Friday, March 21, 2008

On hummingbird feeders

Here it is, the first full day of spring already, and the ruby-throated hummingbirds have gotten as far as North Carolina in their northward migration. They will arrive in these parts around the third week in April. By the middle of the month -- just in case they decide to come a bit early -- I will have hung up my nectar feeders in the backyard and from the front porch.

Because I have been doing this for the better part of ten years, I have the reputation among my neighbors as something of an expert on hummingbird feeders. Here's the advice I give them.

Cheaper is better than expensive. There are many beautiful feeders available on the market, often of hand blown glass, with gorgeous colors and interesting shapes and textures. They look great in the backyard. Unfortunately, in addition to costing a lot, they are fragile, awkward to hang, and most important, hard to clean. Instead, I opt for cheaper plastic models, and after years of experimentation, I have arrived at a favorite -- the fellow pictured above.

Here's why:
  • It's cheap. And because it is I can afford to buy several of them and hang them in various locations around my yard. Hummingbirds are notoriously territorial, and will fight each other for feeder access. More feeders mean more hummers accommodated, and fewer skirmishes. (As much as possible, try to hang them out of sight of each other so aggressive hummers don't try to guard more than one at a time.)

  • It's easy to clean. I just stick a bottle brush in the tube and twist it around a few times when washing. This is important with hummingbird feeders -- if they are not kept clean mold can grow inside, which can be harmful to the hummingbirds.

  • They need to be refilled often. This is a good thing. It is important that the nectar not go bad. A change every three to four days -- especially during the hotter summer months -- is a good rule of thumb.
Of course, you don't have to go for the same model I do. We all have our own preferences. Just make sure that you keep your feeders clean and refill them often to ensure that they will continue to attract hummingbirds throughout the season.

Visit for nectar recipes, tips, pretty much everything you need to know.

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