Getting some beautiful little birds buzzing and humming around your patio and garden space is easier than you think. You can buy any number of simple hummingbird feeders and have some little friends coming by in no time. There are some things to consider when hanging them and different styles that we will cover in this article.
First of all, know that not only will you benefit from the ability to watch at these beautiful birds flying around your home, but you’ll also benefit from their pollinating functions. Hummingbirds are great pollinators and if you have the types of flowers they like, you can have them pollinating them as well as drinking from your little feeder.
There is actually a little bit of history to the hummingbird feeder that is quite interesting. Laurence Webster has been credited with coming up with the original hummingbird feeder design. After reading about how these birds could be fed from a National Geographic Magazine, he drew up the plans and had a glassblower make the first one as a gift for his wife. His story was picked up and photos were taken of hummingbirds using his feeders. They became a big hit and commercial production of the hummingbird feeder as we mostly know it today was born in 1950.
Hummingbird Feeders Attract Bees, Ants and Other Insects Too
Mr. Webster’s design was one of the tubular designs that characterize one of the most popular types today. The other style of feeder is the bowl or saucer type. Both work fine in attracting and feeding hummingbirds, but you must pay attention to some elements. If you would like to keep ants and bees away from your feeder, you’ll need to make sure that they have some specific design elements about them. In order to maintain a clean, ant-free bowl style, you’ll need to make sure that there is some type of ‘ant moat’. This is simply a channel by which you can keep them from the sugar water. The same is true for the bees. There are some models that are ‘bee proof’.
How do you attract the hummingbirds themselves? This is a great question. It is actually quite simple. These birds are very ‘nosy’, pun intended, and will seek out these feeders in their local environment. The hummingbird prefers a solution of sugar to water at about a 21-25% solution. That is to say, they will find that this mix of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, is similar to the concentration of the nectar that they seek from other native plants.
You can learn online, as we did, that hummingbirds are susceptible to disease and can be harmed by various sugar water preparations. What you want to avoid is red food coloring and dirty sugar water. Many people believe that the hummingbirds find your feeder based upon the red color of the water. This is not the case and there is actually some concern that this food coloring can harm these delicate birds.
Cleaning your feeder is the other concern. It is recommended that you clean your hummingbird feeder each week with a mild solution of vinegar and water. Make sure to rinse it thoroughly after cleaning and then you can add your ‘homemade nectar’ mixture. Based upon how many visitors you get, you will be able to develop an idea as to how much liquid you should add each time to avoid wasting it each week.
Making Nectar For Your Hummingbird Feeder Recipe
It is fairly simple to make. As mentioned, the mix for best attraction and nourishment of hummingbirds is a solution that is 21-25% sugar to water. This translates to approximately 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. There is some concern over how to prepare the solution. Boiling the water is not necessary, though is likely not going to do any harm. The idea behind boiling is to kill any microbes that may taint the solution. However, it is the microbes on the bird’s beaks that carry these microorganisms, not the water itself. If you have a lot of visitors to your feeder, you will get very good at creating this mix! Along this line of thinking, you should know that you can keep a premixed solution of your nectar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks without spoiling, so you don’t have to make it every other day if you have a busy feeder.
Another concern that people have is in regards to the health of the birds themselves feeding them sugar water. Some people buy organic sugar and use filtered or distilled, boiled water to create their mix. These are all very sensitive steps to take to keep your hummingbird friends’ health in mind. However, this water is really only providing them with quick bursts of energy and fuel. You see, just like when you give your 4 or 5 year old child sugary sweets, they get a temporary burst, but they require actual food for sustenance. Hummingbirds need real food sources as well to live. They do this by eating insects, spiders and other small bugs. Your homemade nectar is more like a burst from eating some Skittles at the movies.
Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Feeder
We’ve talked about how curious these little guys are, so as long as you have a good mix and a visible feeder, you will get them coming by. Because they are attracted to red flowers by nature, a red colored feeder with red and yellow flowers is best. There are a few things to consider about where to locate your feeder for best results. The main thing is that you want to be able to enjoy seeing these birds humming around your patio and garden areas. For this reason, keeping it hanging up about 6 – 8’ from the ground will make it easier to find. Hummingbirds will search lower and in tighter spots, but this is a good rule of thumb. Also, you’ll want to keep your feeder where you can see it for obvious reasons, but away from close proximity with windows. If it is too close to your windows, the birds may be injured flying into them while coming towards your feeder.
Because of the territorial nature of hummingbirds, you are in for a real treat when it comes to watching them eat and protect their feeder. There will be a few that feed off of your feeder, but never together. Unlike a more traditional bird feeder that has seeds and many different perches, a hummingbird feeder will feed only one at a time.
The design of many hummingbird feeders will allow for several ‘stations’ at once, possibly with a perch surrounding each ‘flower port’, but only one will feed at a time. You can observe how they will protect this source if another tries to fly up to get a taste. They will take off in a sort of World War II dog fight in the sky. So, get yourself a hummingbird feeder and sit back, relax and enjoy the show.