The hummingbird is one of the most wonderful of natures creatures. There are many species of hummingbird, ranging from the amazingly tiny to just very small – and we mean very small – and each is delightful.
To see hummingbirds in your garden is something special. Hovering – they do so by moving their wings in a unique figure-of-eight fashion – and feeding on nectar, they are an absolutely amazing sight, and they dart around like no other bird.
The hummingbird needs a great deal of energy to survive. It’s rapidly-beating wings – they can flap at up to 80 times per second – need energy to propel, which is why they feed from as many as 2000 flowers in a single day. Yes, you read that right! The hummingbird is one of the busiest creatures on earth, so what can you do to help them survive?
Encouraging hummingbirds into your garden is a great thing to do, both for you – as you get the pleasure of watching these wonderful birds at work – and for the birds themselves. As you can imagine, finding nectar from that many flowers a day is not always guaranteed!
There are a couple of things you can do to encourage hummingbirds to visit your garden: the first is to grow nectar-rich plants, the second is to put out feeders full of home-made hummingbird nectar. We will tell you how to make your own nectar later, but first, a bit about plants that will attract the birds to your garden.
The hummingbird has a specially developed beak and tongue, designed to reach deep into flowers with long bell-shapes. Here are a few of the favourite feeding plants of the hummingbird:
- Coral honeysuckle, which you may also know as Trumpet honeysuckle
- Beebalm, or Wild Bergamot
- Cardinal Flower
- Many species of sage
What you need to do is create an area in your yard or garden where you can grow these plants. Group them together, and nurture them, and the hummingbirds will have a readily available source of nectar.
However, it may not be enough, which is why we need to look at making your own hummingbird nectar.
Making Your Own Nectar
Making your own nectar to attracts hummingbirds will help these amazing creatures thrive. In this next section we will tell you about how to make nectar – with recipes included – and how to present it so the tiny birds can get to it. We will also tell you what not to do, and what not to use, so please read to the end before you start!
First, let’s have a look at a simple hummingbird nectar recipe:
Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
- Refined white sugar
Now you’re probably thinking ‘this is simple’ right? The thing is, it is, but there are certain things to do that you need to remember, so here are a few steps to follow:
Step 1: Decide how much you want to make. The recipe is a 4:1 ratio – that is 4 water to 1 sugar.
Step 2: Bring the water to the boil; let’s work with 4 cups.
Step 3: Add the sugar to the boiling water, in this case, 1 cup of sugar.
Step 4: Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.
Step 5: Allow to cool – easy as that!
You have now made hummingbird nectar, and it’s ready to go into a feeder. Before we get into what type of feeder to use, here’s a very important point: always use sugar and be sure it is white refined sugar, and NEVER use honey. Honey, and other sugars, can encourage bacterial growth that may be harmful to the birds. We will talk about keeping your feeders clean later on.
So, where do you put the nectar to attract the birds?
Choosing Your Feeders
You can choose from a variety of feeders that take the liquid hummingbird nectar. Some hang from trees or other places, some attach to windows, and all are easy to fill, cheap to buy and – as we will talk about in a moment – easy to clean.
Now you have your hummingbird nectar, simply pour it in, and you’re ready to hang it out and wait until the birds appear.
Let’s have a look at the importance of cleaning. The hummingbird nectar solution is simply sugar and water, and this is liable to attract bacteria quite quickly. How long you should leave your nectar in the feeder depends on the climate where you are.
Many people recommend 3-5 days as the longest time, but bear in mind that – in hot sun – the solution will ferment very quickly, and will need replacing.
To clean your feeders, which you should do before every refill, follow the manufacturers instructions. Many people use a very light soap rinse, but if you see mold or any other signs, you may need to try a 4:1 water to vinegar mixture, as this will remove all the problems. Make sure you wipe the vinegar or soap away, rinse the feeder thoroughly, then fill it again and put it out, and you tiny feathered friends will come back!
Of course, the fresher the nectar in your feeders, the more attractive they will be to the birds, so keep your cleaning routine regular and make sure you put fresh nectar out as often as you can.
Before we go, here are a few do’s and don’ts regarding hummingbird nectar:
- Clean your feeders regularly and refresh your nectar frequently
- Ensure you use refined white sugar, and not honey or natural sugars
- Use the 4:1 ratio as described, and if you want to make more, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks
- Use artificial colouring, as despite what some sources say, it’s not necessary. You are trying to replicate natural nectar, and nothing artificial should be in it
- The above goes for artificial sweeteners
- Use honey, or natural or coloured sugars
- Leave your nectar out too long, keep it fresh
That’s about it from us, so we’ll close with a couple of points. Remember that the nectar is not a water replacement, so you need to make sure your birds have access to a clean water source. Try and keep the cat away from the feeding area, protect it if you can so the birds can feed safely. When the hummingbird migration time is coming up, perhaps use a 3: 1 ratio to give the nectar a little more strength, as they need it!
So, make your nectar, fill your feeders, and enjoy watching the very wonderful and entirely charming hummingbirds in your garden!