Indeed, even quite apart from attracting hummers, these are lovely hanging baskets that remain colorful all season and seem hardy and heat-tolerant.
This spring, we were in one of our favorite stores, The Andersons General Store. (I apologize now to those readers who don't have this store near you. There are 2 in the Columbus area and 3 in Toledo where it is based.) Anyway, we were in the pet department so Hubs could pick up some birdseed, and there was a large display of hummingbird feeders. I spent some time looking at them and reading the little tags, and I decided to get one. I'm not sure why I've lived 55 years on this planet without getting one of these, but let me tell you, my life has been changed forever by the addition of this to my world.
The first one I bought was a Perky Pet brand that looks like this:
This is called a "pinch-waist" feeder, and mine looks exactly like this except that the little yellow cages are rounded. It came with a little packet of powder mix to make the nectar. I mixed it up with water as the directions indicated, filled up my jar and hung it on a plant hook outside the porch at New House. It wasn't long before a hummie came to partake of the sweet nectar. This packet of powder had red food coloring in it. One packet filled the jar, and I left it out for about 2 weeks (this is a mistake which I will address later).
Once we saw that the feeder was attracting hummies, we decided we were going to need to buy more nectar. On a shopping trip to Meijer, we found jugs of red liquid food in the pet department, so I tried that.
I cleaned out my feeder and filled it with this red liquid. Then I watched as a hummie came, checked it out, and quickly went away. Sadly then we waited for a few days and had no more hummies sipping.
Meanwhile Hubs decided he wanted a feeder for Old House, so he got one that was different than the first one. This one looks similar only it doesn't have perches by the feeding tubes. There are lots and lots of feeders on the market. Some are more decorative and artsy and some are more utilitarian. Personally, I prefer a feeder with perches because some hummies will sit for awhile and that is fun to see.
We have a bird supply store here in Westerville called Wild Birds Unlimited. I called them and explained the situation and the lack of interest in the liquid nectar. The clerk explained that hummers don't typically like the store-bought liquid because it has preservatives in it. She recommended powder and said they sell it, so we went to get some. In the store, the clerk recommended a can of powder they sell that is called "Songbird Essentials". One of its selling points is that it makes clear nectar. The clerk explained that some people feel the red food coloring is not good for the hummies - and it really isn't necessary. The red on the feeder is what attracts them. In fact, you will see that almost all commercial hummingbird feeders have red parts. So, I bought a can. A 24 oz can makes 4.5 quarts of nectar, and that's a lot when you consider that you only put about 1/4-1/2 cup in a feeder at a time.
In talking with the clerk we learned some other valuable information. She explained the importance of cleaning the feeders and changing the nectar often, especially in hot weather, because the sugar water goes bad and the feeders can get moldy - neither of which are healthy for the hummies. She said that the water should be changed at least every few days, and even daily if it is really hot. After learning that I realized that it really isn't necessary to fill the feeder completely because they can't drink it down before it needs to be changed. Now I only fill it about 1/4 full - not even up to the pinched waist.
Hubs put his feeder out at Old House filled with this same canned nectar and had success with hummie visitors. He also did some research online about home-made nectar because he didn't really want to keep spending $10 per can. He learned that you can make your own nectar very easily.
Recipe: 4 cups of water - bring to a boil on the stove. Remove from heat.
Add 1 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool to room temp before putting in feeder.
This can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. Be sure to bring nectar to room temp before putting out in feeders.
Also we heat our water in a metal pan that is NOT coated with non-stick coating. When Hubs was just a young-'un, he had a pet parakeet, and he learned then that birds can be sensitive to the fumes from that non-stick coating. If a pan with a non-stick coating is left hot and dry on the stove, the fumes can kill a pet bird. (Normal cooking shouldn't be a problem.) We have chosen to keep our sugar water as natural as possible rather than take chances.
In the couple of months that I've had a hummie feeder, I've too often seen the sad sight of a hummie coming to the empty chain while the feeder is inside being cleaned and refilled. They sit on the chain and look around.... and fly around looking for the feeder. I decided to get a second one, so that I could have it ready to put out immediately when the first one is taken in for cleaning. Then I don't have to rush and the hummies don't have to wait. Here is the 2nd style I got:
The only reason I bought this was because I couldn't find another like the first one. I like the fact that it has a perch. I also like the fact that this one is easier to clean because there aren't really any separate parts to remove. However, if this hangs in the rain, rainwater can get in the feeding holes and dilute the sugar water. Also, the reservoir is larger and has to be fairly full so the hummies can reach the good stuff (although they do have very long tongues), so more nectar is wasted in cleaning it out before it can all be consumed.
If you want a hummingbird feeder, here are my recommendations:
- Get a feeder that has lots of red on it and has perches for sitting.
- Get a feeder with a smaller reservoir because too much is wasted with a big tank.
- If you decide to go fancy/artsy, get one that is small and easy to clean because mold can grow in nooks and crannies.
- Get a feeder with an ant moat. This is a place to put plain water to keep ants from walking down the hanger, onto the feeder and getting to the ports.
- Get a feeder with bee guards (these are the yellow cages) - although I have not yet seen any bees on the satellite feeder, but there is an ant moat in the middle.
- Make your own sugar-water or buy a powder that has no preservatives or food coloring.
- Be prepared to clean your feeder every few days in hot weather and to take it all apart if necessary.
We are told that some hummies hang around Central Ohio through October, and the clerk at the bird store recommended keeping feeders out until the hummies are gone because they come to depend on them, especially in the fall as the flowers are fading. She said it is a myth that feeders lure them to stay in the area too long and then they don't get away before the cold gets them. She said they know when to leave for winters in Mexico.
And now, what you've all been waiting for: our very own pics and videos of our little hummies:
Video - 39 seconds with a Hummie - This Hummie is on Hubs' favorite feeder at Old House. It has a very large bottle, and he learned early on not to fill it very full. You will notice how long the tongue is as you watch this!
Here is a still of that same hummie:
These first 3 photos are of a female, and the fourth one is a ruby-throated male. The camera doesn't do them justice.
Hummies also love our zinnias. We believe that the combination of the feeders and the zinnias have kept them around. At Old House, where there are now lots of zinnias and 2 feeders, we can sit outside and watch the hummies for hours. They hang around and go from flower to flower to feeder and back to flower. They also are very territorial, so they will chase each other away from a spot they want for themselves. However, we've seen 2 sit peacefully together on the same feeder, and on the same fencing. I never realized before that they would perch out in the open; I always thought they only perched in protected tree-cover.
I've noticed two styles of feeding. There are the sitting sippers who will perch and sip repeatedly, and then there are the dancing dippers who never land but hover and dip repeatedly. Some always seem to go to one port, and others will try all the ports in a feeder before flying away.
Here are some more of our favorite videos:
Lest you think they are all flighty, we have a video of one sitting on a fence perch for 6 min and 43 seconds. Since it would take days to upload that video, you have been spared of watching it!
So that's it for my Hummie Post. Our new feeders have brought the wonderous little fliers to us for much pleasure. I hope you get to enjoy some Hummingbird Fun, too!
Thanks for reading - I'll see you again soon!