My parents have become quite the hummingbird hosts. Last summer, they counted more than 40 hummingbirds at a time simultaneously hovering around the feeders on their front porch or sitting on branches or telephone wires nearby.
What started with a single feeder quickly grew to a hummingbird buffet as more and more of the colorful little birds discovered my parents’ generosity and seemed to spread the word. I ordered more feeders for them, so they could spread them around to the back of the house and hopefully reduce some of the territorial fighting, but that just seemed to bring in even more visitors.
Thankfully, the hummingbird feeders are easy to maintain, and my parents seem to really enjoy watching their tiny guests all summer and into the fall. You might enjoy watching hummingbirds from a seat on your front porch, too, or through a window. Here are some tips to help you get started with a few feeders of your own.
Simple feeders are best
I’ve seen some really ornate hummingbird feeders, but in my experience, simple, inexpensive plastic feeders that come apart easily are best. They’re easy to fill and easy to clean, and the hummingbirds seem to prefer them, especially if you get ones with a perch where they can rest a moment as they drink.
Nectar isn’t hard to make
Hummingbirds require lots of nectar to help supply their energy needs, and your feeders can help. Just fill them with a solution made of white sugar and water at a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. In other words, for every cup of water you use, add ¼ cup of sugar.
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, you should not add red food coloring or anything else to your simple sugar solution, because it could be damaging to the hummingbirds. Besides, the colorful feeders are bright enough to attract hummingbirds without coloring the nectar at all.
Get more than one feeder
If your feeders successfully attract any hummingbirds at all, chances are they will attract several. And because hummingbirds are naturally territorial, they will fight over the feeders.
You can reduce the combat by providing multiple feeders, ideally spread out with obstacles blocking the lines of sight between them. My parents put feeders around their front porch and behind the house, to give their hummingbirds a better chance of getting a share of the nectar in one spot or another.
Refill feeders often
You may be tempted to get a really large feeder, so you won’t have to refill it frequently. But microorganisms introduced into the feeders can cause the nectar to ferment in the summer heat. It’s best to use smaller feeders, refill often, and clean the feeders if you see signs of fermentation, mold growth, or notice that the hummingbirds are not drinking from the feeder.
Filling your feeders may be challenging at first, because it can be tricky to fill and hang them without spilling sticky nectar if you don’t know what you’re doing. But it only takes a little practice to become adept at refilling your feeders, and the enthusiasm of the little hummingbirds visiting a freshly filled feeder is a great reward for your efforts.
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