I know, I know. The flyers in the image are not hummingbirds, but they are birds that come partake of the "bird buffet" we have set up out back. And I've been thinking about adding something for the hummers.
I've tried having a hummingbird feeder in the past – more than once – and, to be honest, I found it to be a bit of a pain. Each and every time I got lots of bees, wasps, and ants. Yet nary a hummingbird would visit.
It's been a bit disappointing, as they are a hoot to watch. My grandparents had a window feeder at their place in Arizona, and it was a joy to watch the hummingbirds flit about.
But since we've moved to the mountains, I have actually seen hummingbirds fly by without any effort on my part! So I figured maybe, since they're already here, I would give another go at getting some to hang out for a while.
I bought a small feeder for a buck, and set out to make my own nectar. Finding a recipe was easy: 4 parts water, 1 part white sugar.
However, I discovered there was at least a couple of different camps: those who boiled the sugar water, and those who did not. Of course, I wanted to join those who boiled not. But I don't want to hurt the hummingbirds, so I dug a little more. Here's what I found:
Hummingbirds.net says, "It's not necessary to boil the water. The microorganisms that cause fermentation don't come from the water; they are transported to the feeder on hummingbird bills."
AllAboutBirds.org says, "If you mix up small quantities of sugar water every day or two, there’s no need to boil the water. But if you mix up larger batches and refrigerate part for later use, then it’s wise to make the mixture with boiling water."
A list of things not to use is found at Field Guide To Hummingbirds:
- Honey – "Once diluted to feeder strength, honey becomes an ideal food for a variety of microbes, including some that can cause disease."
- Brown or even brownish sugar – Too much iron.
- Artificial coloring – "The vast majority of hummingbird flowers put the color on the outside, not in the nectar…[T]he dyes used in most 'instant nectar' products and the food coloring in your pantry, are like nothing the birds would ever encounter in nature."
And, finally, from a most respected source: Audubon.org says,
Choose a hummingbird feeder that comes apart completely for regular scrubbing, inside and out, with a bottlebrush and hot water. Use only a mix of four parts water to one part plain white sugar—never use honey, which promotes dangerous fungal growth, molasses, or brown, raw, or organic sugar, which contain levels of iron that could be lethal. Plain white sugar perfectly mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar; don’t waste money on commercial mixes. It’s not necessary to boil the water, but keep any extra nectar refrigerated, and empty the feeder every few days, more often in hot weather. Never use red dye; nectar is naturally clear, and the coloring could be harmful.
Happy feeding! (And please wish me luck.)
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