From Blooms to Feeders: Crafting the Perfect Hummingbird Haven

I've noticed that my hummingbird feeders are going un-visited lately. I thought what's up? I'm seeing the little guys swarming all over the garden.
Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

What are hummingbirds hungry for now? In my quest to have an environment that keeps hummingbirds in my yard all year round, I’ve noticed a change in the last month and went in search of some answers that I think you’ll appreciate and can benefit from.

I’ve noticed that my hummingbird feeders are going un-visited lately. I thought what’s up? I’m seeing the little guys swarming all over the garden. Earlier this summer I dedicated two garden beds specifically to providing food sources for hummingbirds and butterflies. And they have definitely taken advantage of all the nectar-rich plantings. I assumed the hummingbird feeders just acted as one more easy source of food. Wrong!

Here’s what one of the experts at my local garden center told me: As long as there’s adequate food for them in nature they will not need to use the feeders.  It actually does seem natural that they would forgo an artificial source when they can get high-quality food in nature. Hmm, a parallel to us humans. I much prefer getting my fruit and vegetables from the farmer’s market in season when I can. They’re tastier and healthier for sure!

So the hummingbirds definitely are in the know. Before you retire the feeders, however, read on.  Hummingbird feeders do have their place in the garden all year and here’s why.  My expert told me to drain the feeders of their artificial nectar and put water in its place. He said the hummingbirds will still be attracted to the feeders because of the red feeding ports and bases. And they will be able to get hydration, which they do need year-round. Then as the summer blooms that they feast on fade, I will introduce the artificial food back into the feeders for them to continue to have food sources as the seasons change, and the annual flower blooms have faded. This will encourage them to stay in the garden and hopefully nest, providing a new generation for next spring!

Now here are some tips on creating the perfect mix and keeping your feeders clean. Don’t make a mistake that I made with regards to mixing the food. I thought:  “Well, just like humans they would like to have organic food; and as such I bought a giant bag of organic sugar from a big box store”. I learned, however, that this is not healthy for the birds, in fact, organic and brown sugars can contain lethal amounts of iron.  Plain old white table sugar is the best. And here’s the tried and true way to mix it up. Use a ratio of 4:1. For example: four cups of water to 1 cup of sugar. Mix it up in a measuring cup and stir it until the sugar is completely dissolved. And you don’t need to add food coloring, that is a myth. Plus it just stains my fingers! Just be sure your feeders have red bases and/or red feeding ports.

I actually make my batches of food in bulk by mixing it up in a big pitcher and keeping the unused portion in the refrigerator. There are also thoughts that boiling the water is one small step that should be taken. Boiling will sterilize the water, minimize contamination, and reduce the rate of fermentation. It also makes the sugar dissolve quickly.

Experts recommend that the feeders be cleaned and changed regularly; some even say every few days, arghhh…..not for me. I have found that just using smaller feeders is the most practical. I don’t bother changing them out every few days. I just let them get down to about 1 inch of nectar, then bring them in, clean them, refill them, and put them back out. When cleaning, I use an old toothbrush and pipe cleaners. This makes it super easy to get in all the nooks and crannies and get in and out of the feeder ports. Good old-fashioned dish soap and water does the trick in short order.

I hope this article has given you some insight into how to create an oasis for your hummingbirds 365 days a year. There’s nothing more relaxing than coming home from work, getting a soda or a glass of wine, and sitting in the garden and watching the birds.


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