I’m sitting here watching the hummingbirds come and go on the feeder that is hanging just outside my living room window and thinking about how much easier it is now. I didn’t hang a hummingbird feeder for many years because I had read just enough to know that you need to keep your feeders very clean and change the nectar often if the birds don’t finish it—especially in hot weather. If you don’t, you may be doing the hummingbirds more harm than good.
I like the hummingbirds, but boiling the water/sugar nectar mix and then taking up frig space to store the leftover nectar just didn’t work for me. Let alone the nightmare of trying to clean those plastic hummingbird feeders on a regular basis!
Then I wrote an article for the July/Aug. 2011 Northern Gardener magazine about Donald Mitchell who is a hummingbird expert and feeds so many hummingbirds in his Minnesota backyard that he fills four large feeders in the morning and then has to go home at lunch to refill them.
Donald asked me why I boil the water before I add the sugar. “To sterilize it”, of course. So Terry, when a hummingbird sticks its beak into the feeder doesn’t that immediately contaminate the nectar? Okay, he had me there!
Now I don’t even heat up the water before I add the sugar [use a 4 to 1 water to sugar mixture] and I only make enough to last a few days so it doesn’t get a chance to spoil in the feeder or in my refrigerator. I just stir the sugar and water together and then let it sit for a while and then stir it again right before I put it into the feeder.
I also found a glass hummingbird feeder that has separate chambers that come apart and can go right in the dishwasher. Couldn’t be easier and I can enjoy the hummingbirds up close and know that I am now helping not hurting them.
Oh, one more thing that Donald taught me is to keep your feeders up until very late fall. Most of us have heard that encourages hummingbirds to stay at the feeders and not migrate to warmer climes. Not so, according to Donald. There are often late hummingbird migrators passing through that could really use the energy provided by your feeder so Donald leaves his up until he can’t keep the nectar from freezing.
Here is my long list of plants that will attract hummingbirds to your gardens.