By Nicole Sudduth
Our Ruby-throated hummingbirds are here and they’re so much fun to watch throughout the spring and summer! Here are just a few things to remember or do to enjoy your neighborhood hummingbirds:
1. Keep your feeder clean. In the heat of the summer an awful black mold can grow in the sugar solution and its not good for birds. So, be sure to clean your feeder every time you fill it – when its hot, the sugar solution will go bad quickly so you’ll want to clean and fill your feeder every few days to keep it fresh. Use a brush and be sure to clean those little ports that the hummingbird feeds from too.
2. Use plain white sugar for your sugar solution. One part sugar to four parts water is the proper mixture. Do not add any red dyes or other substances as they’re not good for the birds. As long as your feeder has red on it, that’s all the red you’ll need to attract them.
3. If bees are coming to your feeder and you’d rather they not, you can dilute the sugar solution to one part sugar, five parts water and they should loose interest in the feeder.
4. Male hummingbirds will adopt a feeder as their territory and defend it aggressively. This is just what they do. You can set up several feeders which will give other birds a chance to drink too.
5. If ants are getting into your feeders, you can get one of those plastic ant barriers that keep them out. They generally hang right above the hummingbird feeder so the ants encounter the barrier before making their trek down to the feeder itself. Some use a water moat that the ants can’t cross while others have a citronella disk that deters the ants from proceeding. I’ve used both and they work great.
6. Protect feeders from cats and other predators by making sure that the feeder is high enough off the ground that the hummingbirds won’t be surprised by a pouncing cat.
7. Keep a pair of binoculars handy so you can get close up views of your hummingbirds. Viewing that ruby throat and that emerald green and the detail of their feathers is a special treat and while they sit on the feeder, they’ll actually be slowed down enough for you to focus 🙂 . You can also identify the juveniles by the streaking on their throats.
8. For the full benefit of the birds and your yard, provide native nectar plants in addition to your feeder. This provides the hummingbirds with the varied food sources that they need to stay healthy. While hummingbirds love their nectar, they also need the protein that they get from eating insects and a healthy native garden free of pesticides can provide this for them. Some real favorites include columbine, cardinal flower, bee balm, trumpet vine and others with a tube-like shape. Check our gardening for wildlife plant list for more ideas.
9. Another fun feeder to set up is one that has aging fruit (like bananas and oranges). The fruit will attract fruit flies which the hummingbirds will gobble up, as well as butterflies which will come for the fructose.
10. Try sitting outside near your feeder. It’s fun to have a hummingbird buzz close by you. As you sit outside near the feeder, they’ll not only get used to you but also curious about who or what you are. I have a special shirt with a red geometric shape on it and the hummingbirds get very interested in seeing if it’s a flower. Sometimes they come so close that I can barely focus my eyes on them before they’ve dashed off to a tree limb to sit and preen.