Wednesday, September 28, 2016
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Loving Hummingbirds to Death

A Rufous hummingbird flies in for a quick snack, trusting that the nectar offered is safe to drink.

Hummingbirds are easy to attract to a backyard garden, a cinch to keep well fed, and a joy to watch. These sparkling jewels of summer are easy to love.

But if you don’t take proper care to provide healthy nectar and clean feeders, they’re also an easy bird to love to death.

Hummingbird feeders must be kept clean and free from mold and fungus, or the tiny hum-buzzers you so enjoy could develop a serious and deadly fungus infection. This infection causes the tongue to swell, making it impossible for the bird to feed.

Starvation is a slow and painful death.

“I hope that the thought of a single hummingbird’s death will motivate you to run out and grab your feeder — right now — and give it a good scrubbing.” ~Rita Rufous Sweetwater

But, just in case you need more motivation to keep your feeders clean, think of the children. A mother hummingbird can pass a fungal infection to her babies — who will also die of starvation.

Fermented nectar creates liver damage, which will also cause death. When you go on vacation this summer, take down your feeders or leave your feeders in the care of a trusted neighbor.

A Cautionary Tale

“The General”

Vickie Miller, of Chehalis, recently experienced the heartbreaking loss of an Anna’s Hummingbird she called “The General.”

“The General patrolled our backyard every day for over a year and a half. One day he came home with a swollen tongue and we knew he had a fungal infection,” Miller said. “We watched our beautiful General die within 24 hours.”

“I held him in my hand, inside a warm cloth, to help ease his passing,” Miller said. “Please, warn others to keep ALL their bird feeders clean.”

“Keep your hummingbird feeder so clean, that you would drink from it yourself. You don’t like to drink from a dirty glass, neither do I … and for me, it could be fatal.” ~Rita Rufous Sweetwater

The proper care of hummingbird feeders requires a significant commitment of time and energy. For Vickie Miller, the Anna’s Hummingbirds in her backyard have become a year-round commitment.

“In the winter, I bring the feeders in at night to keep them from freezing,” Miller said. “And I’m very diligent about keeping the feeders clean and scrubbed between fillings. It is especially important to change the nectar frequently in warm weather, because the nectar will spoil.”

If you see a neighbor with a dirty feeder, Miller said, “Please, tell them about The General and his fatal fungal infection.”

The Basics of Hummingbird Care

Providing a feeder with a perch helps the hummingbirds preserve precious energy while dining. Keep your hummingbird feeder in the shade. I keep my feeder on a swiveling hanger that I can move into the sun to get a good shot at them with my Nikon, and swing back into the shade when I’m done.

There are several easy-to-clean feeders available at local feed stores and online.

The Dr. JB’s brand is one I have seen recently. It has a wide-mouthed glass jar that is not only easy to fill, but easy to scrub clean. The base of the feeder of that brand comes apart so you can reach into every nook and cranny to scrub away the mold and fungus.

The Aspects HummZinger brand is also carried locally. The Farm Store (Chehalis) carries a hanging feeder and a window mounted feeder, both have lids that lift up for easy cleaning.

I have a More Birds Diamond Hummingbird Feeder, purchased from Kaija’s Garden and Pet (Chehalis).

To clean your feeder, flush the feeder with hot tap water and use a bottle brush to scrub the sides of the glass jar. Do NOT use soap; soap will leave a residue behind. (If you just can’t help yourself and must use soap, a bleach or vinegar and water solution rinse will remove soap residue.)

“Mmmmm, delicious!” says Rita, her eyes closed in the ecstasy of the moment.

Inspect the feeder carefully for black mold. If you see any mold growth, soak the feeder in a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water for one hour.

To make nectar, mix one part ordinary white cane sugar to four parts water. (Do not use store bought mixtures, do not use honey or any other kind of sugar — just ordinary white cane sugar.) Bring to a quick boil, stir to dissolve the sugar, then let the mixture come to room temperature before you fill your feeder.

The boiling water will help slow fermentation of the nectar, but as soon as a hummingbird beak dips and drinks, the microorganisms carried on the beak will be transferred into the nectar.

If the nectar becomes cloudy, it has spoiled and needs to be replaced. A sugar solution can spoil in as little as two days. If your feeder is hanging in the sun or outside temperatures are high, the nectar may start to ferment in just one day.

Put out only as much nectar as your birds will consume in two or three days. If you mix up a large batch of nectar, you can keep the rest in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

A male Rufous Hummingbird’s orange-red gorget shining in the sun.

Western Washington Hummingbirds

The most common visitor in western Washington gardens is the Rufous Hummingbird.

The Rufous Hummingbird male is known as the most aggressive of all the hummingbirds. He does not tolerate the presence of other males at “their” feeders and will chase anyone who dares to enter their territory.

The male has a rufous head and back (sometimes sprinkled with a little green), a white breast and an orangey red gorget. The females have a green back, light rufous sides and a creamy white breast.

Anna’s Hummingbirds have been known to hang around all winter in western Washington backyards.

According to Birds of North America, the Anna’s Hummingbird has moved northward, increasing their range, taking advantage of the feeding opportunities in gardens filled with exotic, ornamental plants and the hummingbird lovers catering to their nectar needs throughout the winter.

The Anna’s Hummingbird female is less conspicuously garbed than the male, wearing a quiet combination of grey and iridescent green.

The male Anna’s carries an impressive rose red “bib” that covers his entire head and neck. Both males and females have iridescent emerald green backs and grayish underparts.

The Calliope Hummingbird has been seen in western Washington recently (the sighting  of a Calliope on the wetside always causes the Tweeters to get a little twitterpated), but it is a rare visitor here and prefers the east side and the mountains. The Calliope is smaller than the resident Rufous Hummingbirds. The males’ gorget feathers are long pinkish red streaks of color extending from under the bill and down their throat.

Parting Shot

Hummingbirds are the sparkling jewels of summer. If you decide to commit the time and energy to care for them, they will reward you with the gift of their beauty, their easy buzzy-charms, remarkable aerial displays, and quirky antics.

If you don’t have the time or energy to commit to their scrupulous care, consider planting a hummingbird garden instead.

Visit the Hummingbird page in The Shooting Gallery to see more closeup shots.

This female Rufous Hummingbird flew incredibly close to the camera lens, a buzz-filled reminder that the hummingbird feeder was empty and needed refilling. It’s not too late to put up a hummingbird feeder and draw a few of these delicate but demanding birds into your yard.

About Kimberly Mason

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer, photojournalist, and web designer. When she's not out chasing a story, you'll find her at work in one her three main offices — her big backyard, the Cowlitz River, or the recliner in her living room. She has four grown children, three grandchildren, and is owned by a Labrador retriever, Buddy the WonderDog.

220 comments

  1. THIS BIRD IS LG HE COMES EVERY YR. TOEAT FROM THE HUMMING BIRD FEEDER IM NOT SURE WHAT KIND I THINK A WOOD PECKER MAYBE

      • chris marszalek

        I have hooded orioles and acorn woodpeckers pecking the plastic yellow flowers out of my feeders where upon dozens of honeybees crawl into the feeder sometimes hundreds of them ,sometimes they drown. I am now using the latest model perky pet with water bath lid feeders Any ideas on deterring bees Anybody make a stainless steel and glass feeder?

        • Use rose of sharons. When blossoms start in June, the hummers enjoy the nectar into mid-fall. Two weeks ago the orioles(3) were enjoying the apple blossoms along with lots of honeybees and some bumblebees. First time I had noted the orioles working on the blossoms. Later in fall the titmice work the spent blossoms/seed heads. I have found that I’m not too interested in nectar feeders(dead bees) and fruit sections have not worked for these birds.

        • If you make your own feed, you may be using too much sugar. Use one part sugar to for parts filtered water.

        • Chris Marszaleck. I wonder if you are feeding a wild colony. You could contact the local beekeeping group to find out if you have any beekeeping neighbors. I am a novice, but they may be able to give you some suggestions. If you do contact them you may want to keep a couple of the dead ones to show the Beekeepers. Or call the local Extension office. Actually I hope you have resolved the problem before now, since it is April 2016 now.

