Why Does My Hummingbird Feeder Get Air Locked? [Top 10 Facts]

why does my hummingbird feeder get air locked

When you prepare your garden for your hummingbird visitors there are so many things you need to know. Even when the feeder is up, you may find things aren’t quite going to plan.

Air locks can form when the sugar is over-heated in hot temperatures and when birds inadvertently cause air to go into your hummingbird feeder when they’re sucking the nectar out. The only way to remove air locks is by knocking and tilting the feeder to release the air lock, or unfortunately it could be time to invest in a new feeder.

Here are some of the top questions people ask when they’re trying to feed hummingbirds.

1. When should I hang my feeder out?

Hummingbirds start their migrations during spring so you should start to put your feeders out when you see blossom on the trees and plants starting to bloom. Ideally you need your feeder out 2-3 weeks before the birds arrive. Some hummingbirds may arrive earlier and they will need food as soon as they arrive. Leave the feeder out until you have not seen a hummer for 2 weeks.

As a rough guide, this is when you should set up your garden and feeders.

  • Alaska and Canada: have your feeders out by Mid May.
  • Northern States: have your feeders out in April
  • Central States: have your feeders out in early March
  • Southern States: have your feeders out in mid February
  • Pacific coast states, Mexico and the Caribbean: have you feeders out all year round

2. Why aren’t the hummingbirds using my feeder?

If hummingbirds are in your garden but not using your feeder, you rightly want to know why. There are a number of reasons this could be happening.

  • Placement is everything. Your feeder needs to be visible but in an area of the garden which is not too busy. If your pets are clearly visible or wandering around the feeder, the hummers will avoid it.
  • Color matters too. Hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, particularly the color red. Most feeders have something red on them, but if they don’t tie some red ribbon around them.
  • Clean your feeder. If your feeder is not cleaned then it won’t be very appealing. Other insects can get in to the feeder and the nectar can go moldy. It’s important to keep your nectar fresh and clean your feeder at least every 2-3 days.
  • Check the sugar water. If you’re not using the right mixture, the birds may not like it. You should make your nectar using 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.
  • Too much nectar? If you have planted lots of flowers it may simply be that the hummingbirds are able to get all their nectar from them and simply don’t need the feeder.

3. Can I use honey?

The simple answer is no. When you make your sugar water use only refined white sugar. This is as close to natural nectar as possible and provides the energy the birds need.

If you use honey or other sugars, you may harm the birds. Honey can cause fungus to grow in the sugar water, and organic and raw sugars contain too much iron for the birds to digest.

4. Why am I getting air locks in my feeder?

Air forms for a couple of reasons.

  • In hot weather the sugar water level will be affected by the heat in the feeder. This can cause air to form inside.
  • When birds suck the nectar out, it is possible they can cause air to go in and this can cause an air lock.

In a lot of cases the air lock is caused by the design of the feeder so you may simply have to invest in a new one. Some people have found that knocking or tilting the feeder will release the air lock and allow the birds to feed.

5. Why are hummingbirds fighting at the feeder?

Hummingbirds are very territorial and if one bird has decided that a feeder is ‘his’, he will scare off other hummingbirds who try to use it.

The simple solution to this is to have several feeders spaced around your garden. One bird cannot guard them all at the same time and the others will be able to come in and feed.

6. Why are other birds using the feeder?

All birds love nectar and it’s not uncommon for orioles and woodpeckers to feed from your hummingbird feeder. This is fine, except they’re denying the hummingbirds their sugar water.

The easiest way to resolve this is put feeders up for your other garden visitors.

  • Orioles love grape jelly and you can get oriole feeders for this.
  • Woodpeckers love suet and placing suet blocks around your garden will give them something to feed on.

Adding other food items will help you enjoy more garden visitors too.

7. Why does my nectar go moldy?

The high sugar content means your nectar can go moldy very quickly in summer temperatures. You should clean and change the nectar regularly to prevent this as it won’t encourage the birds to feed and it could be harmful to them.

There is no way to stop this from happening, but hanging your feeder in a sheltered area of the garden can help. Keeping the sun off the feeder will keep it fresher for longer. If you make more nectar than you need, store it in the fridge or it may go off.

8. Why are other insects on the feeder?

Bees and ants are common visitors to feeders. They are attracted by the sweet smell of the nectar. There are some simple measures you can take to stop them from getting in to the sugar water and spoiling it for the hummingbirds.

First, though, check for any leaks in your feeder. Your nectar should be secure inside and any cracks in the feeder will allow the sugar water to leak out.

  • Ant moat. If you have a problem with ants you can add an ant moat to your feeder. This sits around it and is filled with water. The ants cannot cross the water so cannot get to the nectar. Many feeders come with an ant moat included.
  • Bee guards. Bees and wasps will try to get down the ports inside the feeder. To stop this you can get bee guards, which fit over the ports. The hole is large enough for the hummingbirds to feed but small enough to stop the bees and wasps from getting in.

9. How do I stop squirrels from wrecking my feeder?

Squirrels can be a garden nightmare. They will pinch food from any bird feeders you have. They’re not very careful either and have been known to wreck feeders to get inside. The good news is, you can stop them.

  • The first thing to do is hang your feeder away from fences or posts where squirrels can climb up and reach the feeder.
  • Buy a baffle. You can get these in pet and hardware stores. They are simply a plastic dome which fits under or over the feeder. It curves away from the feeder and the squirrels cannot climb past it. Make sure though that you fix it high enough that they cannot jump over it.

10. How do I provide water for hummingbirds?

If you have a garden pond this may not be enough to attract hummingbirds. Due to their small size, they need water which is very shallow. They also like moving water so they are attracted to fountains and sprays.

  • If you have a pond, add some rocks to it so the hummingbirds can stand on them comfortably without feeling out of their depth.
  • A garden mister is an excellent way to provide them with water to preen.
  • Bird baths are a great option as they are not usually too deep, but always put some stones in to keep the water level low.
  • Solar fountains help to keep water moving and can be tailored to allow a smaller or larger stream. Adding one to a bird bath will surely attract hummingbirds.

Once you have set your feeder up and know how to maintain it, you are ready to enjoy your hummingbird season. Just remember to set it up early every year to ensure that they keep coming back. If you don’t have your feeder out, they may go to visit someone else instead.

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