From ants and wasps to leaky feeders and wasted nectar… what’s one to do in order to avoid these common hummingbird feeder pitfalls?
Once again we went from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day without posting. Instead of celebrating Dad this year, Happy Father’s Day to All, we’d rather offer some useful hacks pertaining to common problems with hummingbird feeders. By the way, they do make swell gifts for dads who dig birds!
Wasps and Yellow Jackets: Hummingbirds despise them and the secret is in the ports! Since sugar water has no aroma, it’s the feeder itself which may be attracting them, namely the sticky nectar near feeder ports. Keep your hummingbird feeder from swaying because the motion allows nectar to accumulate on the outside of the feeder. This is just one reason we prefer glass hummingbird feeders- for the weight. You can also take the feeder down for a few days until pests dissipate and hang in new location.
Not all plastic feeders are crated equal. Dr. JB’s feeder for example has years of research and testing behind the bee-proof feeder! Specially designed ports actually prevent seeping nectar and bees. It’s received wonderful reviews over the years as well, although after 11 years we’ve just recently started collecting and publishing reviews. Duh! Offered with the red hummer helmet, sprites will surely find this easy to clean hummingbird feeder in no time flat!
The jury’s still out with this hack for wasps around your hummingbird feeder (about 50/50 according to hummingbird groups on social media). A brown crumpled paper bag hung near the feeder may deter wasps. Resembling a hive, wasps will steer clear if not their own digs. Fake or imitation hives are available for purchase online as well.
Ants: They’ll ruin a brand new refill of fresh nectar in seconds. Secreting something that must taste really awful, hummingbirds simply will not drink nectar with even one ant floating inside!
This fix is really simple… use an ant moat with your hummingbird feeder! Some moats use chemicals on the underside, we prefer those using water. Smaller birds may even be spotted drinking from ant moats filled with fresh water. An inexpensive, one-time purchase will spare your nectar and the headache of ants in your feeder simply because ants can’t swim!
Wasted Nectar: Don’t fill your your feeder to the top! Hummingbirds’ tongues are extremely long, wrapping around their skull when fully retracted. Aside from their long beaks, tongues are 1.5 times the length, allowing them to lap nectar from deep within flowers. Nature equipped the sprites accordingly!
In addition, make your own nectar because it really is simple! Once you do for the first time, you’ll scratch your head ask yourself “why didn’t I do this before?”. Now if you ask 3 people- you may get 3 different answers, but the ratio is always 1:4 and cane (not beet) sugar is preferred.
Here’s our take:
1 Cup plain table sugar to 4 Cups water… that’s it and NOTHING ELSE, ever!
No need to boil water, though boiling 1 cup dissolves sugar quickly and effectively. Add 3 Cups of cold water and there’s no cooling time. Store remainder in fridge for up to two weeks. During extreme heat, nectar must be changed every 1 to 2 days as sugar ferments quickly. Should this commitment become a pain or too time consuming, it’s best to take your hummingbird feeder down and concentrate on nectar-producing flowers to feed hummingbirds naturally. Leaving a feeder with old nectar is definitely wasteful as sprites will avoid nasty food. Aside from flowers, leaf misters, solar bubblers, drippers or any feature providing moving water will entice birds, especially during the long and hot dog days of summer… here in Atlanta anyway!
Leaky Feeders: Try a top-fill feeder sans any base. Parasol’s glass hummingbird feeders in blossom, bloom or bouquet styles will not leak or drip… ever! There’s no seams or attachments for nectar to seep through. Aside from being beautiful garden art, they’re handmade in Mexico from recycled glass.
If using the tube style hummingbird feeders and dripping nectar is a problem, move the feeder to shade. Rubber stoppers may contract and expand in heat/full sun. These feeders also work on a vacuum principle, meaning there can be no air inside the vessel. Try filling the feeder completely (in the sink with plain water) to see if this alleviates dripping. You can also opt for replacing the tube itself. Some tubes contain a tiny steel ball-bearing which helps stop leaking.
