Selecting a Hummingbird Feeder
Do hummingbirds have a preference for the type of feeder they drink from? I really don't know; my hummers keep coming, no matter what type of feeder I hang up. But I do know that I definitely have a preference when it comes to hummingbird feeders. After using a variety of them in the past several years, I've discovered that the perfect feeder needs two things - a wide mouth for easy filling and cleaning and a glass (not plastic) bottle for holding the food.
Selecting a Good Feeder
Too many hummingbird feeders on the market look cute, but aren't very practical. Many of these cheaper feeders have narrow openings that require you to have a very steady hand when pouring or to use a funnel if you want to avoid spilling everywhere. Cleaning them is a chore, too. It's difficult to get inside the bottle, and this discourages people from cleaning them often and well, which could lead to deadly mold and bacteria buildup.
Feeders that have bottles with wide openings, such as the More Birds Garnet Hummingbird Feeder, are much easier to use. The one I own is another More Birds feeder that is similar to what's shown on this page. The mouth on the bottle is wide enough that I can pour the hummingbird's food straight into the bottle from a large kitchen measuring cup, and when it's time for cleaning, I can easily get all areas of the container with a bottle brush. Plus, the glass doesn't discolor like some plastic feeders I've owned.
Filling Your Feeder
If you're in the market for your first hummingbird feeder, there are a few things you should know. First, don't be fooled into buying the commercial food mixes, especially those with red coloring. It's more expensive than making your own hummingbird nectar, and the food color can be dangerous for the birds.
You can make your own nectar by simply adding 1/4 cup of sugar to one cup of boiling water. (Boiling kills the bacteria and helps the food stay fresh longer.) Stir the sugar to make sure it dissolves completely, and then allow the water to cool before filling the feeder.
Cleaning Your Feeder
Sugar ferments and can create mold that can deadly to hummingbirds. So make sure you change the water in your hummingbird feeder every two to three days during cool weather and daily in very hot weather. Each time you change the feeding solution, be sure to clean the feeder carefully with vinegar and water. This will kill the bacteria without adding any soap or chemical water that could be dangerous for your hummers.
When to Stop Feeding
In most parts of the country, hummingbirds won't stay year-round. They'll typically migrate from an area when the insect population declines and the days grow shorter, so if you don't see any hummingbirds for more than a week, it's probably a sign that they've migrated. Some birds, however, will stay if they have a food source, and in some areas, such as California, many hummingbirds don't migrate at all. In this case, be sure to keep feeding your hummers because their natural food sources are less abundant during the winter. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a great pdf file that can provide more information about feeding hummingbirds, including what to do when it's time for the hummers to migrate.
Have Fun with Your Hummingbird Feeder!
Hummingbirds are amazing little creatures, and they're fun to watch. We have a feeder outside the window by our dinner table, and our family often enjoys watching the hummers eat as we enjoy our meal. If you keep your hummingbird feeders clean and filled, you, too, will have many hours of enjoyment from watching these amazing animals.
More Hummingbird Feeders to Consider
Be sure to choose one that's easy to fill and clean. You'll need to change the contents often to keep your hummers healthy and happy.