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Five Steps to Happy Hummers

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubri...


1. Get the Right Kind of Feeder.

Saucer type feeders with perches and ant motes are preferred.

I have been using saucer type feeders almost exclusively for years. I feel the birds prefer them to the tube type and they are generally much easier to clean.

Birds like to perch, rest, catch tiny bugs and survey their territory at the feeders. Sitting and resting during feeding saves precious energy and helps young birds to socialize. The flat feeders also give the little guys a much better view of their spread.

I have learned the hard way that yellow flowers on feeders are unnecessary. They not only attract ants and bees, they can become brittle and break. The extra pieces also make the feeder harder to clean.

I recommend the HummZinger by Aspects which is basically only two pieces. It is attractive, drip resistant, easy to clean and has a deeper well which deters bees and wasps.

This is a sketch of my Fancy Hummzinger from my Drawing Everyday Blog.

2. Use the Right Sugar Water Mixture.

Never use premixed solutions!

I repeat, do not use premixed solutions! ESPECIALLY do not use any product with red dye. The additives and dyes are unnecessary and could potentially harm the birds. Hummingbirds get their nutrition from the insects they eat. Although no studies have been conducted on birds ingesting dyes, why take a chance on something that’s totally useless? The birds will be attracted by the red color of your feeder. If you’ve got a cool designer model with a fancy shape and a different color, do yourself a favor and junk it or hang it inside. In my experience, they are more trouble than they are worth.

You’ll need to make a plain ole’ SUGAR WATER NECTAR to attract our little jewels. A four part tap water to one part regular cane sugar (absolutely no substitutes) is the most widely accepted solution. This mix approximates the average sucrose content of flowers favored by North American birds. Do not use anything other than pure cane sugar and don’t make it sweeter as it may harm the birds. Sometimes people like to make things more complicated than they need to be. There’s no need to boil the water! Really, trust me. Just use very hot tap water and dissolve the sugar by stirring vigorously. This will last up to two weeks in the fridge, but I make up mine as needed. Use a towel underneath the feeder as you carry it outside to avoid sticky drips.

I personally use a five parts water to one part sugar mixture except during times of migration, when they need to put on weight and require more energy. This five to one mix increases hummingbird action at my feeders and decreases ant and other insect attraction. It also saves on sugar bills and the hummers seem to like it just as well.

3. Hang your Feeder in the Right Place.

Location is key.

The north side of your home is the most desirable location. It will probably be in shade most of the day which will keep your sugar water cooler and fresher longer. The south side is least desirable and will most likely be in more direct sunlight. Positioning feeders near trees and plant cover is ideal, however a big part of attracting these little dazzlers is enjoying their company, so be sure to hang them by windows or areas of your yard that you use frequently. To be on the safe side, if not protected by a screen, put decals and or sun catchers on windows near feeders to avoid collisions.

I think pole hangers are the safest and most versatile because they can easily be moved to ideal locations. These poles come a variety of heights and should be adjusted for window viewing. Poles keep feeders a safe distance off of the ground, away from predators. Feeders should be at least five to six feet in the air and far enough away from trees to deter curious cats.

Where there’s sugar, there will be ants, so here’s a few tips about ants. I successfully used Raid Outdoor Ant Bait Stakes at the base of my poles to eliminate ants last year. I have sprayed PAM cooking oil on poles at the base, near the ground to eliminate ants from climbing up. Do not spray or use vegetable oil or shortening up high where it could drip or come into contact with birds!

4. The Right Feeder Maintenance is Paramount

The return is well worth the effort.

Maintaining your feeders is a commitment. Your hummers will become dependent on your care. Be prepared to continue with the upkeep, or plant a hummingbird garden, instead. Hummingbirds will starve rather than consume spoiled sugar water. If you let them down, they will simply move on and you’ll be left hummerless.

When the sugar solution in your feeder turns cloudy, it’s spoiled and needs to be replaced. If the temperature is over 80 degrees (F), clean and refill at least every three or four days. Over 90┬░(F), it might spoil in one or two days. Discard any unconsumed or spoiled solution after a week, or if the water becomes cloudy. Every filling, flush the feeder with hot tap water and scrub with a small bottle brush or special feeder brush. Don’t use soap, just water. Visually inspect the entire feeder for black mold each time you fill it! This mold is easily removed with a brush and bleach soak. A bleach soak should be done on a regular basis; monthly or as needed. Clean the feeder thoroughly with a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water Soak one hour, then clean with a bottle or feeder brush. Rinse well with running water and refill. If the birds are not emptying your feeder between cleanings, just partially refill it.

5. Provide the Right Environment.

Make your yard hummer friendly!

Plant vegetation that attracts hummingbirds to your yard. This will provide natural nectar and attract the insects they feed on. The flowers they are attracted to are usually highly visible with little or no fragrance. A hummer garden is also a great way to attract customers to your feeders. Be sure to protect the birds from predators by keeping the bushes trimmed up off the ground and flower beds protected from lurking cats by using small garden fences. We have a low wall around our Butterfly Bushes and have also successfully used a low picket fencing that comes in a roll. Don’t use pesticides around hummingbird plants. Pesticides will also eliminate the small insects hummingbirds rely upon for protein. Ingesting pesticides sprayed onto flowers could sicken or kill the birds

* Some Common Plants to Attract and Feed Hummingbirds ~

Trees and Shrubs ~ *Azalea *Butterfly Bush *Cape Honeysuckle *Hibiscus *Mt. Laurel *Mimosa *Rose of Sharon

Vines ~ *Coral Honeysuckle *Cypress Vine *Morning Glory *Trumpet Creeper

Flowers ~ *Bee Balm *Canna *Cardinal Flower *Columbine *Foxglove *Hosta *Yucca *Fuchsia *Impatiens * Petunia * Various Salvia species


Living in Southern New Jersey, the only species we see here is the Ruby Throated Hummingbird. I have been enjoying and feeding them for over twenty years. By August,we usually have hordes of hummers. Because they return to the same spot year after year, we just keep getting more and more! I heard one way to estimate the number of individuals you have, is to count the number you can see at one time, and then multiply it by four. The most I could count at one time was 27, so we probably had over 100 birds here last year. We went through over seventy pounds of sugar! My friends have started to call me a name I am very fond and proud of, “The Hummingbird Master”.

Sandy Sandy ~ art that has spirit!

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My name is Sandy Sandy and I am a watercolor artist and author and have been painting full time since 1996. I love animals and nature and strive to portray the essence and spirit of my subjects in my work! And YES, Sandra Sandy is my real maiden name.
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