It is very popular to put out hummingbird feeders to attract hummingbirds and to feed them during migration.
They need to feed frequently. However, using the wrong kinds of sugar solutions or leaving moldy feeders out can kill hummingbirds and their babies.
Perfect hummer food
Measure one part sugar to four parts water - stir until sugar is dissolved.
Bring solution to a boil to kill bacteria and slow spoilage - allow to cool.
Fill feeders just enough for a day or two of use.
Extra solution may be refrigerated if used within one week.
If feeders are cleaned and filled with freshly-made, hot water, sugar solution every day, then it may not be necessary to bring the solution to a boil. If you plan to store solution for two or more days, boiling is a must. Adding red food-dye coloring is unnecessary. The red on a feeder is enough to attract hummers. “Never use honey as a substitute for sugar in the solution. Hummingbirds cannot digest honey. They will eat a honey-based solution, but they will soon die from lack of nutrition. Honey may also transmit a fungus that is lethal to hummingbirds,” says Alabama A&M, Auburn University.
When to stop feeding
Birds migrate based on instinct, weather and resource availability. Since the sugar water is a supplemental food and NOT the main food source for hummingbirds, they will leave when the insect population drops below what they need to survive. Do not leave hummingbird feeders up when during hard freezes unless they are heated.
In a cold climate make sure you remove the perches so the hummingbirds keep their metabolism up while feeding (they actually could get too cold and die from feeding while perched in winter). For more information; please read one of the many fine books on hummingbirds or visit one of the many websites devoted solely to hummingbirds.
Choose feeders that are easy to clean it’s essential that the feeder comes apart so that you can clean all surfaces thoroughly. For reviews of hummingbird feeders, go to http://www.hummingbirds.net.
Change the sugar solution often. Clean and put only enough fresh sugar solution in your feeders to last one to two days in warm weather, or sooner if it looks cloudy or develops mold. Keeping feeders in the shade slows down fermentation and mold growth. But, feeders placed in the sun are more easily seen and seem to attract more individual hummingbirds.
Use only vinegar and water to clean feeders. Soap or bleach traces left in feeders, even after thorough rinsing, can harm hummers. A specially designed sponge or brush can help. If you use bleach as a last resort, follow-up by cleaning the bleach out with a vinegar and water solution.
Ant and bee control
An ant moat above the feeder will drown most ants. You can also spray cooking oil around the hanger but this makes a sticky mess and will have to be repeated throughout the year.
The best way to avoid bees is to deny them access to the syrup. Feeders built to be bee and wasp-proof where the syrup level is too low for insects to reach, but easily in range of the shortest hummingbird tongue work. Keep the bee guards on your feeder at all times, and don’t burp your feeders. If you are in an area where orioles pull off the bee guards or if bees or wasps persist, try moving the feeder, even just a few feet. If that doesn’t work, take the feeder down for a day or until you stop seeing wasps looking for it. You’ll see hummingbirds looking for it, too, but they won’t give up nearly as soon as the wasps.
Source: hummingbirds.net, Alabama A& M Auburn universities .
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