Feeding the {humming}birds

(Written in 2017, but it’s hummingbird season again here in the Midwest!)

Despite growing up in a home that always had several, this was the first year I finally put out a hummingbird feeder. I cannot determine exactly why I have never had one, but the commitment always intimidated me. It truly is a lot of work to keep up with a hummingbird feeder. Instead, we have planted many flowers that attract both hummingbirds and butterflies, in hopes of having their yearly return visit.

I purchased my first feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited at the beginning of the year, with full intentions of its regular upkeep. Unfortunately, I failed, once again, of hanging it until later in the season – although I suppose that is a significant improvement over past years when I did not have one at all.

We had one single hummingbird in front of our house, who continued to visit frequently, despite the lack of feeder. He was what inspired me to finally dig out our feeder and boil my first batch of “nectar.” To make safe hummingbird food, you mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water. Boiling this solution kills any bacteria or mold that may be present. After boiling, you allow the water to cool before filling the clean feeder.

Something important that is often overlooked – and contrary to popular belief – you DO NOT add red food dye.

Research cannot confirm nor deny whether or not all red food dye is harmful to hummingbirds, however adding red dye does not add any nutritional value for hummingbirds and is therefore completely unnecessary. Some red dye is in fact proven to be damaging to hummingbirds (some dyes can even kill the hummingbird), so it is best to just avoid it altogether. Instead, clean your feeder and replenish it with fresh nectar regularly (every few days is best). If you’re still looking to add a little color, most feeders have red caps that help to attract the hummingbird, the nectar will do the rest.

When looking for information regarding hummingbirds, I dug into some past columns of my mom’s. I said earlier that I had one solo hummingbird, but according to the article, “Hummingbird Bander,” by Carol Thompson, “…the rule of thumb is that most hummingbird enthusiasts underestimate the number of birds using their feeder by two thirds. Most feeders host three times the number of birds their monitors think they see.” Immediately, I had to wonder how many others we had hanging around.

Some of this information may be redundant to some, but as I sat around chatting with my girlfriends the other day, we discussed some of these issues and concluded that there are a lot of people – from our generation especially – who do not have the experience or knowledge to maintain hummingbird feeders. Unfortunately, my feeder has harbored no visitors for almost a week now. It is safe to assume that the birds that recently visited our feeder are on “a treacherous round trip journey that will require two five-hundred-mile, non-stop flights across the Gulf of Mexico. If they survive, they may return to the feeder next spring…”

“A flash of harmless lightening, a mist of rainbow dyes, the burnished sunbeams brightening, from flower to flower he flies.” – John B. Tabb

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

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