The How: Hummer Feeding

First, the No-No’s

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  • Never add red food color to sugar water
  • Never use commercial mixes that have red dyes. Nectar in flowers is clear, and red food coloring may be harmful for hummingbirds.
  • Never use honey to make hummingbird food – when honey is diluted with water, bacteria and fungus thrive in it. A honey water solution served up in hummingbird feeders can quickly become toxic and deadly. Honey rapidly ferments and also cultures a deadly bacterium – it can kill hummingbirds

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  • Never use: raw sugar, agave syrup, brown sugar, molasses, artificial sweeteners
  • Never use Soap or bleach traces to wash the feeder. If left in feeders, even after thorough rinsing, it can harm hummers.

Using the wrong kinds of sugar solutions or leaving moldy feeders out can kill hummingbirds and their babies

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Now, the how-to’s

Change the sugar solution often. Clean and put only enough fresh sugar solution in your feeders to last one to two days in warm weather, or sooner if it looks cloudy or develops mold. Keeping feeders in the shade slows down fermentation and mold growth. But, feeders placed in the sun are more easily seen and seem to attract more individual hummingbirds.

Use only vinegar and water to clean feeders. A specially designed sponge or brush can help. If you use bleach as a last resort, follow-up by cleaning the bleach out with a vinegar and water solution.

Table sugar is perfect. The normal mixture, especially ideal during hot or dry weather, is ¼ cup of sugar per cup of water. During cold, rainy, or foggy conditions when fresh water is plentiful but birds need more energy, it’s fine to make the mixture 1/3 cup of sugar per cup of water. Concentrations of sugars in natural nectars vary within about that range.

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If you mix up small quantities of sugar water every day or two, there’s no need to boil the water. But if you mix up larger batches and refrigerate part for later use, then it’s wise to make the mixture with boiling water

Perfect Hummer Food Recipe: One part sugar to four parts water – stir until sugar is dissolved.

Measure examples: (a) One cup of sugar to four cups of water; or (b) 3/4 cup sugar to 3 cups water; or (c) 1/2 cup sugar to 2 cups of water.

For larger batches, bring solution to a boil to kill bacteria and slow spoilage – allow to cool. Extra solution may be refrigerated if used within one week. If feeders are cleaned and filled with freshly-made, hot water, sugar solution every day or two, then it may not be necessary to bring the solution to a boil. If you plan to store solution for two or more days, boiling is a must.