Put Up the Hummingbird Feeders

If you check the Hummingbird Migration Map , you can see how close these lovely jewels of birdlife have come to your house in their annual migration north.  The first sighting I have in my records had been April 27th, but with the early spring we’ve had, I’ve put my Hummer feeders up early.  I recently read that Hummingbirds have an enlarged hippocampus, the part of the brain that stores memories.  They supposedly can remember every feeder along their migration route and even know who fills the feeders.  I make my own “nectar.”  The red dye in the powder they sell in the stores is said to damage their kidneys, plus it is much more cost-effective to make it up as you need it.

Hummingbird Feeder Nectar                                              

Feeder up, filled, ant guard in place and ready for Hummers

Feeder up, filled, ant guard in place and ready for Hummers

  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 C. water

Mix sugar and water together in a microwave proof cup.

Microwave until it comes to a boil.

Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and cool.

Fill the feeder and refrigerate the remaining nectar.

It lasts several days in the refrigerator.

It may not be necessary to boil it, I just take that extra precaution.  If you are going to put up a Hummingbird feeder, it is crucial that you watch it for deterioration of the nectar.  In hot weather, I change mine every other day.  You can tell if it’s deteriorating by the clarity of the nectar.  The moment it gets cloudy, the nectar must be changed, or the birds could become ill.  When you change it, it’s also important to clean the feeder thoroughly with hot soapy water and bleach.  I only fill mine halfway as that is about as much as “my” Hummers eat in three days.

If you want to try feeding these lovely jewels of birdlife for the first time, choose a red feeder with ports that won’t fill with rainwater and one that has a clear container, so it is easy to check for cloudy nectar.  It’s a good idea to get an ant guard to hang it from and keep that filled with water to keep ants from crawling down and fouling the nectar.  I also paint the shepherd’s hook I hang it from with Tanglefoot, (available in garden centers) as an additional deterrent for the ants.  Place it in a location out of the sun so the food stays cooler (it lasts longer that way) and plant red flowers underneath, as they are attracted to the color red.  Have patience.  I planted red flowers and changed the food regularly for eight years before I got a Hummer.  That was 30 years ago and I’ve had them ever since.  I DO think they know who fills the feeders as they will come up to the window and look in at me, if the feeder is empty.

Nectar is only one source of their food as they eat insects when they drink nectar from flowers and that protein is vital for good health.  They like tubular flowers like fuchsias, so a hanging pot of fuchsia near the feeder may also attract them.  There are Hummingbird friendly native plants you can make a part of your garden design, such as Cardinal Flower, Jewelweed,  Columbine and Bee Balm.  We hang one of our feeders in a dead dogwood tree in the middle of a patio.  I planted native Trumpet Vine at the base, using the dead tree as a trellis.  This beautiful native vine can become aggressive and I’m hoping the fact that it’s surrounded by a stone patio will keep it tamed.  The birds are smart, they’ll find insects on their own and the feeders make up only a portion of their diet.

Their time with us is fleeting.  My latest record for a Hummingbird visit is October 5th.


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