For many of us winter is winding down and we are anxiously awaiting nature to gear up with the coming of the spring season. If you are interested in providing a warm welcome for some of the earliest migratory birds, I have some interesting tips and facts for you! Hummingbirds are among the earliest birds to migrate north from South America. They will sometimes arrive in their summer feeding grounds before nectar plants like azaleas have a chance to bloom. That’s why it is a good idea to hang your Hummingbird Feeders just as winter winds down. You may attract the earliest travelers and help to keep them nourished until springtime plants are in bloom.
If you’re wondering which Hummingbird Nectar Recipe to use and are confused about which one is best for Hummingbirds then the following information should be very helpful. As you may have discovered there are many nectar recipes out there, but the one most closely resembling nectar produced by many flowers attractive to Hummingbirds contains only 1 Part White Granulated Sugar (refined) and 4 Parts Water. To create the nectar boil the mixture until it dissolves, let it cool, and pour into your Hummingbird feeders. The excess can be stored for a day or two in the refrigerator. Honey, brown sugar, and artificial sweeteners or coloring are NOT suitable for Hummingbirds. These ingredients can actually cause toxicity and lack of nutrients. Regular white table sugar is much better than raw unrefined sugar because it is almost pure sucrose which is the most common sugar found in flower nectar. Nearly all of our commercially available sugar is produced from crushed sugar cane or sugar beets. During the refining process liquid is separated from the plants and used to make molasses. The process to refine raw sugar also removes impurities or contaminants which either originate in the plant or come from harvesting. Any trace minerals or nutrients that may be present in unrefined sugar are not beneficial to Hummingbirds. The impurities in unrefined sugar may cause faster spoilage and fermentation of the nectar solution possibly resulting in illness or death to the Hummingbird. Unrefined sugar may also contain higher levels of iron than white sugar which can poison Hummingbirds because they are unable to metabolize large amounts. Nutrients such as proteins will come from eating insects, not from natural or artificial nectar. So, please keep to the basics and don’t try to substitute ingredients when making your homemade nectar.
The early arrivers are also susceptible to low body temperatures which can induce them into a sleep-like state known as torpor. A Hummingbird cannot fly unless their body temperature is up to 68 degrees. This enables the Hummingbird to conserve energy in cold weather. So, if for some reason one of these tiny birds gets stuck in your garage on a cold night it may welcome your warm hands until its body temperature is raised back to a normal level. It may even feed in your palm with some of your homemade nectar until it can fly again!
The care and maintenance of your Hummingbird feeder is especially important when temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer weather can become a breeding ground for bacteria which is why nectar feeders should be cleaned thoroughly with boiling water and refilled with fresh nectar every 2 or 3 days. A bristle covered bottle brush will help to clean all of the nooks and crannies. If you are having trouble with tiny ants you can try smearing a drop of vegetable oil along the hanging wire of your Hummingbird Feeder, this is usually enough to dissuade the ants away. Some feeders are designed with ant moats and specially tapered feeding holes. These types of feeders can be half filled to deter bees because the specially tapered feeding holes are designed to stop the bees’ tongues from reaching far into the nectar.
If you follow these basic tips everyone will fully enjoy your Hummingbird feeders. It will be great fun for you and all of the wonderful Hummingbirds which come to visit your backyard!