    • I have Orioles and house finches who use them, too…and have seen a woodpecker at one once.

  2. Doesn’t feeding the hummingbirds cut down on their natural job of pollination ?

  3. A sapsucker will feed from hummingbird feders.

  4. I wish everyone would really pay attention to keeping their feeders clean, it’s a little extra work, but sooo worth it. I moved three years ago, don’t get as many as I used to. But, I still plan and plant my garden for the precious hummingbirds.

    • I read in the above article to clean mold with bleach. That my friend is a no no. Mold control center said that the 2 together cause a chemical reaction that is deadly. Use sunlight dish soap and rinse with vinegar. NEVER bleach.

      • What I do is, I only use glass feeders and when I change the food, I boil the glass in a pot of water for about 3 to 4 minutes and dunk the bottom part in the hot water then rinse. This should kill mold and sterilize the glass. And really if you only get one or two hummers why bother. Put up a flower hanging basket instead.
        What people do with Bleach, Vaseline, Oil any kind of Soap is so toxic for these little guys.

  5. Last year my wife had six hummingbird feeders located in the backyard plus two in the front. She was mixing over two quarts of bird solution daily. She decided this was too much work since we had to clean them every day and if we left on a trip, no one would be around to fill the feeders. This year, no feeders. Some birds have come looking already. They migrate from Mexico.

  6. What to do if Ants attack the bird feeder?

    • Hopefully this is safe and if not I’m certain someone on here will let me know. .. I use shiny (like for Christmas) pipe cleaners (for crafting) to hang my feeder. I then put vegetable oil on the pipe cleaner so the ants can’t get there. .. slippery at first but then gets a little sticky.

      • I appreciate your comment, being open to suggestions. Actually, oil can be very dangerous for hummingbirds. I’ve read much about that. A better idea would be a moat with water. OR, if you sprinkle a little cinnamon where the ants are coming from, it discourages them. Even a little on top of the feeder can help keep them away.

        • If it is the hanger that holds up the feeder, I wouldn’t be concerned about the birds bothering with it. I helped my ant problem by smearing Vaseline on the feeder hook and mixing in some strong smelly oils. I bet a smear of Vicks vapor rub old work too! Birds can’t smell so it won’t deter them.

      • To deter ants, I coat the very bottom of the shepherds hook with a thick layer of vaseline. No more ants!

    • I have an “ant moat” between the hanger and the top of the feeder. Works great.

    • Home Depot makes a cool Green “bell” that you put up. I have mine on our deck on a hook, then I hang the green bell from the hook and then the feeder from that. I haven’t seen an ant on my feeder in a long time!

    • Try putting little Vaseline on chain or whatever you hang yours from. Ants can’t go through it. Works well and it is safe. My problem is wasps.

      • NO! Vaseline and other ant “solutions” are not safe for the birds. If they get it on their feathers they can’t clean it off and it inhibits their flight. Please, please read up on these home remedies for ants. We all love our hummers. Let’s not do them harm. A simple moat is the best.

        • I use grease from a grease gun on the pole near the bottom. The birds don’t get near it and the ants can’t climb the pole. Just be sure to keep grass and weeds away from the pole above the grease. Vaseline may work too. But my dad suggested grease, so I went with it. It works. But may need to be reapplied during the summer heat. It doesn’t take much either. I also use essential oils mixed in water to keep wasps at bay. I use the one called Purification. 1 drop mixed in a spray bottle and spray the wasps when they are around. It will not harm the birds. I use the Young Living oils to be sure they are purely all natural. The ones in stores may have chemicals in them. I even use them on my pets. They are safe if used correctly.

          • Please don’t use any kind of oil around your feeders it can get on there wings and cause them to stick together and the little fellers can’t fly. That puts them in danger of being caught by predictors.. Us only ant moats you can make your own or bye them.

  7. In Canada Roger’s white sugar is made from GMO sugar beets…so I would caution against using it. One can find white sugar that is from sugar cane at Canadian Super Store in the Indian Food Department, and otherwise one might be very vigilant searching out non GMO sources…I cannot think that is good to offer GMO to our wonderful bird friends.

    • Carol:

      What is GMO and why is it bad? I have never heard of it.

      Thanks

      Phil

      • GO is a Genetically Modified Organism. They scientifically modify the plant to make it pest resistant, grow bigger, stay fresh, and other things. But they have been proven to cause cancer and are deadly. I’m a rancher and we raise all natural, non-GMO cattle but it’s hard to find feed for them that isn’t GMO. I encourage you to check out websites like Non GMO project.org They have very good information.

        • Thank you Kristi… I appreciate the work you do…

        • Not to say that GMO foods are optimal in any way, but please cite your source for the statement that they “have been proven to cause cancer”. Thanks.

          • Thank you Barbara. GMO’s may have risks, but the public sphere is full of made up drivel on the topic.

          • “You cannot insert a gene you took from a bacteria into a seed and call it life. You haven’t created life, instead you have polluted it.” – Vandana Shiva

        • OH MY GOODNESS. Please don’t believe everything you read. GMO is another way of hybridizing plants, which is what humans have been doing for millennia. If we need to get rid of GMOs, we also need to get rid of hybridized plants.Goodbye to almost every variety of apple and tomato you have ever enjoyed. I just hope that when all the people panicking and working to get GMOs banned find the world in famine because crop yields are low and resistance to fungus and mold and wilt is gone, they will recognize their culpability. Read multiple sources and don’t believe everything you read. If you love seeing those images of children suffering from starvation, go right ahead and fight against GMOs. Please show me one case of a GMO causing cancer.

          • Hybridization is in no way close to genetic modification. GMO crops are banned and/or labeled almost everywhere but the USA.
            Learn why.

          • No, hybridizing is just cross breeding of various plants within that species. So the dna is limited to that plant, say corn. GMO on the other hand is man manipulation of genes from any and all species like bacteria, or even man. So dna from any source or combination of sources can be inserted into that plant with who knows what consequences. You can eat bacteria created bug poison if you like, and other traits, but I prefer not to. I’ll let you be the guinea pig. The animals know the difference, and it can create various problems such as infertility if used as a large part of the feed at least. We don’t know all because the testing has been totally insufficient or made secret.

      • Phil, The GMO issue is hotly debated, and off topic here. I encourage anybody who does not know about the issue to read the actual peer-reviewed research before deciding one way or another about unreferenced claims on the internet. I also encourage anyone who makes claims that something causes cancer and is “deadly” to be more specific and quote legitimate sources. I have not made my decision yet, but here is an article which shows how complex the issue is. The comments show the hot debate. One thing I have not seen is proof in humans, and certainly feel more research is needed. As such I am totally for a movement to preserve heirloom seeds and to have a non-GMO choice…assuming you can afford it. It is never to late to do more research of better quality. I do know (first hand) that rats live about 2 years and that many strains die of tumors (when they are not part of any research study). http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg/2012/09/24/does-genetically-modified-corn-cause-cancer-a-flawed-study/ PS, I have suggested a solution below to avoid the issue altogether (assuming the flowers are not GMO, LOL). Good luck.

        • Are you serious!? You need to get your head out of the hummingbird feeder flower if you think GMO’s are not a problem for animals. And btw why dont you sight all YOUR findings scientifically on mold for hummingbirds. I think you were rude and ignorant to a farmer who probably knows more in his shxt kickers about how to help animals than you do in a whole website. Idiot! You must be sponsored ny Monsanto or the like.

          • a) I did cite references. b) I did not say I had made any decision, c) name calling does nothing to support your case. d) I detest Monsanto, e) I said that I support what she is doing. f) what I do not support is claims that are not backed by science. g) please check your facts, I am not the writer of this website, so please don’t condemn her, she is doing good work! Cheers.

          • I agree COMPLETELY with AWARE. Having been a master gardener and a hummingbird feeder for the majority of my life. I feel I have something to offer. ONE thing to point out of import is most certain that if Monsanto’s GMO products have been tested and are now (under those tests) causing cancer in laboratory “rats” then for the love of MIKE people…..I’d be a wee bit concerned about feeding sugared substances that are GMO products to a tiny creature the size and with the delicate constitution of a HUMMINGBIRD….can we not agree on something so OBVIOUS??? Let’s seriously get our proverbial garden boots OUT of our back ends here. The POINT being….we ARE trying to save the lives of the HUMMERS…..if you really weren’t that concerned about the birds….then go right on ahead…..and buy them some rat poison. 😛 DUH!

