When and how to put out your feeders to entice the jewels of our gardens to stop by and hopefully hang out for the summer!
Here at The Birdhouse in our location of the world (Southern Ontario Canada), we highly suggest putting the feeders out at the start of the last week of April.
There are a few of the males who forge ahead of everyone else and show up in our neck of the woods hungry. It's an incredibly long journey over the gulf of Mexico and the United States to finally cross the border over the lake and into southern Ontario.
You can buy powdered or liquid concentrate nectar in prepared formulations in store or you can use a 4:1 ratio of water to table sugar.
Please do not deviate from table sugar as the other sugars on the market have too much mineral content and can make the birds ill, potentially killing them. You'll also never see hummingbirds sipping honey in the wild, so don't mix honey with water and think it's an adequate nectar substitute. This can cause a killer fungal infection. There is currently a picture of a hummingbird with a bloated tongue floating around on social media that is just too sad for words.
You don't need to use boiling water unless you have difficulty dissolving the sugar.
Feeders MUST be cleaned regularly, every 2-3 days, especially in the heat of summer. There is potential bacteria on the beaks of the hummingbirds that can transmit disease to other hummingbirds, so regularly cleaned feeders are a must.
So much so, that if you cannot commit to a regular cleaning regimen, please don't feed the hummingbirds. If you love the birds like we do, we know you don't want to see the aftermath of not cleaning them.
To clean, use hot water and dish soap and rinse really well. The rinse twice more. Air dry to complete dryness. Once a month soak in a 10% bleach and water solution. Rinse, rinse, and rinse some more and air dry to complete dryness again. Have an extra feeder on hand to alternate so you don't ever have to worry about not having a food source out for them.
Clean feeders will also help keep the hummingbirds coming. An ant moat, added above a feeder, or built into some of the better feeders, will keep ants out of the hummingbirds way. Ants and hummers do not mix! As they decay in the sugar water from drowning, there is a school of thought that they become toxic to the little birds. And it will drive you round the bend to be cleaning ants out of the nectar - it gets gross!
When the momma's go into nesting mode, your nectar feeders will likely become very quiet. The hummingbirds at this point tend to move to a more insect based diet for protein to help feed their babies. They will return to the feeders after the babies have fledged, so don't dishearten and give up!
You can also try to use a Protein feeder at this point. It uses banana peels to attract fruit flies which in turn feeds the hummingbirds during nesting season.
Don't forget to place your feeders amongst the flowers that attract the hummingbirds and in a place where you can sit and watch and enjoy them. They're very territorial and can make quite a racket amongst themselves if you're lucky enough to see more than one on your property at your feeders.
Here in Southern Ontario, we only get the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds. They are the jewels of our gardens and highly coveted. Like all songbirds though their numbers are not what they once were and so making sure our lawns and gardens are as natural (no chemicals and native plantings please!) as possible will help encourage hummingbirds to stop by. Sometimes people will not see hummingbirds because they have sprayed their lawns for mosquitos. No mosquitos and other small bugs will also mean no hummingbirds. If you spray your lawn with insecticides you've basically just closed down their grocery store.
While I get wanting a yard that you won't get eaten alive in, if you want to see hummingbirds you need to give them an environment where they can thrive.