What Should You Know About Hummingbird Feeders?
Before you choose a hummingbird feeder, it will help to know just a few things about these birds.
Some Hummingbird Facts
Prior to installing any hummingbird feeders, you should know that the birds (all members of the Trochilidae family), are the smallest vertebrates (animals that possess a spinal column) in the animal kingdom.
They are incredible birds, exclusive to the American continent where they can be found from Alaska to Chile. In order to attract them to our gardens all we have to do is provide a food similar to their favorite: flower nectar.
As hummingbirds are so active and almost have no energy reserves, their search for food occupies many hours of the day, during which they must consume a quantity of nectar greater than their own body weight.
An adequate feeder provides an ample supply of food in just one place, which is a gift equal to none, for these fascinating creatures.
Although they are very agile in flight and are not often annoyed by cats or other vermin like squirrels, good placement of the feeder will allow an undisturbed feeding process.
However, although a hummingbird feeders are easy enough to maintain, there are some important points to remember in order to feed the birds, but also look after their welfare.
What Is A Hummingbird Feeder?
In general terms, the idea is that this reservoir of “nectar” can be accessed by the birds constantly. What ends up making the difference between one feeder and another is its reservoir capacity.
At first it’s more likely to start with a partially filled hopper and then as the number of birds coming to feed increases, the amount added can increase so that the sugar water lasts a little longer.
Hummingbirds Are Territorial
It is important to know that although hummingbirds are small they are also very territorial and defend their personal space with considerable aggressiveness. This means two things: the first is that various feeders to be separated by a some distance between them.
This will avoid one bird feeling they are the owner of the only feeder in the area, and not allowing any other birds to feed there.
In short, the more feeders there are the more hummingbirds will visit and there will be a greater variety of species. The other consequence that is derived from this territorial behavior and from which we may benefit, is that they often position themselves on a nearby perch.
From this vantage point they can maintain visual control of the food source. This being so, by placing suitable perches near feeders, the hummingbirds will use them and we will therefore be able to observe and photograph them with greater ease.
Although it’s really sugar water,there are a few technical points about the mixture, which will determine the success of the feeder.
- The sugar should be refined sugar (not brown sugar, not honey or any other kind of sweetener).
- Mix in strict proportions of three measures of water to one measure of sugar.
- If the mixture is too sweet it will attract bees and if it’s too bland it will not offer sufficient calories to our feathered friends.
- It is not necessary to add any coloring to the sugar water mix.
Feeder Care And Hygiene
Replace The Hummingbird Nectar Regularly
Avoid letting the feeders become impregnated with the mixture and make sure that it doesn´t remain in the feeder more than 48 hours.
After 48 hours it can start to ferment, and cause harm to the hummingbirds, who will eventually disappear from the garden.
In addition, it is important to know that the sugar and water mixture cultivates fungus in the feeders.
This fungus can make our winged visitors ill which means that it is really important to wash the feeders weekly.
Use a diluted solution of sodium hypochlorite.
Of course it goes without saying that the sodium hypochlorite should be thoroughly rinsed from the feeders before they are refilled with fresh food.
How to attract hummingbirds to the feeder?
Playback Recordings Of Bird Calls
A very good way of consistently attracting hummingbirds to the garden or backyard is by plying recordings of their own calls.
This “play back” technique functions really well with many species, although not all (the reality is that it works very well with local species in the mating season and is less successful with migratory birds which are just passing through).
Although its only possible to record the birds found in our environment, there are many internet sites that have recordings of bird calls and they verify and classify them and make them available to the public.
The sounds should be reproduced in small blocks of no more than 30 seconds with breaks of five minutes between each 30 second group and the next. Don’t forget the goal is to attract the birds, not stress them unnecessarily, so the sounds should be played quietly but consistently.
When a bird hears a recorded bird call it may respond immediately, it may come closer to put the potential
aggressor to flight or it may remain in silence next to its female mate to protect her from any other suitors.
It is also possible that a male may wait for a little while after hearing the recording and then initiate his own call to impress his digital competitor.
On the other hand, the females may move closer to the source of the sound out of curiosity for this new individual.
So, the best technique is to reproduce small fragments of sound at a low volume and then wait a few
minutes for a reply and then repeat the reproduction. Patience and attention are the best aids for calling birds with the playback technique.
Once an ample supply of food is available to hummingbirds, they will quickly adapt to their new environment. Both the variety of visiting species will increase as well as the individual members of each species.
They will start to rely on the constant supply of sugar water, so be consistent with the amount presented and the number of feeders in use.
A sudden reduction in availability could have an adverse affect on the population.
So if you plan to stop feeding, reduce the amount gradually over a period of a couple of weeks to allow the birds to adapt to the new situation.
Placement Of Hummingbird Feeders
- Keep individual feeders some distance apart and as far as is possible away from any potential danger from cats.
- Place the feeders in the a shaded situation, as sun and heat will hasten the spoilage of the nectar.
- Keep the hummingbird feeder out of the wind to prevent the food solution from spilling as the feeder sways in the breeze.