            I believe my lil brother spoke with more elegance on behalf of wildlife during his first drunken spree…. PUH-lease kids…
            Let’s wake up now and smell the aroma of the NON GMO coffee…….what say????

            The Hummers would appreciate your cooperation in that matter…..

            Thanks guys!!

          • craig youngbauer

            People who launch personal attacks against people who write a well-worded, sensible, and reasoned opinion don’t do anything to help the cause against GMO’s

        • I’m originally from England, tho now a US citizen. Do you ever ask yourself why most of Europe has banned GMO’s? We are so far behind the rest of the world in this and many other health issues… surely a consequence of lobbyists and big business influencing government.

          • Mike, couldn’t agree with you more!

          • I agree Mike!! And still there are so many people that are unaware of GMO’s or hard headed enough to think that the government run agencies are really out there to protect us!! We have to protect ourselves, the government is out for their own pocket liners!!

          • Mike, couldn’t agree with you more!!!

          • Quite right, Mike. We can learn a lot from listening and reading what other nations have to say. Critical thinking wouldn’t hurt. We have hummers here on Vancouver Island year round and they are a pure delight.

          • GMO is not the issue here, but for the record genetic modification is in no way similar to hybriding, Monsanto and their trillion-dollar attitude has no desire to lose profits due to something as petty as good health. As far as myself and my family we choose to take the safe road, and feed the hummingbirds the best we can provide, white and definitely non GMO sugar, in clean feeders.

        • I have to chime in on GMOs, since I have 3 acres that is surrounded by farmland that a farmer farms using glyphosate and planting GMO seeds. Trust me, I bought this in the wintertime and didn’t know what he did. Many people don’t realize that if a farmer is planting GMO seeds, he is first spraying glyphosate WHILE he is planting those GMO seeds. That’s why they are genetically modified — to withstand the glyphosate. Just ask my trees surrounding my property what they think of what the farmer is doing. I’ve been here 8 yrs and the trees closest to the fields are dying a slow death. Had an arborist tell me that years ago. I, for one, do not need to see any studies. I’m living in the middle of a real life study. As soon as the economy picks up, there is a “for sale” sign on my front yard. Shame, too, because the countryside around me is beautiful.

          • Oh My God, Audrey. Such a dirty shame your trees are dying from GMO’s. Very serious indeed. Oh Lord save our fresh water, air and food. Let us be aware & protect our beautiful nature. (hummingbirds) Amen.

        • It disgusts me that the same people who are saying anti-GMO people are unscientific, completely ignore the fact of evolution when they are touting these things. GM technology interrupts the process of evolution, puts genes where they would never go in the ordinary course of change and adaptation and sets us up to be exposed to evolutionarily unfamiliar proteins. No one has actually tested GMOs on people in a controlled environment, they just expect us to accept rat studies, and that only goes so far.

          And this is before you get into the potential for allergens to turn up where they are not supposed to. One variety of GM soybean never made it to market because it was modified with hazelnut genes. A true allergy is a response to a protein, and GM technology splices coding DNA, which makes proteins. Someone had the foresight to wonder what would happen if someone with a tree nut allergy got hold of this new soy. It was not Monsanto who developed it either.

          And THEN we get into religious issues. Some religions have strict rules against eating certain foods. Say you’ve got a GMO made with a spliced pig gene, that’s 2 out of the 3 major world religions that can’t touch it right out the gate, and 2 others that may not want it either, depending on how vegetarian the individual believer is. Right now we have no right to know that a product is GMO, and certainly no right to know what genes were used since that is “proprietary information.” Forcing someone to violate their religion by withholding information from them is completely unethical. I don’t care what the average science geek thinks of religious people, that’s still not a fair way to play.

          See, I just made some great arguments against GMO without resorting to superstition. You’re welcome.

          • In Spain, a young college student made himself a bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich, within an hour he had collapsed on the floor, he had a allergy to fish, so they had epinephrine at the house…..it did not work, they rushed him to the hospital and everything they gave him for the allergic episode simply would not work. He died three hours later. The tomato had fish genes in it. and a protein that prevented the anti allergy meds from working. Did you hear about it? Of course not, but it certainly ran in spanish media along with Doctors telling exactly what they found.

          • Even wine contains fish, used in filtering the wine along with other foods. But what has this got to do with hummingbirds.

          • Luette, the story you referenced came from a satirical website. http://www.inquisitr.com/1899679/did-gmo-tomatoes-kill-juan-pedro-ramos/. I’m not going to comment on whether or not GMOs are safe or unsafe, but I hate to see a made-up story taken for fact.

          • You do realize that a “fish”gene would not cause a fish allergy right? SMH. Or the fact that genes are coded for by proteins which are made up of amino acids that all life on Earth share…. so therefore it wouldn’t matter what organism the scientists used to obtain the gene, it still would code for a specific function, not strictly unique to a single entity/organism. Basic biology and genetics people. Come on. You have all of the world’s knowledge at your fingertips and you are too lazy to use it beyond reading from popular (and many time satirical) media sites. Our race is doomed to follow the path of the dodo bird….

  8. Here is a thought…don’t risk it. Plant lots of flowers instead. If you want them right by the window, put up a hanging basket of fuchsia, and it is just as good. I have many, many hummers, because I have a big garden, and try to plant as many natives as I can find. Humans need to think about the cost of the things they do for their own entertainment/convenience, and the cost to the native wildlife. Another example? I like my cats. They insist on going outside. So I let them out when I am gardening, and I try to garden when birds are not active. I call the cats in and give them treats when they come, so they are not predating wildlife. I also research plants before putting them in to make sure they are not invasive to my area. Simple ideas to step a little more lightly but have the enjoyment of all:)

    • Flowers – yes!

    • Wait…you call your cats and they actually come to you!?

      • my cats come when called..they know where the food bowl is..lol

        • My cats also come when called.. lol Additionally, I teach my cats where they can and cannot go.. For example; my cats are not allowed in my kitchen… period!! They know that where the living room carpet meets the kitchen tile is where they STOP!! They know they are not allowed to cross over and they don’t.. They get to that point and they sit down and watch me.. If I don’t want them there – a simple ‘shew, shew’ movement with my hand will send them back to the living room.. Cats are very intelligent animals and they do not like a spray bottle 😉
          ..

          • You hit the nail on the head, a spray bottle works wonders and it only takes once or twice. LOL

          • My cat was a house cat all of her 21 years. I had others before when I wasn’t thinking about the damage they do to birds and other folks gardens. She was spoiled and loved her house and toys. Never knew she was missing anything by being a house cat. Outlived the others by a good 20 years.

      • Yup, it is easy, just google it. We have eagles here, so having them come running is essential to their health. But make sure they always get a little treat for doing so. :) Good luck! PS, they also know which counters they can jump up on, their left from right, and when I need a kiss, but you don’t need to go that far unless you have a lot of time. Cats that live inside most of the time are often bored, so challenging them with some activities like this is a good thing.

        • speaking of eagles and cats…

          • That was really cool! Thanks for sharing that Thomas

          • Virginia C. Lackey

            Wow, so neat. Amazed the eagle let her get so close. Thought at first that the eagles would make a meal of cats. I have watched hawks in our back yard take chickens, other birds, squirrels, chipmunks, etc.
            Thanks for sharing.

          • Virginia, eagles are fish eaters… so of course they wouldn’t make a ‘meal’ of a cat.

          • Fascinating!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

          • While Bald Eagles aren’t great hunters, they could easily take a small dog or cat, if hungry enough. They are less like to than the dangerous Golden Eagles, large hawks, large falcons, and owls. I know this from experience, as a good friend is a wildlife rehabber.

