? I don't want to create more harm than good for the nesting female.


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Tarta, I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you. From the research I have done, since hummingbirds are naturally aggressive and territorial, the best thing to do is to space two or more hummingbird feeders far enough apart from each other so that one bird cannot monopolize them. This should at least minimize the fighting.

@Dave7x7 thank you for your comment.

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