Hummers on the Way!
It is that time of the year: the return of the hummingbird! I know we are all excited for these small friends hovering around our red feeders soon, but there are a lot of things to do in order to prepare for this glorious return! I hope to give you some quick tips on how you can draw these guys in!
First off, get those feeders out! Make sure they are clean and all ready to go. Many feeders are dishwasher safe, but you can always clean the feeders with some diluted bleach solution. I like to scrub all of my feeders down with a the coarse side of a sponge to make sure all of the grit and grime is gone from my feeder before going out on my feeding station.
But there are those of us who have never gotten a feeder before! I always make sure to get plastic feeders. I know a lot of folks are a little skeptical of plastic anything, but there are plenty of good feeders out there that are plastic (especially all of the Wild Birds Unlimited Hummingbird Feeders which are dishwasher safe and under a lifelong warranty)! Glass shatters, and when you have something hanging, it is bound to fall. Also, these feeders have parts that are so much more likely to crack or malfunction. Perches snap off, hooks crack, and the suction wears out. I encourage you also to get feeders that are not suspended upside down (pictured below). These feeders are just messy and hard to work with. They also are built to break down after a season (sometimes even sooner). Go plastic, go upright, and go Wild Birds Unlimited if possible.
So we have the feeder out, but of course, we need something in the feeders. I am going to make this simple: it is 4 parts water to 1 part sugar (just regular sugar). That is all. DO NOT ADD ANYTHING ELSE. If you are buying premade nectar, make sure it is not red! A misconception that has lasted for several years is that the nectar needs to be red. They learned not too long ago that the red coloring in this nectar causes renal failure in hummingbirds. Keep it simple, keep it clear.
If you are looking for some extra ways to provide nutrients for your hummingbirds, well they are not many options. Some folks recommend leaving out some old fruit to bring in fruit flies. Hummingbirds do love insects, so whatever way you can bring in some small insects will help out the hummers. But what is a little more obvious and what everyone will think of is flowers. Plant all types of flowers. They will appreciate them and so will all of the pollinators! (Check this post for more details!) The tubular flowers are what hummers are crazy for since it is easy for them to stick their elongated beaks down. Providing either of those extra nutrients helps them survive and thrive, but also encourages them to stick around in your yard!
I would place the feeders near some flowers to encourage feeding. That is a rule of thumb for any birds really: placing feeders near natural foods. One of the many great things about hummers is that they are extremely comfortable with humans (some folks have actually been able to feed them from red solo cups! There are some feeders that are handheld. These are somewhat successful, but require a great deal of patience. One quick important note: Hummingbirds can be a little territorial about their feeders. A way out of that predicament is by providing multiple feeders. There is no limit, but the issue is the upkeep you have to do to keep the feeders fresh and filled. So, it is really up to you on how many feeders you want.
Now the nectar does not stay fresh for long, usually 1 week with weather like this but rain can dilute the formula. In the peak of the summer heat, it needs to be changed every 2 days (it will start looking a little milky with some cloudy white clumps floating within it). You can place the feeders in the shade to extend the shelf-life of your nectar, and there are some covers you can put above your feeders that will both keep out the rain and break some of the heat from your feeders. Also, there are a a few products that can also extend the life of your nectar. I do not know the chemistry behind it, but I can say that Feeder Fresh certainly works. It can, at minimum, double the life of your nectar.
Whenever you are shopping for nectar or you see premade nectar, do not fall for their advertisements. They will say that it has nutrients the hummers need or that they are wildflower infused. I am sure that those products do have extra vitamins and electrolytes, but you do not need those if your yard provides insects, flowers, and nectar.
Should ants or wasps become a problem, most feeders (like Wild Birds Unlimited ones) have attachments that can prevent these pests from bothering your feeder. Ant moats work well, and they can offer the hummers two extra perks: the hummers sometimes eat the ants and the hummers will drink the water!
Hummingbirds, like all birds, need water to survive. They do not need lots of water to bath and drink, but they do rely on it. Luckily, if you plant flowers and if you water frequently, hummingbirds will drink the water off of the leaves on plants.
Hopefully by now you have realized how many things overlap when it comes to hummingbirds. Red feeders, red flowers. Water the flowers, water for the birds. Ant moats prevent pests, ant moats provide food for hummers. The hard part is the patience required behind hummingbirds. Sometimes you will see only one for two weeks. Sometimes you can see four a day for two months. Right now, we will see only scouts. That is why it is so important to get all of these foods out there! The scouts find the food sources and lead others to the area.
So you should be ready for those scouts now, and if you have any more questions, reach out! I would be happy to answer any and all questions for you! Stay safe, wash your hands, and take care of your birds!
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