    • I have a humming bird that we call Screaming Eagle. She thinks she’s really the Queen and comes around the side of the house just whistling! it’s the only way I can describe her. Also, she loves to tease my cats. They sit there waiting for the birds and she will hover right in front of their faces! They know they can’t catch her and they just look away and roll over to sleep.. of course, mice are safe at our house, too…

      • Don’t be so sure your cats won’t get them. I have lost several hummers to my own cat, who jumps up and snatches them out of the air. If they really want it, they will get it!

    • Best is if you feel your cats have to go outside, to make a ‘catio’ that is accessed by the cats from the house. Google the word, look at the photos. They are in all ranges, from simple to fantastic, depends on your pocket book and your skills. And it keeps cats safe from predators, cars, nasty kids, other cats, dogs and toxins. Allows kitties to go outside, enjoy the fresh air but stay safe.

    • Skip the feeder. Plant red tubular flowers. Keep them going year round. Penstemon works best out here in the desert. Now I have to be very careful when pruning my fruit trees, they have humming bird nests.

  9. Can we add apple cider vinegar in the nectar mixture ? I used to breed ladygouldians (colorful australian finches) and every breeder used to put few Apple Cider Vinegar drops in their water so no growth of fungi and mold.

    • No. The idea of the nectar we make is to replicate as purely as possible the nectar the flowers give. Look up nectar in Wikipedia and you will see it is sugar – with some chemicals and amino acids we cannot introduce. Keep it simple. Mainly, please, just keep the feeder sparkling clean. I use glass feeders, not plastic for the reason others mention, and after rinsing with a strong shake, I pour in boiling water.

      • Kathy A. Coletti

        Thankyou for the info. I knew but didn’t reallize how important the feeder and the food was. I went out and took my feeders down to redo them properly.

  10. The links to the feeders don’t work.

    • Virginia C. Lackey

      I agree, the links don’t work, but if you right click on the links and then do “search on google” you can find the info.

  11. The saddest part of this story of General, in my opinion, is that it is highly unlikely that it was fungal “infection” that killed him. It was inflammation as a consequence of the reaction to the mold spore TOXINS. A very small shot of epinephrine and perhaps a follow up with a steroidal anti-inflammatory such as dexamethasone probably woudl have saved his life. What happened was not really the consequence of infection, but acute toxic reaction, much like a reaction to shellfish or sulfites, latex, etc. Of course it wouldn’t have been easy to find a vet who would treat a hummingbird and recognize offhand what was happening, but now you know…and if you have a vet around and you ever do find a hummer with such a condition, I would recommend you ask them to treat with epi, as if it is an allergic/anaphylactic reaction.

    • Interesting, Mike, thank you! I hope the veterinarians looking in on this site use your advice to get a book or get some continuing education in avian medicine.

    • I am SURE it was Candida, that’s the infection they get. I am a Hummingbird rehabbor and we see it often. It is treatable but the drugs are very hard on their system and if it is advanced enough we can’t beat it.

      • I think you meant “rehabber”??

        Unless you have a confirmed culture, then you are taking wild guesses, and further Candida is a rather LARGE genus. That’s not terribly specific in case you didn’t know. Further, I am not only a wildlife rehabilitator, but a content contributor to lafebervet.com.

        I am quite sure that you are wrong, and that you didn’t read my post very well. The reason you have so little success is because your diagnosis is wrong. Please research medicine a little further. I’m quite well researched. Just because you have isolated a fungi does NOT mean that it’s a fungal INFECTION. You can isolate Candida on almost anything. This kind of ACUTE inflammation is not caused by a typical fungal infection. It is caused by fungal mycotoxins. There is quite a difference, and quite a difference in treatment. You take the route of systemic antifungals if you wish. You are under-informed. Antifungals will do nothing to mitigate the already existing exposure to mycotoxins. I however will treat such things immediately with epinephrine and dex., as I am better informed.

        • Your vast knowledge of this subject might be better received if you tone down your arrogance

          • I really couldn’t care less about your little emotional butthurt and interpretation of “tone” on the internet. The only thing you need concern yourself with is the accuracy of the content. If you have issues that prevent you from taking good information for what it is because you’d rather be focused on your silly perceptions, then you’re just a fool. Either add to the discussion or butt out. You’ve added nothing of substance by interjecting how my “tone” makes you feel. I really don’t care.

          • Well, you did take the time to write “quite” a lengthy reply including two declarations of not caring….methinks that you might have cared just a smidgen!

          • First of all – a short paragraph may be quite a lot for you to read, but as an author myself, I don’t consider it “quite” lengthy in the least. And you are quite mistaken in your suppositions. I don’t care about your opinions of my perceived tone, but I do care to give you my opinion, that the lot of you are insipid crybabies who are adding nothing to the discussion except to put your pea picking feelings on display; obviously being easily offended and threatened by someone with more knowledge, instead of benefiting from it. I think you’re all rather childish, and you, a troll. Just sayin’…

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this info. I did know that the sugar mixture could spoil, but didn’t think it could turn bad so soon. I promise to be extra careful to keep things fresh and clean. When you know better, you do better.

  13. marionwhit is right – plant flowers. Sugar, white, organic or otherwise, is not natural food, but especially pesticide laden genetically modified et al.

    But also please consider that feeders are plastic and if cool water sitting in a bottle can leach out chemicals (and not just BPA), think of what’s in this ‘food’ that sits out in the sun exposed to ultra violet rays – and you are giving it to them out of love.

  14. What about food colour? Is this bad for the birds. And how about steaming the feeder and then running under hot water. Would this kill the mold and fungus. Your container for the gallon of water would have to be sterilized, what would you use. An ice cream pail, but then this may have BPA in it. And what about tap water, should we use purified water and not chlorinated water? This article has got my mind spinning with questions. I do love the little guys and want to do the right thing.

    • No,no food colour. It adds nothing that attracts hummers and only pleases the people who sell it. . Please, just simple WHITE sugar and water. Brown sugar has molasses added. Flowers do not have molasses in their nectar. Believe it or not, they do have sucrose(sugar), along with fructose and glucose. Someone above mentions non-GMO sugar. Not to start an argument but what you want is the purest product you can get, which may not be the product from India that poster mentions. Bring it to a boil. I use glass feeders and I keep the extra nectar I make in the fridge in a big cheap glass wine decanter or carafe with a lid. I like your question about chlorinated water as it made me think. I suspect it is better to use the chlorinated water as it will start off disinfected. Boiling will reduce the chlorine a bit. One more thing to remember – the longer you boil, the more concentrated the mixture becomes, and that’s not good either.

      • My commercial hummingbird feed contains sucrose, two preservatives, and food coloring. Why is it so inferior to white sugar, which will ferment or mold so much more quickly?.

      • My grandmother fed hummers for years, with simple sugar water in glass bottles, but she did add red coloring. Immaculately clean, always. We know the red work for her ‘pets’, because she was away for the weekend, and my grandpa came on the porch in a red flannel shirt. Two hummers flittered around him til he went and got the refill bottle, he’d forgotten to put out! She had an amazing garden/backyard, but they still liked the bottles, too. She *was* a great cook. ;o)
        I will put out flowers on my apartment patio.

    • Flowers, simple; no guesswork, no risks.

  15. Who exactly determined the cause of the General’s death? Was the bird taken to a rehaber for treatment?

    • A very good question, I have asked myself, as I doubt the diagnosis of fungal “infection”. It sounds far too much like mycotoxin in my opinion. Far too many people have a tendency to see illness, and automatically jump to a knee-jerk diagnosis of “infection”, and seldom do they consider toxicity when the symptoms are a better fit.

  16. I like hummingbirds. I paint them here: blakperret.com/hummingbirds-2/

  17. i put up my hummingbird feeder a week ago, I have not seen any yet. how long does it take to attract them?

    • we live in canada and i put my feeders up last weekend. (glass ones) and was surprised the hummers were feeding all weekend.i do 1cup of sugar to 1 and a bit of boiled water at first. then back it off in a month to normal , just to give them a boost from their long journey. mike am i doing thisss rite?

  18. Mariann Cook Andrews

    I chose not to put up hummingbird feeders because of the work involved in keeping them properly clean. Instead I try to plant flowers and bushes that attract and feed them.

