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How to Feed Your Hummingbirds

How to Feed Your Hummingbirds

I love to watch the birds in my yard. Where I live, there are an abundance of cardinals, blue jays, doves, sparrows, thrashers and adorable red-headed woodpeckers!  We also have more than our share of squirrels and chipmunks.  I go to great lengths to ensure that wherever my chair sits in our living room, I can look out a window and see our bird feeders from it.

One thing I haven’t consistently done is keep a hummingbird feeder.  Well, I take that back. I have a hummingbird feeder, but it mostly hangs out on the corner of the porch where no one but the occasional cat can see it…empty…dusty…pitiful.  My mom has a couple of feeders on her back patio and all of these beautiful sweet, tiny birds flit around and entertain her and my dad all summer and well into the fall.  She keeps her feeders full of nectar and her birds are happy and spoiled.  This year, I’ve resolved to bring the hummingbirds to our backyard, too.

Feed Your Hummingbirds

First things first.  What the heck do hummingbirds eat and why? Well, you may have noticed that those little suckers move a mile a minute!  As you can imagine, that takes a lot of energy and energy comes from calories.  Hummingbirds need a high-calorie diet just to sustain themselves while they flit around looking for their real meals.  (Wouldn’t you love to have that problem?!?!) Therefore, they look for sources of sucrose – the stuff that flower nectar is mostly made of…just like good ol’ white refined sugar.  So, we’ll make “nectar” for our feeder from water and sugar. That’s it!

Hummingbird Feeder “Nectar”

Dissolve 1/4 cup white sugar in 1 cup of hot water.

Let cool. Fill your feeder. Change once or twice a week.

Tip #1: If you boil the solution, it will kill the bacteria and slow spoilage.

Tip #2: You can make a bigger batch using this 4:1 ratio and keep it in the refrigerator for about a week.

 

Wait, no red food coloring? My mom/grandmother/aunt/neighbor always added a few drops of red food coloring!

No. Although there’s no real research that says red food coloring is bad for hummingbirds, there’s no real reason to add it.  Hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors and do prefer the color red.  However, most feeders already have some red on them.  If you really want to attract them to your feeder, add a red ribbon or some red artificial flowers to lure them over. You can even hang something red from a clothesline. Anything that will catch their attention as they go on their usual flight pattern each day.

Can I use honey instead of white sugar? 

No. Honey is sweet, but it’s fructose and glucose. Hummingbirds need sucrose, remember? They can’t digest honey and it could even kill them.

Can I use turbinado, cane or brown sugars?

No. While these are sucrose, they also contain minerals and iron. Good for us, bad for hummingbirds.

What about molasses or sorghum?

Same as honey. Hummingbirds can’t digest those things.

Here are a few others…before you ask. 🙂

  • Fruit juice = fructose, not sucrose.
  • Artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Truvia – no calories! That means no energy for the hummingbirds.
  • Agave – no sucrose here and it also spoils pretty fast. Much less appealing to a hummingbird

Can I dilute it more than that? I really don’t want to attract ants!

You could, but you won’t be doing your hummingbirds any favors. First, a more diluted solution means it contains fewer calories. This means they have to drink even more to get enough calories, which requires that their little wings work even harder…using more calories…you see where I’m going here?  Besides, you won’t be fooling the ants, either.

Feed Your Hummingbirds 1

You’ll probably find some other visitors at your hummingbird feeder.  Bees love nectar, too! As do butterflies and even bats (so many “B’s”.)  Depending on your feeder’s location, even the squirrels will find their way to the sweet stuff.

Since nectar isn’t a hummingbirds primary food source, they will migrate along with their food – bugs!  As the weather cools and the bug population diminishes, hummingbirds will head south to warmer climates and bountiful bugs. However, if you live in the southern United States or in a climate that stays warm year round, by all means keep your feeder up and full. You will probably notice an increase in hummingbirds as they migrate through the south to get to their winter homes. In fact, parts of the country like south Texas and Southern California have hungry hummingbirds year round.  (Y’all are so lucky!)

I’m putting my feeder back up this weekend – clean and full! Fingers crossed that I have some visitors this summer…

Do you feed the hummingbirds at your house?