Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hummingbird 101

It's getting busy in our garden and it must in yours too, because I've sold a hummingbird feeder almost everyday for about a week. 
With every feeder I sell (whether someone welcomes it or not) I'm going to encourage how to use and care for it properly and in turn care for our exquisite hummingbirds!  Last week, a friend of mine popped in and flirted with the idea of adding a feeder to her yard.  "I've heard its kind of hard; that you need to clean them often."  This is true, the hotter it gets the faster the nectar spoils...as temps are in the mid 90's, I am changing feeders almost everyday.  And with that, she did not buy one...but I'd honestly prefer someone to leave it for another person that will maintain their feeder properly. 

So here's some tips to make feeding hummingbirds more enjoyable and less of a chore:
  • 1st things 1st; plant nectar friendly plants...hummingbirds can not exist on feeders alone; they need the sugar that comes from flowers naturally and also, they will eat tiny spiders and gnats (be on the lookout for that behavior one summer evening; its a hoot!)
  • Place feeders in a shady spot in a location that is visible for you to enjoy from your home or seated location in your garden.  As I alluded to in the 1st tip; feeders aren't completely necessary as a food source - it's for our enjoyment.
  • make your own nectar; don't buy the red stuff.  This is super easy and important.  All you need is regular granulated sugar and water.  One part sugar to four parts water (1/2 cup sugar, 2 cups water is what I use); apply heat in a saucepan, stir until sugar is dissolved.  I place it in a mason jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.  And why not red?  The food coloring additive has only been tested for human consumption, not a creature weighing less than a dime.  Trust me they will come even if it isn't red.
  • Ok, here comes the hardest part...change feeders frequently and in high heat, everyday.  
    Here's how I do it; with a full time business and 18 month old twins (i.e. you can do it, nudge, nudge).  I buy a lot of hummingbird feeders; in the fall many go on sale and they are perfect for the picking.  Each day, I put a dirty one in a washbin and once a week I wash them all.  It takes me maybe 5 minutes out of my whole week; 10 minutes if its the week I'm making nectar too.
  • So, you've decided this is still more than you can commit; that's ok.  Here's some further tips on enjoying hummingbirds without making them sick:  Only provide a small amount of nectar in the feeder (if you've forgotten to change it, it's likely to have run out in a day or two.  Plant hummingbird friendly plants and either forgo feeders or place them out only when you are home to watch.  The plants will keep them nearby and the feeder will be a treat for you both!
  • And some people tell me they have trouble with bees; I've never really noticed a problem unless the nectar spoils and ferments.  So keeping them fresh should eliminate that problem.  Ants can be a concern and ant moats are especially designed to block their path; we have some arriving at the shop today!
I hope these tips keep your hummies happy through the rest of a busy and hot summer.  I will be a vendor at the Pollinator Celebration this fall and will be there to answer any hummingbird questions (and help people in our area set up for winter hummingbird feeding...yes, it's possible to have hummingbirds year round in the Southeast!!)

We sell and recommend Parasol Hummingbird Feeders:
  • mini blossom garden stakes - great to enhance a planter and on sale right now! 
  • droplets - our favorite feeder; its tiny - you can't really over fill it and let the nectar spoil
  • pixie - similar to a droplet but whimsical with glass wings!
  • ant moats - as mentioned above, this helpful tool keeps your feeder ant free; I also use this with suspended bird houses as ants can irritate babies and cause an early fledge
  • brushes - tiny parts need tiny brushes and this one was designed to get in small holes 
  • replacement tube - for parasol feeders; accidents happen and we can send you a replacement tube to keep your feeder in tip top shape!
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