  19. BLEACH is a big NO NO !!! use only very hot water and brushes you clean with only hot water.

    • I’m a wildlife rehabber, and I use bleach. Bleach is not a blanket “NO NO”. Moronic use of bleach and being so irresponsible as to not rinse completely is the “NO NO”. This is a bit like saying candles are dangerous, just because some people leave home and don’t blow them out.

      I often use bleach, because bleach works well against hard to remove organic debris, in hard to scrub places inside feeders where vinegar, etc is not sufficient. I also use a tap water conditioner/dechlorinator during rinsing, and this takes care of any remaining bleach residue. Never had a problem.

      • I agree with Nancy. There are safer ways to clean effectively without toxic chemicals. Mold and fungus issues suggest too large of feeder that’s not changed often enough. Use a feeder of simple construction and eliminate “hard to get” places to clean. Bleach and dechlorinating solutions would be used for cleaning extreme situations, always the exception.

  20. Rather than use feeders, PLANT things the birds need to live on! Flowers don’t get moldy the way feeders do, and it’s marvelous watching the birds flit from bloom to bloom. It’s better than feeding them refined sugar anyway. Think about the damage that’s been done to HUMAN health with refined sugar, and realize you’re doing the same thing to the poor birds. Grow their natural food – FLOWERS!

    If you don’t have room for an extensive garden, you can still grown hanging baskets. My birds love (LOVE) fuschias and petunias. Easier to water those daily than to scrub a feeder.

    • that sounds like a great idea …. I think I will try that next season (or maybe I will buy a hanging plant from my SPCA plant sale).

    • Mary,
      Refined sugar is an excellent source of nutrition for hummers. Their systems can’t be compared to a human in any regard. Apples and oranges. Flowers may look more healthy than refined sugar water, but it’s really the same to a hummer. Nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution though. :)

  21. We have a battle going each summer between the wasp/yellow jackets ?? and our hummers. An article said to carefully swab/paint mint (oil ?)solution around the feeder ‘blossom’ & bottles…careful NOT to get the feeding hole tainted with the mint. Insects do not like it, but the hummers don’t seem to mind it. Also said that the wasp/insects are attracted to the yellow color used for the ‘blossom’ on most feeders…………. carefully tint/paint these. Blue, purple, red etc.

  22. I’m thinking I’m going with plants rather than risk harming the hummers… I know that we won’t be disciplined enough to empty, clean & refill every day… and being in Texas, I’m pretty sure that’s what we’d need to do…

  23. drsfostersmith.com has the DrJBs feeders on sale now

  24. I’m skeptical of this claim. There is no evidence that old sugar water harms hummingbirds. Hummingbirds know the difference between fresh sugar water and moldy sugar water. If I handed a human a moldy piece of bread, they wouldn’t eat it. As for the General in the story, it’s sad that he died, but why assume the old sugar water killed him? Do hummingbirds ever die of fungal infections in the natural world? I expect they do. How do we know the General didn’t die of an unrelated fungal infection? The articles claims “feel” true, but I would be more convinced if the article referenced a peer-reviewed biology paper.

    • Peer reviewed on an observation is a bit much, sir. One need not be peer reviewed, they only need to have a better understanding of differentials, or at most, have a necropsy done with histopathology.

      • Mike, your knowledge is highly credible, but presumably you are writing here because you wish to share it. The efficacy of that action could be greatly improved by working on your bedside manner.

        • My knowledge is highly credible, thank you. This is known by quite a few in the wildlife rehab and veterinary community. My point being that the efficacy of that would be improved by a reduced level of butthurt around here and the childish supposition about someone’s “tone”.

          You’re pretty off base and silly even erecting such subjective and speculative constructs. How about getting back to actually addressing substance, instead of what the lot of you think, but actually don’t know? I won’t apologize for aptly defending the sound medical and scientific points I made in my first post. Someone decided to challenge that, I corrected them from a position of authority on the matter. You all can choose to be threatened or butt sore by it and continue this ridiculous and irrelevant line of bleating toward a clinician who speaks clinically, or you can actually address substance and quit wasting everyone else’s time!

        • And as to this response to the gentleman in regard to suggestion of peer-review, if you think that’s something to whine about, you really are just looking for anything to complain about. There is nothing wrong with this reply, other than it may not contain enough emoticons for some of you. But do continue to attempt to extrapolate tone and to complain about “bedside manner”. You’re really accomplishing keeping the thread on topic…

          • On Topic: The fact of the matter is that the General is dead, and there was no hard evidence or pathology done, so no one will ever be able to prove why or how the bird died. But also, that the benefit of a clinician’s knowledge goes ignored because, although he states he is an author, he is better at putting people down instead of encouraging them to do the right thing.

            To Wit: I have not disagreed with anything you have said, and have been very supportive of your observations. But sir, the way you use language (butthurt, ignorance, fools) is the kind of arrogance that gives all scientists a bad name and gets valid information (like yours) ignored. If you are a real scientist (with a spirit of inquiry and patient refinement of technique), you will take some coursework on “Scientific Communications.”

            People come here for information, and it is a community of people trying to share ideas from all levels of education. You should be encouraging them to do the right thing, not slapping them down (for whatever reason), or even suggesting that your way is the only way. I do hope you get over yourself soon. 5 years zoo medicine, 17 years veterinary medicine.

        • As my granny used to say – Never wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig enjoys it. If we all ignore him maybe Mike will go away.

          • See, that’s a problem. If Mike were less hostile, then more would benefit from his knowledge. He reminds me of the comic store guy from the Simpsons.

  25. Please take all sick, injured, or orphaned wild animals to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately. Many can be saved with proper medical treatment.

  26. I use about 8 cups of feed a day. I have lots of hummers. I have to fill 4 feeders daily. Three large and one small. I microwave the water with the sugar because I have forgetten the water and it boils away. I take special care of keeping the feeders clean and as the weather gets hotter the mold will grow quickly. Even filling daily they need to be kept clean. I have a responsibility to keep the feeders clean. They bring me much joy. So I want to give them joy. In south texas we have trouble with having enough plants to keep them fed. I must be in an area that the hummers are using to get to their northern homes. I want them to have a good meal as they travel north or stay here. I even have pictures of a little hummers first visit to the feeder. That was so much fun. A neighbor has a nest from a tree they were cutting back one winter. It is so much joy having them on our property.

    • I don’t think you should microwave the water. There was an expirement done using plants. The plants watered with microwaved water died! Google

      • The study you refer to has been debunked by several others. The only real concern with microwaving is to ensure your solution gets to 190°F for more than 90 seconds which is sufficient to create a 5 log reduction in pathogens. That means 99.999% of all bacteria, spores, and viruses are killed and the solution is considered pasteurized. It also breaks some of the sucrose bonds creating fructose and glucose making the sugar water closer to natural plant nectar.

  27. Better yet, plant flowering plants that can nourish them

  28. I have quite a few feeders in my yard and the los angeles hummers don’t migrate, so they are here all year. should I still switch to flowers for some good reason, if i keep the feeders clean? flowers don’t bloom all year! If I do switch, won’t they miss the feeders? will they get enough from the flowers? how many flowers?

  29. Why do you have to boil the sugar water first?

  30. Virginia C. Lackey

    I used to keep a couple of feeders in my yard and 2 on my covered deck. I lived in the same place for close to 20 years and I know some of the same birds and offspring came back year after year. They even got so used to me, they would come and fluff my hair when I sat on the deck.
    If I didn’t get the feeders out early enough, they would come to my glass door and hover to show me they were back. Just love these beautiful little birds. Thanks for the all the info.

  31. I have my first hummingbird nest in many years. Babies have hatched, about a week old now. So sweet. Would love to post a picture but not sure how to do it.

  32. I’m concerned about feeding hummingbirds white sugar because of the bleaching chemicals used to make it white. I don’t feed this to my family. I buy organic sugar, unbleached. It’s has a slightly tan color. If boiled, I would think this should be okay for hummingbirds and chemical free.

  33. Hi– I took a terrific birding class from a teacher highly respected in the field. He said to never ever use bleach to clean bird feeders, baths etc in that if leaves a residue that’s very difficult to remove. So maybe vinegar is the safest way to go…

  34. two thoughts….
    We DO NOT use red food coloring ever to attack hummingbirds to feeders. We hang some red ribbon on the feeder and that works very well.
    Use fishing line to hang up the feeders to keep ants from climbing down. Ant moats are good but fishing line is easy as well.

