8 Mistakes You’re Probably Making With Hummingbird Nectar
To attract Mother Nature's version of the hovercraft and keep them coming back, avoid these common mistakes with nectar and feeders.
To enjoy watching hummingbirds, you’ll need a healthy feeding station where they can quickly fill up. These jewel-feathered whirling dervishes eat half their body weight in bugs and nectar each day, according to the National Audubon Society. That’s the equivalent of visiting more than 1,000 flowers.
A feeder makes it much easier for them. Here are eight common mistakes you can avoid when putting out hummingbird feeders.
Forgetting the Ratio
The standard recipe for homemade nectar is four parts water to one part sugar, so two cups of water for every half cup of sugar or four cups of water to one cup of sugar. That’s it. Tap water is generally fine to use. If your water source is high in minerals, put it in a glass measuring cup and microwave until it boils. Hot water dissolves the sugar more quickly, and leftover nectar stores better (up to a week) in the refrigerator.
Trying Honey or Other Sugars
Honey and maple syrup have soared in popularity with “no sugar added” becoming a frequent selling point for cereals and sweets. With hummingbirds, though, the National Audubon Society advises sticking with refined sugar. Honey, when diluted with water, can cause fungus growth. Organic, natural and raw sugars might have levels of iron that could harm the birds. Say “no” to molasses, brown sugar or sugar substitutes as well.
Adding Red Food Dye
While the color red does draw hummingbirds, most feeders already have red or yellow on them. That’s enough to catch hummingbirds’ attention without potentially harmful dyes. If you want to draw more attention to your feeder, hang it near a hanging basket of hummingbird-friendly flowers, such as petunias.
Filling Feeders Only Once a Week
Plan to change out the nectar every three to four days. You may need to refill it daily in the peak heat of summer when birds need more hydration, and near the end of summer when hummingbirds are bulking up for migration. If you notice nectar turning cloudy, replace it immediately.
Topping Off the Nectar
It may be tempting to top off the nectar already in your feeder, but it’s important to empty it and clean it with mild detergent each time, according to the International Hummingbird Society. Refill with fresh sugar water.
Not Sterilizing the Feeder
At least once a month you should soak feeders in a bleach solution (one tbsp bleach per cup of water) before rinsing it thoroughly. Sterilizing the feeder helps avoid fermentation, mold or fungus that can harm hummingbirds. Some glass feeders are dishwasher safe. It’s always best to check the recommendations of your feeder’s manufacturer.
Placing a Feeder Too Low
It may be tempting to use a shepherd’s hook to integrate your feeder among garden flowers, or to keep it at eye level near outdoor seating. Don’t. Feeders should be at least four feet off the ground and away from tree trunks, retaining walls or steps where roaming cats and other predators can lurk and capture hummingbirds.
Sparking a Feeder War
A super-sized hummingbird feeder with several nectar ports might attract more visitors, especially more mild-mannered females. Unfortunately, males in particular can be fiercely territorial. One alpha male hummingbird can claim a feeder and doggedly chase all others away. Consider more than one feeder and place them in different locations.