"Hummer Juice"

HUMMINGBIRDS ARE ALMOST HERE or may already have arrived in your garden. In case you're looking for the recipe, here's a reminder of how to make sugar water for hummingbird feeders.

You can buy commercial mixes for hummingbird food, but I've never understood why anyone would. Hummingbird food is cheap and easy to make. The recipe is four parts water to one part plain white table sugar. Do not use anything other than plain white table sugar (such as honey, for instance) and do not add anything to the mixture, such as food coloring or vitamins. Ordinary tap water is better than distilled water because the former contains minerals. Variations on the recipe are unnecessary and could cause problems for the birds.

We used to tell people to boil the mixture for a minute or two in order to sterilize it, but the authors of the wonderful website Hummingbirds.net say this is unnecessary. I make 10 cups at a time (2 cups sugar and 8 cups water) and keep what I don't use in the refrigerator in a plastic container marked "hummer juice." (Warning: Failure to mark the container can result in culinary misadventures.)

In heat, sugar water will ferment. So hang the feeder where it's not in direct sun. Even so, change the water and clean the feeder regularly. Most sources say that the feeder should be cleaned at least every 48 hours in temperatures over 60 degrees F., every three to four days otherwise. At least one book I've read said the feeder should be cleaned daily in hot weather. When it doubt, err on the side of caution. Or taste the water - you'll know if it's fermented!

For cleaning, I find that hot water is usually enough--provided that all parts of my feeder can be reached with a brush. (When convenient, I put all my plastic bird feeders through the dishwasher without soap, in hope that high temperatures will sterilize them for me. The dishwasher also dries them, which is handy.) However, some sources recommend a touch of vinegar with the hot water to help retard mold.

Because hummingbird feeders do have to be cleaned frequently, I prefer "dish" styles (as opposed to bottle styles) in which the plastic cover can be removed from the dish, making it easy to clean. This style also has the advantage that bees and wasps cannot reach the sugar water in the bottom of the dish, so they are less likely to compete with hummingbirds for access to the feeder.

Perches are not necessary, as hummingbirds can hover, but hummingbirds readily use perches if they're provided, and you get a better look at the bird if it's stationary.

I've never known hummingbirds to be afraid of anything at all, let alone a window. So I'm particularly fond of feeders that attach to windows, as you get a particularly good view of the birds that way.

One good brand is the HummZinger line made by a company called Aspects. Unfortunately, the company doesn't make a window-mounted model that also has perches, but their feeders are easy to clean. The free-hanging ones all come with perches, whereas the "Nectar Bar" mounts on a window. In addition, their free-hanging feeders come with a built-in "ant moat": This is a little dish that you fill with water to create a "moat" that ants would have to cross in order to get to the contents of the feeder. (This is hard to describe, but if you look at the pictures at the Aspects website you'll see what I'm talking about.) Although ant moats are not completely ant proof, they do tend to discourage ants from visiting the feeder.

Finally, if hummingbirds don't seem to be finding your feeder, try attaching some colorful (especially red) ribbons to it. Some people think that the fluttering ribbons look enough like flowers to attract the attention of passing hummers.

1 comment:

kdiorio said...

Aspects will have a new Hummingbird Window Feeder available soon. The Jewel Box. This feeder will include an ant-moat and perch.
http://www.aspectsinc.com/407_JewelBox.html