  35. Can I upload a picture here

  36. I have a hummingbird friendly garden. It is the best therapy for me and safe for hummers. If you have a sunny outdoor space plant salvia, monarda, crocosmia and hang a couple of fuschia and watch the parade.

  37. Love all the info and differing opinions here. Love my hummers too. Need to get the sugar water made and some out to welcome them. Here in northern IN they show up about Mother’s Day. I have a big complaint w feeders that are sold at [guess where?] WM that have NO way of being taken apart and cleaned!!! BAD, BAD, BAD, but they did have plastic ones that can be cleaned. I bought some really neat antique looking glass ones there a couple years ago that I love. What I do seems to work ok. I make sugar water 1:4 or 1:3.5 in a covered quart jar which I bring to a boil in microwave. Keeps well in fridge after cooling. I put in only what I think they will eat in a few day’s time, rinse well [3 x’s minimum] with hot water all surfaces when changing, hang under an awning out of sun mostly, and rain [which dilutes]. Because the antique ones have such a narrow neck that a brush can’t be used I should probably consider soaking with vinegar water occasionally but haven’t so far. Cleaning, rinsing well, changing often seems to keep ours coming back until mid-Sept. AND THEY KEEP THE MOSQUITO POPULATION TO ZERO!!! Can’t emphasize that enough. No skeeters and we have 5 small untended [hate to admit] back yard ponds that probably breed many. One spring were especially bad until the hummers showed up, presto, zero skeeters. Don’t use food coloring anymore, doesn’t attract, they don’t care. I was using it just to make it pretty for me. Love my hummers!!! They’re worth the work!!! They get so they fly right up to my face within 1′ sometimes.

    • There is a brush kit of assorted sizes that sells on Amazon for around $8.00, and in some of the local birding stores – I had to track this set down because some of the ports in my feeders were so difficult to clean, and the basic bottle brush didn’t fit all of my feeders.

  38. p.s. Have no trouble with ants or wasps.

  39. p.p.s. Have hanging baskets of pink and purple petunias hanging close by the feeder[s] – they ignore them.

  40. The best thing you can do is plant natives from your area, period.
    Sugar water leaves birds diseased.
    Check out this info from the great native plant evangelist from California, Bert Wilson,
    who recently went to the great beyond.
    “Hummingbirds prefer the native species (commonly Sambucus, Ceanothus and Arctostaphylos) for nesting. They prefer a mixed diet of nectar from multiple sources for their daily diet. I read an article that showed a correlation between nectar (pollen) proteins and hummingbirds’ immune systems. So, although they can live on bird feeders they probably can not survive on bird feeders (sugar diet) as you’re messing with their immune system and, since there is no pollen in sugar water, their reproductive ability. Basically, the bird feeders are making winos out of proud birds. If they attack you, give them a break, it’s the ‘Twinkie’ syndrome. ”
    “The ginger bread houses with frosting gardens are sterile to the wildlife. There is no wildlife value there. No hummingbirds flying around. There might be a few mangy, dispirited butterflies that were too weak to fly away, or a few wino hummingbirds hanging with the gang of English sparrows, starlings, jays and house finches. But there is not a colony of native wildlife nesting and breeding (uh-oh). Hummingbirds may come to those types of yards but they may just visit a few alien flowers and leave, or stay but be unable to breed, or be at risk for disease. They have certain types of plants that they use during certain times of the year.
    http://www.laspilitas.com/garden/hummingbird.html

  41. I’ve learned a lot reading all the posts. One unanswered question:
    How long before the gunners start to show up? The only flowering
    plant in my yard currently is a butterfly bush

  42. Misplaced fingers … meant to say “hummers” not “gunners.”

  43. I have been feeding my hummingbirds for about 7 years now. In the article it says not to use soap. I always have. I use a natural soap that is not supposed to have all the chemicals in it. I also rinse very well. Do you think it makes a difference in the type of dish soap that is used?

    I mostly use the feeders that are changed on a daily basis, but will change out my hanging feeder more. Thanks for the tips.

  44. Maria da Consolacao Pimenta

    Nossa, que coisa mais linda/ Adorei.

  45. We have so many humming birds that they get fed 2x a day. No time for anything to grow in their nectar. I just watch my dollars fly out the window @ 35 lbs of sugar per month. Year around, they don’t leave in the winter when they can get a free meal, in Yuma AZ.

  46. I am in northern wisconsin and put up a feeder in mid-may. We immediately got 3hummers feeding regularly and they appear tohave set up house nearby however, we are leaving on an extended trip (2 months) on june 28 and I am worried about what will happen to the hummers. Will they be ok?

  47. Lot’s of information posted, thank you, all. One question I did not find on this site…I live in North Central Washington, very cold winters…when is the best time to stop feeding the hummers? Do they have a specific migratory time?

  48. I found one of our hummingbirds on the patio today. The hummingbird has a open wound on it’s throat. What would cause this? The hummingbird doesn’t look like it will make. :(

  49. I never use bleach to clean up anything my birds will come in contact with, instead I use vinegar. It isn’t toxic in the way bleach is, but you must give your bird feeder a good rinse to make sure all of the vinegar is rinsed off. Another thing I use is denture tablets, if anything needs to soak overnight. I fill enough water to submerge the feeder, water dish, and add a few denture tabs, then rinse. This is a great way to clean tubing, to make it look new. If you try this, and you can still see mold, or any grime, it just means you need to add more denture tablets. I also use vinegar, or the denture tabs to clean my fish aquarium, and I have fish that have lived over 10 years. I do add a little white rice to the vinegar, when I’m cleaning my filter tube, then give it a good shake, holding the liquid in by my hands. That is what I use for all of my animals, and the one that visit my yard. Just thought I’d share.

  50. We get the Calliope hummers in the north Okanagan, British Columbia

  51. Planting flowers loved by hummingbirds is a good way to avoid all this fuss . . .

  52. An enthusiastic Yes! to Michael’s thought about planting native flowers and plants that have not been treated with insecticides or sprayed with fertilizer. Also, as one suffering due to a mold infested house I rented (& have now moved from), mold is NOT killed by bleach; it is merely bleached so you can’t see it. The hummingbirds can definitely be affected by mold that lingers. Best bet, if you do choose to use a feeder, use a very simple glass feeder that is easily cleaned & easily monitored for problems. Mold & fungus can get into the structure of the plastic & are nearly impossible to completely eradicate. Plants are best by far.

  53. Since cinnamon is a natural bactericide, fungicide, will it hurt to sprinkle some in the hummingbird’s food to help keep it fresh?

  54. ‘I held him in my hand, inside a warm cloth, to help ease his passing,” Miller said. – Hummingbirds are wild animals – you probably helped terrify it to death. Don’t touch or handle wild animals unless you are taking then to a vet. Call animal rescue first.

  55. Wildlife needs habitat not hand-outs…when “feeding” wildlife feeds you, it’s time to consider another source of food…please!

  56. I try to only fill each feeder less than half, as then i know i have to change the sug water, if you fill it full, it goes bad before you use it all and it’s wasteful. I also am going to rig up a cardboard sleeve on one side of the feeder, where the sun hits it and makes it go bad faster. thanks for all the good info.

  57. I’m very sorry that I’ve been doing it “wrong” since starting to feed the mummers, but appreciate this very informative article.

  58. Several years ago I saw this happen to a ruby throated, it broke my heart. I didn’t know what was happening to the bird it broke my heart. I tried to reach him, his tongue would not stay in his mouth. I called animal and aviary rescue #s no one got back to me. I found the bird in the lawn the following morning. he suffered for hours that I was aware of. I appreciate knowing now what caused this illness. My bird feeders were clean but this makes it absolutely clear for all. Thank you very much,

  59. Peter clements

    I agree fully. However you try getting a bottle brush. I’ve been trying for 5 years and cannot. Problem is that many feeders are made with a tiny opening in the reservoir and many brushes, especially those meant for baby’s bottles will not go through.

