Hummingbird Feeder Care

Photo Group
Hummzinger (top), Combo Set & Ant Moat (bottom)
Photo by: 
Don Husey, Aspect, and Songbird Essentials

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about hummingbird and oriole feeders. I think a lot of it has to do with the fill it and leave it nature of most other types of feeders. I have customers who have confessed to filling their hummingbird feeders in April and leaving them for months. They couldn’t understand why they hadn’t seen any hummingbirds. Have you ever left Kool Aid in the refrigerator too long? Would you drink it with mold floating around in it? Help your hummers out by:

  1. Keeping your feeder clean…If the nectar in your feeder is cloudy looking or especially if it has black spots forming on the glass or plastic, it has gone bad. When temperatures reach the mid-80’s this can happen in just a couple of days. If your feeder is in full sun, the nectar can go bad in a day. If your feeder allows you to run it through the dishwasher, great, if it doesn’t a good set of brushes (my favorite are the ones from Songbird Essentials) will help greatly. Unless your feeder requires that you fill it full to prevent it from leaking, I would only fill it about 1/4-1/2 full until the activity level picks up.
  2. Keeping ants out of your feeder…Not everyone has problems with ants in their nectar feeders (but most do). If you didn’t see John’s article last month about the Nectar Protectors, they really work great, with a simple, inexpensive design that uses water to keep ants from ever making it to your feeder.
  3. Keeping bees away…Bees are far more challenging to deal with than ants and just get worse as the summer wears on. Some believe that yellow on a hummingbird feeder attracts bees. My favorite solution available now comes with a couple of models of feeders. The Droll Yankee Hummingbird Feeders and the Aspects Ultra include a great little device that fits over the inside openings of the feeder. Hummers can push their bills through them to drink but the bees can not.
  4. Do you have a source of water? Don’t be surprised to see these little winged gems zipping back and forth through your sprinkler. The very best set up is a Mister. These little hoses spew a fine mist that is just right for hummingbirds. It attaches to your outdoor faucet and can be snaked up into a shrub for watering a patch of vegetation while providing water for the birds.
  5. Do you have enough feeders out? This is the season of plenty. All of the adults, the babies and even migrating birds will be looking for food. Most of our dedicated hummingbird people put out extra feeders this time of year and take care to place them far apart. This keeps one bird from being able to dominate your feeder station. Good landscaping will help this as well.

Don’t forget the simple rule: Clean Food, Clean Water, Shelter.

By Mark McKellar

SUMMER 2004