Flowers: Always plant native for best results to offer birds food and shelter, it’s a win-win situation. Checkout Audubon’s Plant Database for recommendations on your locale, just enter your zip code and the list returns shrubs, trees, vines and the best nectar producing flowers for your area.
When purchasing from big box garden centers, you may want to steer clear of this tag. We’ve removed the store name as a social media post was recently censored (bummer).
The buzz around town is this chemical is harmful to bees- so one must ponder if it’s not equally harmful to all pollinators as well?
Since butterflies, bats, bees and hummingbirds all feed from the same flowers… we’ll let you be the judge.
We hope at least one of the above hummingbird feeder tips might be helpful. Whether you’re novice or advanced back yard birding fanatic… happy summer and birding 🙂
Sure you can save your egg shells, then you can sterilize the egg shells, then you can crush the egg shells and them to bird food, suet or mealworms. Or you can save a ton of time and shake-shake calcium powder right into meal worms just prior to feeding.
Some birds will actually eat the shells straight-up when sprinkled on a deck rail or on the ground below bird feeders. And some adult birds are known to eat their hatchlings’ shells as a means of keeping the nest clean and gaining calcium.
Why add calcium to meal worms?
So you’re trying/or have finally attracted bluebirds to you yard, Maybe you’re lucky enough have them stick around all year? Feeding lots of mealworms is calcium-depleting because they’re so high in protein. Similar to a sugar overdose for kids, too many worms can be too much of a good thing for bluebirds and others. We’re guilty on this charge!
Babies need strong bones to form properly, it’s critical for first flight. Lack of calcium (via parents feeding a disproportionate amount worms vs. natural food like insects or berries) can contribute to deformities. In breeding females, lack of calcium may cause her eggs to form with thin or weak shells. This makes passing the soft eggs difficult and exhausting- sometimes even fatal. Called egg bonding, it can also happen in nature to birds who’ve never eaten from mealworm feeders.
What’s the easiest way to add calcium?
A simple “shake-shake” from a spice jar does it! Calcium carbonate is a powder supplement readily available at most health food stores and online. Fairly inexpensive, one pound will likely last for a few years. Save one of your spice bottles and clean thoroughly.
Fill the jar with powder and store the bag for future use. Two shakes into the worms and toss gently to lightly coat/dust the worms. That’s all there is to ensuring your bluebirds are getting enough calcium!
It’s definitely time as the sprites are making their way north!
The key to attracting migratory birds like hummingbirds and orioles is to be ready prior to their arrival. Even when trying to get resident birds (like bluebirds) to nest, houses should be ready while scouts are claiming territory.
So by the looks and dates of the migration map, hummingbird feeders should be up and filled now to welcome Ruby Throated friends. It’s a long journey for the little guys and natural food sources are still scarce as snow flies across much of the mid-west and northeast US.
Whether the weather decides to cooperate or not… birds will make their way and nature will take her course, some years migration is easier than others. The very same day we spotted our first hummingbird in GA, American goldfinches’ first molt was completed. Overnight, these birds turned bright yellow with summer (or breeding) plumage.
Hand-Held Hummingbird Feeders
It’s the new craze that provides big thrills. Getting so close to such a tiny and amazing creature and just feeling them on your hand gives off a dose of adrenaline! How to explain that? We can’t- but you’ll see countless videos of folks using Nectar Dots, Whimsy Wands, Hummer Rings and other hand held feeders to experience the thrill. Reactions are priceless, and videos go viral.
To perch or not to perch?
It’s likely a matter of preference and what style feeder’s best for you to maintain. We prefer perches as hummingbirds can rest while feeding thus conserving energy. But in nature most flowers which hummingbirds feast upon… don’t have perches!
Folks always ask “What’s the best feeder?” or “What’s the best bird bath?” Simply put, the best of anything is the one that you will maintain. But we would suggest ceramic or glass hummingbird feeders in a saucer style that won’t leak or drip.