  60. and for God’s sake…DO NOT PUT RED FOOD COLOURING IN YOUR BIRD FEEDER…THAT IS ANOTHER GOOD WAY TO MAKE THEM SICK!!! i got this from several veterinarians…clear sugar water is more than enough, they dont need the colour.

  61. I have noticed at least one hummer at my feeders with its tongue sticking out and looking distressed. I did not seem him at all yesterday and thought perhaps he had finally died. So sad. I keep my feeders very clean and change the food every couple days. Today I saw a hummer with its tongue out looking distressed, but not as distressed (yet) as the one that was coming before. I can’t be sure if it is or isn’t the same one. I would love to think it is and that maybe he is getting better, but that seems pretty naive. If it is a different one (I feel like this one has less dark coloring on its head, which is why I think it may not be the same one), then does this mean the disease is communicable? I don’t know what to do. Should I take down all of my feeders for a while and just hang some flowers up? I have been enjoying my hummingbird friends coming to feed here for the past decade. This is the first I’ve seen of this awful disease. Please advise if taking down my feeders may help to prevent this from spreading. For all I know, there could be a neighbor with dirty feeders. I really don’t know, but I don’t want to be responsible for the spread of this to more birds. Very sad start to the hummingbird season which so many of us cherish. :(

  62. Re: the use of bleach. Excuse me folks. There is a glaring omission of information here, and I would love to address it. Many feeders have plastic parts, even if the reservoir is glass. Did you know that bleach penetrates the surface of most industrial plastics? (I am talking about polypropylene, polyethylene, nylon, even delrin.) So unless your feeders are 100% glass and metal, say, then you face the problem of getting the absorbed bleach out of the plastic parts.
    I would strongly suggest after the bleach cleaning: subject the parts to either boiling water or very hot water for several minutes. After they cool, smell them! If there is any residue of chlorine, repeat the hot water routine, until no trace of chlorine smell persists.
    I know it sounds like a lot of trouble, but after all, aren’t our little avian friends worth it?

  63. Thanks for the tips. I will diligently clean my hummingbird feeder, as soon as I arrive at home!

  64. Do any of you have experience using essential oils in your hummingbird feeder, either to attract the hummingbirds or to keep the feeder clean? Any knowledge of your experiences or references will be appreciated. Thank you.

    • I just asked this question again today. Hope to get some response.

      • Don’t even think about oils in your feeder. Keep it natural. I can’t image the poor little bird even having a taste of this nectar. Would probably choked them to death….

        • I don’t know the reasoning behind your statement. Care to clarify.

          • Dear Readerwoman,
            There are so many good replies here, you might have obtained your answer, if you’d just please read the posts! Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE here who seems to have knowledge, suggests that you do NOT use anything but sugar and water, in a 1/4 ratio.
            I am not sure why people have such a great need to put their personal spin on things, especially when confronted with info to the contrary. You can rest assured that nobody here will approve the use of adding essential oils to your formula.

          • For some reason I can’t see responses to my post. There are 180 posts on here some dating back 4-5 years. There seems to be no way to search comments for information. Do you see the question marks in my comment? So far I have had two rude responses, no verifiable information, no help and no kindness. You all should be ashamed of yourselves for being so high and mighty to a seeker of knowledge.

          • Dear Readerwoman,
            Posts are organized by date. So if you could use today’s date as a base point and work backwards, you might see the pertinent replies to your question, without having the ability to do a search.
            You also asked if the color acted as an attractant. No, it does not. So food coloring is also unnecessary.
            Essential oils do not occur in nature in concentrated form. One drop from a bottle of concentrated oil might deliver many thousands of times stronger dose than any living flower could furnish. OK? Anything that is not part of these birds’ natural diet (in proper concentration) should not be used. Sorry if this seems rude to you.

          • This was a lovely response, thank you.

  65. Would putting the hummer feeders in the dishwasher be safe for them? In Central Texas, I have to sterilise feeders every two days.

  66. Mike (long time hummer helper ;)

    PLEASE don’t worry about using soap to clean your feeder. It’s important to do so. Just rinse them well. The real danger for hummers is FUNGUS. Which is not a problem when they feed from nectar flowers because the plants die off after presenting their nectar. A feeder sometimes sits in the sun for more than a day at times. Have you ever seen a hummer sitting with its beak partially open, tongue extended? This is a hummer which has been infected by a fungus from a feeder which has not been cleaned/refilled for more than a day. PLEASE, IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO CLEAN/REFILL YOUR FEEDERS (DAILY/BI/DAILY) DO NOT LEAVE THEM OUT. Your hummer will look great at your feeder, then die a bad death.

    • Mike (long time hummer helper ;)

      You do not have to use Bleach or boil your water. Fungus takes time to develop. Just wash your feeder once a week or so and you’ll be fine (and so will your hummers). let your guard down and leave your feeder out for 4 or 5 days? Then you will be be putting your friends at risk because they are trained to come to your feeder because they have come to trust it. They can’t know it has become a source of a deadly poison for them they don’t encounter this danger normally otherwise. It’s fun to see hummers near your house but if you want to enjoy them you have taken on an obligation to protect them. KEEP YOUR FEEDERS CLEAN!

  67. Great to read all of the above. Lots of info/tips. We have been using only bottled (mountain spring) water and plain white sugar. We have not ever boiled the water but I’m now wondering if we should start? We always mix the nectar fresh at the time of filling – so only what we need. Our feeders each have one cup capacity so that makes it simple to gauge. We keep the feeders clean (wash with hot water and brushes) which is part of our nearly daily routine to keep the feeders stocked with nectar. We have a steady stream of multiple/regular visitors (several we can identify specifically) everyday since we started last summer with our first feeder (now we have five — all the same with the little perch attachments). We use the copper ant moats as directed and that seems to work great (we remove the moats when it rains so the few drops of veg oil that you put in the moat doesn’t overflow with rain onto the feeder). We live in Orange County, Southern California and there are some large flowering trees and citrus trees around that the hummers seem to frequent as well. We only have blackberry bushes, flowering cactus and morning glories but will probably add some flower baskets coming up now too – probably Petunias since we have full sun. Anyway, we only want to do things right for our little friends so really wondering about the water boiling now. Comments?

  68. Hi you hummingbird lovers well I live in Californiaand I got a friend name so cute he is a Ruby throat squawker very demanding to when it comes to feeding he will garud dog me from tree to tree he dose the same with his food I went to check his food to make sure his little friend were doing their job and what I mean by that I have found my bird love ants and if their not on the feeder than he comes to tell me about it in a demanding way this bird lived on ants before I came into his life he will not feed unless the ants are doing their job I find it to be pretty strange but I make sure he or he makes sure the foodis to stay fresh so I been trying to talk to him m and he dose no his name for sure he has taught me his words of mouth also we are very close and I can’t even sceak out my door he’s right their squawking at me to let me no he’s got his eyes on me one thing I have notice is he has a girl friend and he won’tlet her near me or the feeder she gets her ass in trouble if she leaves the tree its like she is in jail he ddon’t let her leave that tree at all I find that to be strange to but we have fun talking to each other dose anyone go though this with their hummingbirds thank for reading my history Carla chavez

  69. Can you add essential oils (1 drop?) to hummingbird nectar? Is it the color of the feeder that attracts them? Birds have no sense of smell, so I am not sure what the benefits would be, but maybe it would prevent mold or spoiling?
    A hummingbird newbie

  70. Hi all you humming bird family I got this great little ruby red throat named socute he is the little man He tells me when food is not good I don’t let his food go over FOUR DAYS I make my feeders out of small bowls with lids and I use a water bottles with good cap holes I can make a lot and freeze it for stock for a 12 %z bottle I put sugar under just a 1/3 half and found he likes it more and I also keep it shaded in a tree this little man would be eating bugs out of a old spider web that got me feeding him sugar he is a big healthy bird now ants are a plus also they eat them when their dead why I say that is I was making a new feeder and left the lid off the old one to get the hole size and it was so full of ants when I got around to picking it up it was getting dark and the bowl was clean up no ants I was so suprized he gets in a hurry when it comes to his food so YES CHANGE THE FOOD EVERY 4 DAYS WELL WATER IS VERY GOOD HINT

  71. This article is dangerously innaccurate. IT MUST BE ORGANIC CANE SUGAR. Non-organic sugar is SOAKED with glyphosate (Roundup) prior to harvest, to kill and dry out the cane and make it easier to harvest. Glyphosate causes organ failure and inflammation. Also, please stop eating all non-organic sugar and take it away from your kids!!!!

