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Healthier Hummingbirds: Feeder Care & FAQ

While a garden filled with nectar-rich plants is the best way to attract the beloved hummingbird, feeders help us offer more reasons for these tiny visitors to return! Hummingbird feeders are excellent for drawing these adorable birds to outdoor spaces of any size—but they do require regular maintenance. Here’s what you need to know, and the most-asked questions about these special feeders!


Choosing a Hummingbird Feeder

There are two popular categories of feeders; vacuum feeders and saucer feeders. Vacuum feeders have an upside-down reservoir of nectar connected to a group of “ports” (usually shaped like flowers) for the birds to sip from. It’s called a vacuum feeder because the liquid in the feeder creates a vacuum seal that releases a small amount of nectar every time a visitor probes one of the ports. This allows a slow release of nectar, which prevents waste, and makes the feeder very easy to clean.

Saucer feeders are similar in concept in the sense that they also use flower-shaped ports for the hummingbirds to access the nectar. However, instead of the upside-down reservoir, these feeders draw from a saucer of nectar in the center of the feeder. These are very stable models that don’t depend on the integrity of the vacuum seal, which means they’re less prone to leaking than vacuum feeders. However, they tend to be trickier to clean.

Both types of feeders are very popular, so the best option for you should be one that fits your aesthetic but that you’re also prepared to clean and refill regularly. While they can certainly be an ornamental touch for your garden, lack of maintenance can pose a health risk for your visiting birds, so always consider the practical details before you select for looks!

If there’s one aesthetic aspect that is fairly important, it should be the colors on your feeder. Hummingbirds are most drawn to red and also favor pink. Choosing a glass hummingbird feeder with red feeding ports, or alternatively, a pink hummingbird feeder that can be filled with nectar will increase your chances of receiving regular guests.

Cleaning and Maintaining Hummingbird Feeders
Their nectar has a much shorter shelf-life than your garden-variety bird food, which is why diligently caring for your feeders is so crucial. The nectars are made from a base of sugar and water, which ferments into a potentially harmful alcohol over just a few days—especially in hot weather. Here are some tips to keep in mind to protect your birds’ health!

Empty and refill nectar regularly. When the weather is under 70 degrees, nectar should be changed every three to four days. If the temperatures rise any hotter, the safe bet is to replace the nectar every day or other day.

Use as much as you need. Since you’ll be replacing nectar regularly, you don’t need to fill the feeder to the top every time. (Unless your yard is home to a lot of hungry hummingbirds!) Simply fill the nectar only as full as needed until the next time you clean and refill. Speaking of cleaning…

Clean thoroughly every time you refill. Not only does this keep your feeder and patio cleaner, but it also prevents bacteria and mold from forming on your feeder. A great way to ensure you always have a clean, stocked feeder in your yard is to purchase two and rotate them out whenever one needs to be washed and refilled.

Safeguard your feeder against bugs. Some models have “moats” that prevent ants from accessing the nectar source. Feeders with this feature need their moats filled with fresh water daily. If your feeder doesn’t have a moat, you can apply a sticky barrier like Tanglefoot around the hook or branch you’ve used for hanging it up.

Keep a consistent feeding schedule. Hummingbirds, like many other pollinators, will favor food sources that have proven to be reliable. If they return to find your feeder empty, they may assume the food is all gone and move on to another site.

Providing a Water Source for Hummingbirds

While their nectar is composed mainly of water, they also need to drink fresh water to survive. Providing a water source as well as a feeder is a sure way to turn your yard or balcony into a hummingbird hotspot! Try these popular water sources:

• Misters: Are great for cooling the air and allowing the birds to drink while airborne.

• Water features (such as fountains or waterfalls): Provide an aerial water source while adding aesthetic appeal. Plus, you’ll attract even more beneficial wildlife!

• Solar fountains: A simple, low-maintenance option, these contain a solar-powered pump that is simply placed inside a traditional birdbath. This turns a stillwater source into one with movement, which is much more attractive to hummingbirds and other small creatures.

Hummingbird Feeder FAQ

If you’ve never had a hummingbird feeder before, these frequently asked questions may be helpful!

Q: Is it OK to feed hummingbirds sugar water?

A: Nectar is effectively a mixture of sugar and water, so it’s certainly OK to offer sugar water—however, not all sugars are the same, so homemade nectar should be reserved for short periods when you run out of the bottled stuff! If you’re in a pinch, you can make your own nectar by dissolving one part sugar into four parts water. In the meantime, restock as soon as you can with quality commercial hummingbird nectar; these formulas contain the right proportions of fructose, sucrose, and glucose for optimal hummer health.

Q: What do you put in a hummingbird feeder?

A: Only an appropriate nectar solution should be used in these feeders. 

Q: Are hummingbird feeders bad for hummingbirds?

A: While providing nectar-rich plants is the best food source, it’s not always possible to offer enough food with flowers alone. Feeders support the glucose (sugar) needs of the birds when appropriate flowers are hard to find.

Q: Where is the best place to put a hummingbird feeder?

A: These tiny birds prefer to flit back and forth between a perch and a food source. This allows them to check for threats in between feeds. Hummingbirds will be most comfortable with a feeder placed 10-15 feet away from a tall tree or shrub.

Q: My new hummingbird feeder doesn’t have any perches for the hummingbirds to sit on; do I need to get a new one?

A: Nope! Hummingbirds eat while airborne, so perches are completely unnecessary.

To browse our selection of feeders, fountains, and nectar-rich plants, visit our garden center in Newport Beach. The options are endless for filling your landscape with hummingbird-friendly color!