Keep your feeders CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN!!!!!
Putting out a feeders to attract hummingbirds, who need to feed frequently,
especially during migration, is a very popular activity. However, using the
wrong kinds of sugar solutions or leaving moldy feeders out can kill
hummingbirds and their babies.
Perfect Hummer Food Recipe:
One part sugar to four parts water -
stir until sugar is
One cup of sugar to four cups of water
sugar to 3 cups water
1/2 cup sugar to 2 cups of water.
Bring solution to a boil to kill bacteria and slow spoilage - allow to cool.
Fill feeders just enough for a day or two of use. Extra solution may be
refrigerated if used within one week.
If feeders are cleaned and filled with freshly-made, hot water, sugar solution
every day, then it may not be necessary to bring the solution to a boil. If you
plan to store solution for two or more days, boiling is a must.
Do not use: raw sugar, agave syrup, brown sugar, molasses, artificial
sweeteners, or anything other than white sugar; these cause various problems for
hummers. Adding red food-dye coloring is unnecessary. The red on a feeder
is enough to attract hummers. DO NOT USE HONEY as this can kill hummingbirds.
When to stop feeding: Birds
migrate based on instinct, weather and resource availability. Since the sugar
water is a supplemental food and NOT the main food source for hummingbirds, they
will leave when the insect population drops below what they need to survive. Do
not leave hummingbird feeders up when during hard freezes unless they are heated
(use summer cleaning regimen for warmed feeders with 1-2 days maximum before
changing nectar and cleaning feeder). If you still have hummingbirds
coming to your feeder then by all means keep feeding them. As autumn changes to
winter, depending on your area, the hummingbirds may disappear altogether or one
or two may overwinter as they do here in many areas of California. Of course,
you only need put out a tablespoon or two per day when there is only one
Even though this website is about the Southern Sierra in
California, we get questions and comments from all over the country. The most
recent comes from SK Whitestone who lives in Northern California's Bay
area, "I have three feeders holding 6 cups each. I fill those things every day!
There is no time for anything to mold (ed note: this may not be true). I wish
people in California would NOT take their feeders down. I live in the bay area
and have hummers non-stop. Please tell your readers in northern California to
not take their feeders down during the winter. When they start migrating, Ill
go through even more as it gets heavier then." Ed note: even if hummingbirds
drink you dry on a daily basis cleaning feeders should be a regular part of the
Not all hummingbirds migrate: the coast of California, and some of the
warmer parts of the country have hummingbirds throughout the year. Some of the
migratory hummingbirds migrate to the warmer parts of the U.S. during winter.
Recent research is pointing to delayed or even no migration due to winter
feeding. This may be a result of climate change or some anthropomorphic cause,
we'll keep you informed to the newest research. So, if you have lots of hummingbirds and feel like feeding them, then do so,
just remember to follow the hummingbird recipe and keep your feeders clean.
If you live in a cold climate then make sure you remove the
perches so the hummingbirds keep their metabolism up while feeding (they
actually could get too cold and die from feeding while perched in winter). For
more information; please read one of the many fine books on hummingbirds or
visit one of the many websites devoted solely to hummingbirds.
Choose feeders that are easy to clean such as the Aspects HummZinger,
Perky-Pet's Hummingbird Oasis, or Droll Yankee hummingbird feeders. It is
essential that the feeder comes apart so that you can clean all surfaces
Both the "HummZinger" and "Hummingbird Oasis" feeders have moats in the middle
to hold water to keep out ants. Another feature of these feeders is they provide
unobstructed views of hummingbirds at all feeding ports on the feeders.
For reviews of hummingbird feeders, go to
Cleaning Feeders: Change the sugar solution often. Clean and put only
enough fresh sugar solution in your feeders to last one to two days in warm
weather, or sooner if it looks cloudy or develops mold. Keeping feeders in the
shade slows down fermentation and mold growth. But, feeders placed in the sun
are more easily seen and seem to attract more individual hummingbirds.
Use only vinegar and water to clean feeders. Soap or bleach traces left in
feeders, even after thorough rinsing, can harm hummers. A specially designed
sponge or brush can help. If you use bleach as a last resort, follow-up by
cleaning the bleach out with a vinegar and water solution.
Ant & Bee Control: An ant moat above the feeder will
drown most ants. You can also spray cooking oil around the hanger but this makes
a sticky mess and will have to be repeated throughout the year.
The best way to avoid bees is to deny them access to the
syrup. Feeders built to be bee and wasp-proof where the syrup level is too low
for insects to reach, but easily in range of the shortest hummingbird tongue
work. Keep the bee guards on your feeder at all times, and don't burp your
feeders. If you are in an area
where orioles pull off the bee guards or if bees or wasps persist, try moving
the feeder, even just a few feet. If that doesn't work, take the feeder down for
a day, or until you stop seeing wasps looking for it. You'll see hummingbirds
looking for it, too, but they won't give up nearly as soon as the wasps.
"...We usually have two or three hummers that stay through the winter. I have
constructed a heating device that I attach to the base of the feeder and operate
with a thermostat to prevent freezing (on at 35 degrees, off at 45 degrees)..."
"...12.8 cups of water + 3.2 cups of sugar (Editor: 4:1 ratio mentioned above)
will not make one gallon of solution. This is not only the result of the air
spaces between the sugar granules (which may account for 20% of the sugar
volume), but there is also an effect at the molecular level, in which water
molecules fit within the sugar molecule structure. It's called the "Partial
Volume of Solution," and is a phenomenon that chemical engineers routinely deal
with...We use four cups of sugar and enough water to make one gallon of
solution. I believe this is comparable to your recipe..." Richard W. (Dick)
Kunstman, former Conservation Chair, Yosemite Area Audubon Chapter of the National
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