  72. Sugar is poison, we are free to poison ourselves but let’s not poison the creatures around us too! Hummingbirds eat nectar as nature intended!

  73. Some of the new feeders had holes so big bees can get in and die it drives me crazy since we so desperately need the bees and when they die in the solution I am afraid it will poison the nectar !

  74. Thank you so much for this informative article! I live in the highlands of Western Panama, In a small mountain town called Boquete. I have an incredible amount of hummers. I have not been boiling my sugar water because the sugar seems to melt pretty fast just by stirring it vigorously , but now that I know boiling it will help it not to ferment so fast I will start to do it that way. Also knowing I can keep it in the fridge for awhile makes it nice to have some ready to use. Thanks!

  75. the best way to properly feed hummingbirds is to use actual flowers

  76. As this an old article I am not sure if my comment will reach anyone. I was told by my grandmother that, along with the good advice in this article, that you should take down the feeders in the fall to allow for the hummingbirds to migrate. Can you verify and shed some light on this matter?

    • Tim, this is not true and never has been. The hummers migrate based on the number of daylight hours in the day; when the day gets short enough, that triggers them to go, regardless of whether there is still ample food in the area. Taking food away will only possibly starve them when they most need some calories for the journey. If you have rufous hummingbirds, you will see that eventually even though the feeders are full with fresh nectar, the birds have migrated and at that point are no longer there and at that point you can take in the feeders until spring. Also, if you are in an area with Anna’s hummingbirds (as I am in southwestern Washington State) they do not migrate at all! If you have Anna’s hummingbirds you must commit to feeding them all year ’round. Believe me, they survive snowstorms etc and rely on you to have nectar for them (when I had to go to work and it was freezing, bring in the nectar at night so it wouldn’t freeze; I would tape a skiers’ handwarmer to the wherever the bulk of the nectar is in the feeder; it would keep it from freezing up during the day.)

  77. It is VERY important that you purchase ORGANIC sugar to make your nectar. If the sugar is not organic, it will have been sprayed with glyphosate prior to harvesting, so the sugar is coated in chemicals.

  78. I have a question. I had to move with very little notice when my landlord decided to sell the house I’d been renting for nearly a decade. Over the years I was there, I wound up with many hummingbirds regularly visiting my feeders all day long (probably on average between 20-30 birds daily). I’m feeling awfully sad and concerned, wondering if they had actually built nesting sites around my place because of the dependable food supply. It’s wide open fields there with not too many flowers, so I’m wondering if they were harmed when I moved (i.e. no dependable food supply). Does anyone have knowledge of this? I feel terrible about this.

    • Hi not to worry the cute little humming birds eat bugs from spiderwebs and ants on trees feeders are their delight tho they do get by its their nature I hope this will make you feel better I had to move from my place at one time also if it would make you feel better also you can make a visit to a neighbor in the area and ask if they would be wanting to feed them you can supply some starter feeders and show them how you did it then your cute little guys will be cared for that is what I did hope this helps

  79. Also, keep garage/barn etc. doors closed near feeding areas. We’ve had MULTIPLE hummers that fly into our garage or barn and fly up to the rafters but don’t seem to know how to fly lower and back through the door. They just bang around on the rafters tiring themselves out until they fall to the ground. We’ve caught quite a few with a net on a long pole and then hold them while they replenish themselves at the feeder while removing cobwebs from their delicate bodies. Sadly, we have found more than one dead on the floor. You have to be alert to the buzzing/banging sound. We are careful about keeping the doors closed, but it still seems to happen several times a summer.

  80. Please clean your feeders with WHITE vinegar! Rinse really well. ***DO NOT USE DISH-SOAP, or bleach! it’s really harmful to hummingbirds, the residue is bad! I know they make a dish soap that says no residue still have scent chemicals I’ve only used white vinegar & rinse very well never an issue! I’ve been feeding hummer’s for 19 years and change my feeders every 3 days. I highly recommend only the best feeders and they are from WBU, Wild Birds Unlimited, google them also they have portal brushes to get into the little holes of each port where conjunctivitis can live. I only use white sugar & water bring to gentle boil to kill of yeast spores from white cane sugar, don’t bring to a hard boil,…you aren’t making candy and you want to retain some nutrients! I also make same nectar for the Oriels that come Feb to August. Also try to place your feeders where they are in shades areas the sun heat ferments the sugar water fast! These are the “Jewels of the Garden” gods precious gifts to us truly amazing birds, they sit on my finger & sip the nectar it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. I too give them names! Emma, Henry, Sweetpea & Vine, buttercup & Lily, on & on over the years! They give you so much the best thing you can do is feed them the right way & be willing to spend this time or else don’t bother if you can commit, then just admire them from a far. It’s truly is a lot of work but so worth it. Even when I’ve been sick I still tend to them no matter what rain or shine, why because they came to our yard and to me they are precious gifts loaned to us~ enjoy they are beautiful, delightful, Jewels of the Garden~

  81. i am Emily Luke my heart is full of joy for what Dr Ogun Root and Herds the traditional healer has done for me, i was diagnose with cancer for the past four years, i thought my life was going to end like that, cause i thought there is no cure for this deadly disease, untHiil i came across a testimony of a young man who said that he was cure with the herbal medicine of Dr OGUN, initially i thought it was a scam testimony but i said i must also try this man to see if it true or false testimony. so i contacted this man through his email and he response to my emails and told me what to do, i kindly did what he ask me to do, and he sent me his herbal medicine and instructed me on how i will be taking them daily, i kindly follows the precaution and after some weeks i went for medical check up and my result came out with Negative.i want to use this medium to inform everyone living with cancer to stop wasting time on medical drugs and contact Dr OGUN the traditional healer for some herbal medicine that will cure you once and for all. Please contact him through his email:drogunrootherds@outlook.com please note that this man is 100% trusted and guarantee

    • It has been my understanding that this forum was SPECIFICALLY for the discussion of hummingbirds–care and feeding. The prior post has no business being included in our discussion, no matter how happy Ms. Luke is. Am I alone in this opinion?

  82. I am very familiar – and unhappy about the cleaning actually – of the above pictured red feeders. Including the awesome photo with Rita’s eyes closed. I cannot open the bottom of these feeders to clean property and after soaking in vinegar didn’t do the trick stopped using. How do you clean the bottom of these feeders? I would love to hear any advice. I found your blog when searching for answers on whether to use organic cane sugar (from cane juice) or the regular processed cane sugar. Just took down my first cane sugar feeder “try” today and putting back the original. Thanks!

  83. Laura-Lee Heaphy

    This year my town has been hit with 3 devastating storms – one tornado and the other two finished stripping my yard of it’s last original tree. Sounds foolish I know but this was not just a tree but the truth is this was the last tree in my yard that my dad last laid his eyes on.
    Since the up-rooting and violent storms I have been trying to adjust and what I found was startling.
    I now have a hummingbird that I can watch daily though what I call my hole (a.k.a. a 10 x 8 foot closet). I have been amazed at what I have learned and at what I have seen. Thank you so much for your title “Loving them to death”. This is so true and the helpful information a God-send. Thank You so much. Is there anyway or anyone who would be able to view a photograph of the little one I find somewhat odd around the eye area?
    any help appreciated, queenbeecanada

  84. Hi,
    I read your full post that you mentioned above..I really didn’t know about this information.I need this information.I am waiting to get more information from your site.
    Thanks for sharing this….

  85. Like another lady above, we can’t keep the hummingbirds out of our big pole barn garage. We can’t just keep the doors closed like she said because this is a working garage where our business is, we load and unload our trailers, etc. We put up a hummingbird feeder far away from the garage area trying to entice them not to go looking for food elsewhere on our property. And while they use it, we still find occasional dead hummingbirds in our big garage (6 so far this year). Does anyone know a way to keep them out of the pole barn garage?

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