October 20, 2007

The reason that we have decided to do an article on Hummingbirds at this time of year is that there are a lot of questions about whether to take down feeders or not, so we decided to do a complete “Hummer” dissertation. We love to have nature nearby, even in a suburban setting, an apartment balcony or small backyard can accommodate nature, sometimes on a grand scale and sometimes on a smaller scale. Of course, we are limited by the rules and regulations of some complexes but even within those rules, there are ways of inviting nature into your space without breaking the rules. Whether you have acres of land or a small apartment, this story on attracting hummingbirds will work for you.

If you have a small area with a lot of don’ts; for example townhouse regulations, you can still hang up a hummingbird feeder or have a planter with a buddleia (otherwise known as a butterfly bush) and other flowers that “hummers” like. With hummingbird feeders, there is likely to be no problems with attracting unwanted creatures to your living space and as long as you make sure that you clean it regularly and I mean regularly and refresh the hummingbird nectar you can have a pretty little visitor or two or more, all summer long. I had a friend with 6 hummingbird feeders hanging on her deck and over 40 “hummers” visiting every day in Penticton.

Refresh and clean the feeder every three to four days in very warm weather, as the nectar will spoil. I have heard that hummingbirds will starve before drinking contaminated or spoiled nectar but if they leave your feeder because the nectar is not desirable there is no point in having the feeder in the first place.

The recipe for hummingbird nectar is as follows:
1. Boil 4 parts water.
2. Mix 1 part ordinary white granulated sugar.
3. Stir and allow the mixture to cool.
4. When the nectar is room temperature, fill your clean hummingbird feeder.

Make sure that you get bee guards for your hummingbird feeder to keep away bees and wasps. Also, the nectar does not need to contain red dyes, the jury is still out on whether it is harmful to hummingbirds but why take the chance, if you choose a hummingbird feeder with red areas on it where they drink the nectar, they will be attracted to it without the red dyes in the nectar. Don’t use honey to feed hummingbirds, it will definitely attract pest insects and can grow mould quickly. It is not necessary to take down hummingbird feeders to encourage them to migrate, they will migrate even if the feeder is up; after all; they migrate even though there are flowers that they like blooming everywhere. I would recommend taking down hummingbird feeders in areas where hummingbirds leave to migrate south for the winter and clean them thoroughly, just to keep them in good shape for next year; store them until next spring when the hummingbirds will be back looking for your feeder. They have quite a memory, it has been documented that hummingbirds will visit their favourite flowers and feeders regularly everyday and will return to that same spot the following year.

To clean the feeders thoroughly; use a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water. Soak the feeder in this solution for one hour; then clean with a bottle brush. Rinse well with running water and refill. Wild Bird stores such as the Backyard Birding Store in Chilliwack carry brushes that fit into the bottles and smaller brushes that do a fantastic job of cleaning those smaller tubes and the bee guards. Before we got our brushes, I had to use a cotton swab on those hard to get areas and raw rice with water shaken in the bottle to clean the insides, now it is a breeze to clean every inch of the feeder with the appropriate brushes, just remember to clean the brushes and dry them as well.

Should the feeders have perches?

Well, that is entirely up to you but hummingbirds do perch to rest and it is so nice to see them having a rest while they are drinking. Add a perch for them in your garden or planter and you will see them take time out for a moment on these as well.

If you live in an area where hummingbirds stay all year long, then you do not have to remove your feeders, just remember that if the temperature is going to drop below freezing, that your feeder will be useless to the hummingbird if it freezes, so hang it nearer to your home so that you can put it inside overnight and put it out again in the morning. The closer it is to your home, for example under your eaves, will keep it from freezing on some days.

If you can, plant some flowers in a basket or container that hummingbirds like.

Here is a list of some of the more popular plants that our hummingbirds absolutely love.

Blackcurrant Sage (Salvia Microphylla)

Buddleia also known as Butterfly Bush will get you two visitors for the price of one plant. “Hummers” love them and so do butterflies. We have walked up to the plants in bloom when they are being visited and have no trouble getting very close to the hummers or butterflies.

Cascade Geranium, any pink or red variety

Foxglove; I know, I know, they are a weed to a lot of people, but to a hummingbird, they are ambrosia.

Fuchsia (any variety but the hardy Fuschia magellanica with very red flowers is extremely attractive to them)

Honeysuckle, we have a deep orange variety that the hummers just can’t get enough of.

Petunias (mostly the deeper pinks and reds)

Really any tubular flowers in pinks and reds are a good choice for hummingbirds.

One thing that I have to say is to make sure at all costs, that the feeders and plants are in locations that give the birds escape routes from cats and other predators.

It seems that I could go on forever, maybe even a book on “Hummers” and how much fun they are but for now, I will stop. We wish you happy “Humming”. We’d love to hear your “Hummer” stories. Click Here To Tell Us Your Stories

On an aside; we had one “Hummer” take over the yard this year. At first, she was willing to share with all our other feathered friends, including her companion “Hummers”. BUT, she decided that our yard was her yard. We eventually started referring to her as our guard hummingbird. She would chase Chickadees, other Hummingbirds and even Northern Flickers away. She would sit in the middle of the yard, when she was not feeding and watch carefully for any feathered intruders. It was definitely her space, her haven, her home and no other bird was allowed.

We are waiting to see if she returns next Spring.

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