RECIPE FOR ARTIFICIAL HUMMINGBIRD NECTAR (4:1)

  • Pour four cups of hot tap water into a large pot or pan (glass, enamel, or stainless steel, if possible; try not to use aluminum).
  • Add one cup of table sugar (DO NOT use honey, artificial sweeteners, or other sugar substitutes).
  • Stir until all sugar has dissolved.
  • Cover the pan, place on a hot burner, and bring the mix to a rolling boil for 1-2 minutes; be careful not to let water evaporate (if you do, the mix can become too concentrated).
  • Let mix cool and pour into in well-cleaned feeders.

Boiling, which retards mold growth, is not necessary if your hummingbirds are draining the feeders within three days.

Early in the season red food coloring can be added (let cool first!) but is unnecessary, especially after birds have found the feeders; besides, modern hummingbird feeders all have red plastic bases and yellow flowers that the birds can easily see. There is no evidence that food coloring currently available in grocery stores or in commercial hummingbird nectar mixes is harmful to humans or to hummingbirds.

Store excess mix in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (check for fermentation or mold if longer than 2 weeks); let mix warm to room temperature before filling feeders.


MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

Put feeders up by mid-March to attract early migrants (a week or two later in the northern U.S. and Canada); DON'T wait until you see your first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the spring, which may be well after the first ones arrive

Maintain feeders all summer; take most down by 1 October, but leave one up until Thanksgiving (or even later if you can keep the mix from freezing); stray hummingbirds from the west may wander in and stay all winter; leaving feeders up will NOT influence when healthy Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate south.

Clean and refill feeders at least twice weekly in hot weather.
A dilute solution of non-detergent chlorine bleach (10 parts water, 1 part bleach) may be used to kill mold in feeders that have gotten especially dirty.

If you go on vacation or miss a week putting out feeders, don't feel sorry for the birds; Ruby-throated Hummingbirds know other food sources for several miles in all directions.

Hang feeders in the shade when possible, but put them in full view of a window--especially one near your breakfast or supper table!

If two or more feeders or used, put them where birds at one feeder can't see the other.
Several 16-ounce feeders are far better than one or two large ones.

Don't worry if Ruby-throated Hummingbirds spend a lot of time drinking artificial nectar; they also visit flowers for natural nectar and small insects; it is unnecessary to buy fancy prepared mixes with vitamins and other additives.

Do NOT use insect spray or pesticides to keep bees and wasps away from feeders; a shallow saucer of sugar water in the sun will often lure these insects away from hummingbird feeders.

Try hanging your hummingbird feeder from a coat hanger wire. Straighten the hanger except for the hook, which will hang from your roof gutter. Then bend the last 10" at the other end of the wire at a right angle, but leave a small dip where the feeder will hang. Coat hanger wire seems to be just the right diameter for a Ruby-throated Hummingbird's foot, so hummers often will perch on it and allow extended views and close-up photography.