One of the great things about spring here on the east coast is the return of the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds. They are on their way (or may even be here, depending on where you live!) So now is a good time to clean your feeder (or get one if you don’t have one), whip up a batch of sugar water nectar, put up your feeder and start watching for these beautiful little birds. They’ll be hungry after their long trip so make them welcome!
How do I know when it is time to put up my hummingbird feeder?
Check with birders in your area who, from past experience, can probably estimate arrival dates within a couple weeks. (Keep track of when you see the first one in your yard to help you with this next year.)
Or check the hummingbird migration map to watch the wave of hummers move north.
Or check ebird’s species page to see if they’ve been sighted in your area yet this year and when they were seen in your area last year.
Should I buy or make hummingbird nectar?
You can purchase nectar if you don’t want to bother making it yourself, but it is just sugar and water and is so incredibly easy to make that I can’t really see the point of buying it. If you do purchase it, don’t buy the kind with red dye mixed in as it has been widely reported that the dye is not good for the birds and it honestly isn’t needed anyway.
What is the recipe for hummingbird nectar?
The recipe is simple. Use one part sugar to four parts water. Don’t use sugar substitutes as that isn’t what the birds need. Use regular granulated cane sugar.
I zap two cups of water in a glass two-cup measure in my microwave on high for four minutes to get the water bubbling. Then move it to the counter and stir in a half cup of sugar. Stir with a fork and let it cool to room temperature.
This quantity makes plenty for my two feeders. Some people make a bigger batch and then keep it in the fridge for two weeks but I don’t go through that much of it and would rather just make a batch at a time and not have it take up space in the fridge. How much you need will depend on how many hummers visit you and the capacity of your feeders. Keep in mind that, depending on the style of the feeder and how quickly the birds drink it, you may not need to fill the feeder completely full each time. I only fill my larger feeder partway to avoid waste.
How often should I replace the nectar?
It’s important not to let the sugar water nectar ferment and go bad, as it can when it gets hot. In the spring, when temperatures are typically cooler (say in the 70s), you may only need to dump it, quickly clean the feeder and re-fill it once a week. As temperatures rise as you move into summer, you’ll need to do this every few days (80s) or even daily if it is really hot (mid-90s and above.) If the liquid looks cloudy, regardless of how long it’s been up, change it.
Which hummingbird feeder should I get?
I haven’t tried every possible feeder but I do have two and each is a different style and both have worked well for me. Here are the two I use:
The Aspects HummZinger HighView 12 oz Hummingbird Feeder is light, super easy to clean and re-fill and the water moat built into it keeps bugs out of the nectar. This one hangs next to my dining room window and as they feed from the top of the feeder, it is very easy to watch them from inside the room. Sometimes American Goldfinches will drink from the water-filled ant moat on top for an extra treat!
The Perky-Pet Mason Jar Hummingbird Feeder has a higher capacity (although as you can see, I don’t fill mine all the way) and is more attractive. You do need to make sure to tightened the metal pieces onto the jar well before flipping it over to hang. (If it is loose, it can drip.) Note: Hanging the feeder in the shade helps prevent it from heating up as much and dripping. Nectar also lasts longer in the shade. You don’t see it in this picture, but I bought an extra little Songbird Essentials Clear Nectar Protector to keep ants from climbing down onto the feeder. It is clear. You fill it with water and hang it between the hanging hook and the top of the feeder.
Here are Amazon links to the two feeders I use:
Also, last year when I talked about hummingbird feeders, a blog reader recommended the First Nature Hummingbird Feeders that she uses as being easy to clean and use.
What if hummingbirds don’t come to my feeders?
Keep in mind that particular birds arriving in a particular yard can vary a bit, so you may not see hummers right away, even though other people may have seen them in your area. It may take a couple of weeks and you’ll need to pay attention to the feeder as these little guys move so fast that you can miss them and not realize they are there at first!
Hummingbirds don’t just drink sugar water of course. They eat insects and they also love flowers, their natural source of nectar. So some bright flowers nearby (red or orange if possible and neonicotinoid free of course) may draw a hummer in to your yard where it can discover your feeder.
Learn More About Hummingbirds & Feeders
Check out my hummingbird blog post of last spring for a more in-depth look at hummingbird feeders.
Hummingbirds.net hosts the annual migration map as well as a lot of tips and info on attracting hummingbirds.
All About Bird’s blog article on feeding hummingbirds is worth a look too.
Check out All About Birds’ page on Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. (They’ve got info on other hummers too.)
Also see Audubon’s Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds page.
Have you seen hummingbirds yet in your yard?
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