Hummingbird Feeding Tips
One of the most important considerations in choosing a hummingbird feeder is if it’s easy to clean. Hummingbird feeders need to be cleaned and refilled with fresh nectar every two days in hot weather. That is because hummingbird nectar, which is composed of sugar and water, can mold or spoil easily in heat. Frequently cleaning your feeder is essential to the health of your hummingbirds.
Examine the hummingbird feeder you are considering buying and take it apart. Unscrew the bottle from the base and take apart the base. If you are considering a highly decorative feeder, make sure it meets the easy-to-clean criteria.
The base should snap apart or come apart easily. Can you easily access all areas of the base for complete cleaning? There should no crevices you cannot reach because that is where mold could hide. Black mold can build up on hidden surfaces.
If there are flowers as part of the base of the feeder, can you completely clean them? Do they snap out of the base of the feeder so all parts can be thoroughly cleaned? Mold can sometimes gather on the inside of the flower.
Examine the bottle reservoir. Does it have a wide enough mouth so you can easily pour the hummingbird nectar into the bottle without spilling it? A bottle with a wider mouth makes it easier to reach inside and thoroughly clean all the internal surfaces of the bottle.
Choose a hummingbird feeder with red on it if you are new to attracting hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are especially attracted to the color red. This is because many native hummingbird flowers have special adaptations for hummingbirds. The flowers are red (a color seen more easily by hummingbirds than bees) and have long tubes (too long for bees’ mouthparts to reach the nectar at the end of the tubes), thus the plants reserve nectar for hummingbirds, not bees. In turn, hummingbirds pollinate these flowers by carrying pollen on their foreheads from one flower to another. Hummingbirds do visit flowers of other colors; they just are most innately attracted to red.
Some hummingbird feeders have a bonus feature: a built-in ant moat that prevents ants from reaching the nectar. The ant moat is a cup of water on the top of the feeder, with the hanger attached in the middle of the cup. Ants are reluctant to swim across water, thus they cannot get across the moat to reach the hummingbird feeder and drink the nectar.
There are hummingbird feeders that have perches, and some don’t. Either type of feeder is OK. Perches provide a place for hummingbirds to rest, but hummingbirds do not need perches to feed. In the wild, hummingbirds hover at flowers. Removable perches are a nice option, as there is some thought that in very cold weather, it is better for hummingbirds to hover and warm up before they feed on cold nectar.
When cleaning hummingbird feeders, use a little vinegar and hot water, or a mild bleach solution for tougher cleaning jobs. Use a bottle brush for the upper bottle reservoir if necessary, and smaller brushes for other surfaces if needed. Thoroughly rinse all parts of the hummingbird feeder before filling it with fresh nectar.
To attract the most hummingbirds, choose several hummingbird feeders and space them widely apart in your yard. This will cut down on competition of one hummingbird trying to monopolize the feeders.
© Don & Lillian Stokes, 2011