It’s hummingbird season again, and if you’re like me, you want these little spitfires zipping and zooming around your windows and your garden as much as possible. I’ve put together a list here of a few things you can do to keep your homestead full of hummingbird hi-jinks, and also some things you’ll definitely want to avoid to make sure our little buzzing buddies don’t go belly up.
DO make your own hummingbird food. It’s easy to do. Just mix 1/4 cup sugar for every cup of water. I prefer to bring my mixture just to a boil, to make sure the sugar is thoroughly absorbed into the water, then let it sit overnight to let it ease back down to room temperature.
DON’T substitute honey for sugar in your mix. A common misconception is that this will create a nectar like substance closer to what hummingbirds naturally take from flowers. When honey is diluted in water, however, it becomes a fast breeding ground for fungus and bacteria.
DO adjust the sugar to water ratio for colder, rainy, or foggy days. 1/3 cups of sugar to each cup of water should do it. Hummingbirds burn more energy in these kinds of weather to stay warm, so the extra fuel will help keep them going.
DON’T add red food coloring to your hummingbird food mixture. Food dye (as well as commercially dyed pre-made mixes) may have chemical additives that could be harmful to a hummingbirds constitutions. Most hummingbird feeders have a red tint to them to attract hummingbirds anyway.
DO change your hummingbird food mixture regularly. Remember, sugar ferments, especially in warm conditions. In the spring and early fall, every two or three days should be often enough, but be sure to change your mixture (and clean your feeder) daily in the summer.
DON’T set your feeder in direct sunlight (or at least not in an area that gets direct sunlight all day every day – a few hours a day tops). Direct exposure to sunlight will rapidly increase fermentation.
Keeping one last DO in mind, be discriminating when choosing your feeder. Make sure it’s easy to clean, first of all. Second, keep in mind the other wildlife in your area. If you have a lot of bees near your house, be sure to avoid feeders that have yellow daisy feeder guards (the yellow attracts bees and sometimes wasps). If you have quite a few trees in your yard or neighborhood, be aware that hummingbird feeders with long perching stems can attract certain types of larger birds that can scare off the hummingbirds. Lastly (though this one stands out in my mind more than anything else in this list) if you live in an area where bears frequent, keep your feeder well away from your house.
I think it’s no secret by now that I absolutely love hummingbirds. I hope everyone enjoys the presence of these little guys this season, and that you do everything you can to help them be happy and healthy.