Make this the year to make your own nectar
It’s SO EASY! The ratio is always 1:4, pure cane sugar to water. No need to boil water but 1 part water will dissolve sugar quickly and effectively. Add 3 parts cold water and eliminate cooling time. Economical, simple and best for bird’s health too!
Happy Birding and may spring head your way soon!
Without fail buds are blooming and bulbs spring forth from the ground… in February. Likewise without fail, the Atlanta area will experience another cold snap, snow or an ice storm before spring decides she’s here for the duration. The rain’s been fairly continuous for about three weeks, yesterday was a balmy 80 degrees!
Warm, wet weather spells disaster for bird feeders, especially finch bird feeders. It’s not that humidity affects thistle seed any differently from other seed mixes- it’s the unnatural and exaggerated number of birds feeding from the finch feeders.
Local populations of goldfinches, pine siskins and house finches are huge around this time of year. Combined with wet or moldy seed means disease can be spread rapidly, with the feeder itself or ground waste below as the main culprit.
Mold creates airborne disease which is usually fatal to birds. A form of strep, the most common way it’s passed is via the feeder. Telltale signs of infected birds are swollen eyes, lethargy (they allow you to get very close) and ruffled or unkept feathers.
The infected finch below will likely fall prey to predators or starve to death as total blindness sets in. It’s the best excuse for keeping bird feeders clean and the area below them raked free of hulls or waste. We attract birds to our gardens simply because we enjoy their beauty, song and grace… sick birds are anything but 🙁
It’s advised to take all bird feeders down and disinfect with a 10% bleach solution. Clean the ground below feeders well. Wait 2 to 3 weeks until the local thistle-eating population has subsided before hanging feeders again. This is a tough chore, both physically (and mentally for some of us bird nuts). So it’s best to avoid and practice good hygiene when enticing birds to your place! Humans do feathered friends no favors at all by causing disease or allowing it to spread.
It happened last year too, we skipped out on the blog from Mother’s Day until well after Father’s Day… hate when that happens, especially with all the happenings and splendor of spring backyard birding.
We hope you’ve been blessed with many successful broods, maybe you’ve seen a monarch or two, bluebirds fledge, and that your hummingbirds returned from last year to bless your garden for the season! If this is your first stab at the addictive hobby, we hope you found lots of joyous moments and wonder with new avian visitors and that you’ll continue enticing new feathered friends with food, water and shelter.
Now that summer is waning and daylight hours are fewer, hummingbirds are preparing for migration. It has nothing to do with temperatures and it’s a total myth that leaving feeders up will prevent them from going. So leave at least one feeder up for stragglers!
Their long journey south requires extra fuel, so they’re fattening up and absolutely owning their favorite humming bird feeders! If you think the sprites were a tad territorial before… just watch- it’s magnified ten times now! The show is mesmerizing as crowds gather and vie for a feeder to call their own. Have one of those hummingbird swings that was never really used much? Watch! Just watch the little guys fight over that too!
They’re easy to clean and less likely to mold as plastic does. The coolest thing? Remove the lids for winter and you’ve got a great multi-use bird feeder for resident friends; use suet, peanuts, meal worms, nuggets, jelly or fruit.
The same feeder/idea comes stepped-up a notch in vivid red with circular perch. We think (but can’t promise) hummingbirds prefer to perch while eating as it conserves energy. Put 2 or 3 of these glass hummingbird feeders together and use them year-round for chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, bluebirds and other usual suspects!
And should ants ever become a problem… don’t forget the moat! The best investment ever for feeding hummingbirds- or orioles- or butterflies! Any time there’s sweet, sticky nectar, fruit or jelly, you can easily keep pesky ants at bay with plain water inside the moat. The birds will thank you!
Safe travels little ones… hope to see you back again next year!
For next season, here’s the simple nectar recipe and helpful guide for keeping nectar fresh. Cloudy nectar is always a sure sign the solution needs to be changed!