by Jane Lake
Bee balm, hollyhock, hibiscus, trumpet honeysuckle, clematis, impatiens, phlox, purple coneflower, roses and fuchsias are some of the common flowers that will attract hummingbirds to your garden. But hanging a hummingbird feeder where you can easily see it is probably the best way to observe the hummingbirds in action.
There’s no need to buy expensive nectar – make your own syrup from the recipe shown here.
Homemade Hummingbird Food
1 part sugar/4 parts water
Boil the water first, then measure and add sugar, at the rate of 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.
Let cool and store excess in refrigerator until ready to use.
Do not add food coloring, honey (which ferments), or artificial sweetener, which has no nutritional value.
You will need to clean your feeder at least once a week, and more often than that if the water gets cloudy. According to the National Audubon Society, cleaning should be done by rinsing with one part white vinegar to four parts water. If the feeder is dirty, try adding a few grains of dry rice to the vinegar solution to help scrub it clean. Follow the vinegar wash by rinsing three times with clear, warm water before refilling with sugar solution.
If mold develops, you will need to soak the feeder in a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) until the mold is gone. A small bottle brush can be handy to scrub crevices. Once the feeder is clean again, rinse it thoroughly, multiple times, to remove all traces of bleach.
How to Make Hummingbird Food – Video
For visual instructions, watch a one-minute video on making homemade nectar.
One interesting tip: freeze leftover nectar in ice cube trays; just melt the cubes then bring the nectar up to room temperature to use.
If ants are a problem at your feeder, make a homemade ant moat to keep them away. You’ll need a spray can cap, wire, and silicone caulking or hot glue. Simply drill or pierce a tiny hole in the middle of the cap, just large enough for the wire. Bend a hook on both ends of the wire and caulk around the hole to seal. Fill the cap with water. This moat should prevent ants from getting into your hummingbird food. Top up the water as needed to keep the ants away.
Placement of Feeders
Since hummingbirds are territorial, you may want to hang at least two feeders – one in the back yard and one in the front, to accomodate as many hummingbirds as you can. Hanging the feeders in a shady spot will discourage fermentation and spoilage of the nectar.
Make a Hummingbird Feeder
Recycled Hummingbird Feeder
Don’t buy a feeder – make your own from recycled plastic food tubs and plastic bottles.
A Hummingbird in My House: The Story of Squeak
Heart-warming story of the author’s adoption of Squeak, a hummingbird rescued from killer frost.
Squeak lives in her sunroom until spring, while the author photographs and records what it’s like to interact with “a living jewel among the flowers.”
It’s a Hummingbird’s Life
This children’s book about hummingbirds has beautiful watercolor illustrations, plus lots of charming hummingbird lore. Parents will like the hummingbird garden tips.
More About Hummingbirds:
Recycle narrow-necked glass bottles to make your own hummingbird feeders with handy feeder tubes. Sold in a pack of 12, these make great recycling and nature projects for scouts, classrooms or youth groups, and the creative possibilities are endless. I’ve seen some pretty wine bottles recycled into feeders using these tubes.
Free Hummingbird Maps:
Hummingbird Migration Map
Track the migration of ruby-throated hummingbirds in North America; add your own first sighting of the season.
World Of Hummingbirds Map
Tracking hummingbirds around the world.
Ontario Hummingbird Project
Maps and tracks hummingbird migration and the hummer population in Ontario, Canada.
Bookmarks: For the hummingbird fan: free printable Hummingbird Bookmarks with sketched pictures.
Wing Beat and Senses
The wing beat rate of hummingbirds varies by species, with the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird averaging a wing beat of about 53 per second, seen by the human eye as a blur. The wings move in a figure eight pattern to produce the gravity-defying hover effect for which hummers are famous.
Hummingbirds cannot smell and depend on eyesight to find flowers and food. Inexpensive red hummingbird feeders are readily available and will attract the busy little birds without the need for coloring the food; this easy food source will keep them coming throughout the day.