Answer Man: How can I attract hummingbirds to a feeder?

Q: What are some of the ways to attract hummingbirds to a feeder?

Answer: An article on general hummingbird feeding rules can be found on the Bird Watcher’s Digest website. The article is an excerpt from the book “Hummingbirds and Butterflies” by Bill Thompson III and Connie Toops, which is available for purchase.

According to the article, there are a few things to keep in mind when placing a feeder.

“First of all, the feeders need to be where the birds can find them — near flowering plants is an ideal starting point,” the article says. “Second, the feeders need to be where you can see them, enjoy them, and easily access them for filling and cleaning.

“Third, the feeders should be out of direct sunlight to slow the fermentation process. Last, once the birds are tuned into your feeders, you can move them in short steps to a more advantageous position.”

According to the article, feeders are an additional food source for hummingbirds. Their most important food sources are flying insects and nectar from flowering plants.

“Some regions of North America host hummingbirds all year long, so residents there can put the feeder up now and never take it down — except to refill and clean it,” according to the article.

“Some people may be concerned that leaving a feeder up will prevent hummingbirds from migrating in the fall,” the article says. “This is a myth. Hummingbirds (and all migratory birds) have an internal ‘clock’ that tells them when to migrate. No healthy hummingbird would ever stick around just because you’ve left your feeder up in the fall. However, late migrants, young and inexperienced birds, and hummers that are not completely healthy may be helped by the presence of your feeder, especially in areas where blooming flowers are scarce in fall and early winter.”

Feeders should be cleaned as often as necessary.

“In areas with daily summer temperatures above about 75 degrees F, feeders should be cleaned every two to three days,” the article says. “If your region has hotter ambient temperatures or your feeders get a lot of direct sunlight, clean them more frequently. Warm, soapy water with a bit of gunk-scrubbing should do the trick. Some folks prefer to use white vinegar.”

Many hummingbirds spend the winter in southern Mexico or Central America. Some birds migrating north to their breeding grounds in the southern U.S. can be seen as early as February.

According to information about migration on hummingbirds.net, each hummingbird species has its own migration strategy. Banding studies show that migrating hummingbirds tend to return to where they were hatched and visit the same feeders on their migration route each year.

Dyes and commercial “nectar” mixes are not necessary to attract birds to a feeder, according to the website. A mixture of one part ordinary cane sugar to four parts water approximates the average sucrose content of the flowers favored by North American hummingbirds.

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