The rufous, calliope and black-chinned hummingbirds have reached their breeding grounds here in the Okanagan. They have used their reserves of fat and are hungry.
By putting out our feeders we are a supplement food source and want to make sure that we are doing it correctly so we are helping them not harming them. If you are not able to consistently feed them from April through August then rely on your plants (see the end of article) to feed these little ones. Let’s keep our feeders clean, make our own food and supply plants that they love.
Hummingbird feeding hints
– Clean Feeders
Clean with hot water (no soap). Feeder should be completely dismantled and feeding ports taken apart. Use a bottle brush for inverted feeders and pipe cleaners for the small holes. Every time you refill your feeder take it apart and rinse with hot water. Twice a week use the brush and pipe cleaners to ensure it’s clean.
Black mould is a death sentence to hummingbirds. If there is any sign of it soak your feeder for one hour in a mixture of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water. Rinse the parts several times in hot water to remove all traces of the bleach.
Glass feeders are the best. If you buy plastic make sure that it is food grade plastic or UV stabilized. This ensures there is no chemical leakage into the food they eat. Cheap plastic disintegrates and will contaminate the food. Whether you use inverted feeders or the basin style make sure that the feeder can be completely dismantled for cleaning.
The best food for the humming birds is made by you! One part white sugar to four parts water. Boil water in a pot then add sugar, or you may add boiling water from a kettle to sugar stir till it completely dissolves. Cool to room temperature before filling feeder. You can store this in the fridge for seven days but warm to room temperature before filling feeder.
Never use brown sugar, honey or sugar substitutes as these contain components that will harm the birds.
Do not use red dye (the red on the feeder is all that is needed to attract them). Do not add scent.
A research study was published in The Royal Society Publishing from the University of California that concluded: “Because the quality of sugar water solution is shaped by many factors, the sugar water should be replenished on a regular basis. In warm temperatures replace every 12 – 24 hours (everyday) and in cooler temperatures every 48 – 72 hours (two to three days).”
Only fill the feeder with what is being used between cleanings.
You may already have perennial hummingbird plants in your garden like bee balm, bleeding hearts, columbine, foxglove, honeysuckle, joe pye plant and Russian sage to name a few, but you can accent those plants with annuals in containers or hanging baskets, such as be salvia, fuschia, snapdragons, verbena, zinnia and the old favourite petunias.
Keep your hanging baskets beyond the reach of predators.
There are few birds that are as entertaining as the hummingbirds so enjoy them!
Karen Siemens on behalf of the North Okanagan Naturalists Club