Feeding hummingbirds can be a satisfying hobby. These agile birds need to eat frequently to stay in good health, which means they will be around the feeder often and provide an unmatchable spectacle. Feeding hummingbirds takes work, however, as the food needs to be carefully prepared and the feeder kept in good condition.
Hummingbirds feed on nectar, which is usually found in the center of certain flowers. A homemade nectar is the easiest and most common item used to fill hummingbird feeders. Nectar is made by mixing four parts water to one part sugar and then boiling the mix until the sugar has dissolved. After the mix has cooled down, it can be added to the feeder. Adding 1/2-tsp. of vanilla can sometimes help attract more birds, as the smell is more intense.
Feeders filled with homemade nectar should be washed every three to four days to prevent the formation of mold, which can make the birds sick. Honey should not be used, as it spoils fast, resulting in a growth of bacteria that can be fatal to hummingbirds.
Premixed (liquid) nectar or powdered mixes can be found at most pet supply stores or over the Internet. They require no boiling and contain no artificial sweeteners or additives. Some of them come in red colors, although it's not necessary to attract birds and color-free food may be more natural.
While most commercial foods will tell you that using tap water is fine, bottled water is generally better, as it contain less chemicals and is cleaner.
Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, so in the past most foods used red coloring as an add-on to help attract the birds. While food coloring can be added to the homemade nectar, it can be dangerous for birds to ingest and can cause some of them to become ill.
An alternative is to use a red feeder, so the birds will come up to it. Because hummingbirds are territorial, it's better to have several feeders spread out over an area of the garden, so the birds won't move on to somewhere else. Yellow feeders tend to attract bees, so it's better to avoid the color.
Article Written By Sarah Dray
Sarah Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including "Woman's Day," "Marie Claire," "Adirondack Life" and "Self." She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.