For birders and gardeners in New Hampshire, the sight of a returning hummingbird is one of the delights of late spring and summer. These tiny fliers have traveled thousands of miles from where they winter over in Mexico and Central America.
While hummingbirds get the majority of their nutrition from the nectar of flowers, sap from trees, and tiny insects, spiders, and mites, having a hummingbird feeder can supplement their diet, especially when there aren’t many blooming flowers available.
But to keep a feeder a healthy source for these agile fliers, experts recommend that we need to be responsible in maintaining a clean, bacteria free source. Tragically, dirty feeders can propagate bacterial infections, causing hummingbirds tongues to swell up, leading to starvation and death. But there are steps we can take.
- Create your own hummingbird solutions: 1:4 refined sugar to water. (1/4 cup white sugar to one cup water). Boil the solution, then let it cool down in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before filling feeder. Even though hummingbirds are attracted to red, do not add red dye to your mixture as these chemicals can cause problems for the birds.
- Keep the feeders clean: Especially during hot days when the feeder should be emptied and cleaned twice per week. If the water looks cloudy, or has debris or insects in it, it's time to clean it. If the feeders are being emptied quickly, clean them every time you refill with the solution.
- Keep an eye on the weather: If the weather is cool, once per week is enough. You can clean all the parts of the feeder with hot water or a weak solution of vinegar. Do not use dish soap!
For more information:
Frequently asked questions about feeding hummingbirds
How to clean your feeder