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Feeding Birds

How do I keep ants out of my hummingbird feeder?

Try an “ant moat” (sometimes called “ant baffle” or “ant guard”). This is a small plastic cup (about 3 inches in diameter) that fits tightly around the hanger wire above the hummingbird feeder. Ant moats are available from several manufacturers, and some feeders have them built-in. Fill the moat with water — ants can’t get past this barrier to the feeder.

What is the best way to feed the hummingbirds?

Instead of one large feeder, hang several smaller ones in different locations. Keep the feeders far enough apart that the hummers cannot see one another; this will prevent one bird from dominating the rest.

Is Hummingbird food supposed to be red?

To Dye or Not to Dye, that is the question

The use of red dye in hummingbird nectar recipes is a controversial issue. While hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, especially red, some red dyes in the 1970’s were found to be toxic.

Today, red dyes found in food coloring and commercial hummingbird nectar are safe for both human and animal consumption, but the color is not necessary to attract the birds. Many hummingbird feeders have red bases, feeding ports or other accents that will attract the birds without risking the use of unessential dyes.

If you want to use red to attract more hummingbirds to your feeders, consider planting red flowers nearby or adding a red gazing ball near the feeder to help catch the birds’ attention.

How do I make hummingbird food?

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

sugar

  1. Combine one part white sugar and four parts water.
  2. Heat the solution for 1-2 minutes to help the sugar dissolve and slow fermentation.
  3. Allow the solution to cool completely before filling feeders.
  4. Clean your feeders thoroughly every 3-4 days.

Nectar Recipe Tips

  • If your tap water contains heavy chemicals, consider using bottled or purified water for purer nectar. You can also boil the water before adding the sugar to help purify it.
  • Do not use honey, brown sugar, molasses or artificial sugar substitutes for any hummingbird nectar recipe. Honey and molasses (brown sugar contains molasses products) are too heavy for hummingbirds to digest efficiently and can ferment more quickly, creating a mold that is fatal to hummingbirds. Sugar substitutes do not have the caloric energy that hummingbirds need for energy.
  • While boiling will help slow the fermentation of the nectar initially, the nectar in hummingbird feeders is contaminated as soon as it is sipped by a bird. Therefore, it is not necessary to boil the nectar once the sugar has been dissolved. If you use extra fine sugar no boiling may be needed.
  • The ratio of sugar and water can be slightly adjusted, but a solution that is too sweet will be difficult for the birds to digest and one that does not contain enough sugar will not be suitable to attract hummingbirds. The 4:1 water to sugar ratio most closely approximates the sucrose levels in natural nectar.
  • Hummingbird nectar must be completely cool before filling feeders. Hot nectar can warp or crack both glass and plastic hummingbird feeders and warm nectar will ferment more quickly.
  • Commercial hummingbird nectar products may advertise different flavors, vitamins and other additives that are supposed to attract additional birds. These additives are not necessary for hummingbirds’ health and a simple sugar solution will attract just as many birds as more expensive commercial products.
  • Unused hummingbird nectar can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. When making your own nectar, adjust the recipe quantity to only make enough for one week to eliminate waste.
  • Clean hummingbird feeders at least once a week and refill them with fresh nectar. In warm weather or when multiple birds are using the feeder, clean them more frequently.

Following this classic hummingbird nectar recipe is a great way to create hummingbird food that is far less expensive than commercial nectars or nectar mixes. With a few simple steps, you can fill your hummingbird feeders with attractively delicious sugar water all season long.

To Dye or Not to Dye

red-dyeThe use of red dye in hummingbird nectar recipes is not necessary. While hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, especially red, some red dyes can harm the birds. Many hummingbird feeders have red bases, feeding ports or other accents that will attract the birds without risking the use of unessential dyes. If you want to use red to attract more hummingbirds to your feeders, consider planting red flowers nearby, hanging red ribbons from the feeder or adding a red gazing ball near the feeder to help catch the birds’ attention.

Do different types of seeds attract different types of birds?

Birds Can Be Picky Eaters

Different types of birdseed will attract different species of birds. Understanding what the different types of seed are and what birds prefer which blends can help backyard birders create a buffet tailored to their birds’ dietary preferences.

Different seeds also have different price tags, and knowing which seeds are a better bargain can help birders choose individual types of seed or seed blends with the most nutritional value per dollar. Experienced birders may create their own custom seed blends for specific bird species or different seasons, while general seed blends available commercially can also be useful for novice birders or frugal feeders.