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Beyond the Feeder: Hummingbird Hacks for Summer Feeding

Hummingbirds are one of the most enchanting and beloved species in the bird watching community. Many backyard bird watchers devote their lives to feeding these turbo-powered wonders with hummingbird-friendly gardens and multiple feeders providing nectar. Summer heat can put a wrinkle in hummingbird feeding routines; here’s a few ‘hummingbird hacks’ that might help your iridescent wonders get through summer’s last weeks.


Nectar from flowers is clear, the hummingbird will know it’s nectar, no need to add the chemicals of red dye to their delicate systems.

Nectar basics

Let’s start with the basics: always make your nectar from refined, white sugar –the Hummingbird Society suggests cane sugar. Never use honey, brown sugar or artificial sweeteners. Never, ever use artificial red food dye.

Nectar recipes vary by adding one cup of sugar to three or four cups of boiling water. Whatever your preference, it will be fine for feeding. Just remember: Feeders must be cleaned every 2-3 days in the heat of summer.

Feeder placement in the summer

If the temperature regularly gets to over 75 degrees in your yard during summer, the feeder should be placed in a shaded area. Hummingbird feeders should always be at least four feet from the ground, preferably around hummingbird-friendly plants – red is their favorite colored bloom, but they like yellow, orange, pink and love tubular flowers such as foxgloves and hollyhocks. Keep a water source nearby – hummingbirds love misters and gently-running water.

 Hummingbird feeding

Conventional hummingbird wisdom says to keep multiple nectar feeders at different locations in your yard, to avoid feeder wars with these fiercely territorial little birds. However, some maverick backyard bird watchers take an entirely different approach and group them all together, creating a forced armistice. Photo: Statesman Journal

The Intruders

Every backyard has them: the thieving, mooching birds that you did not intend for your feeders to be violated by. Fortunately, there’s a feeder for every intruder, but in the end, isn’t it great to provide nourishing nectar to all birds? If you’re willing to keep your feeders full of fresh nectar, you’ll have a wonderful show all summer long.  Here’s some feeder hacks for those unwanted guests.

Backyard bird feeder intruder

If you use a clear feeder, don’t dye the nectar red. There are many red feeders like the one above that allow you to keep the nectar clear. Photo: Andy Blackledge, The Spruce

Fighting the Intruders

Birds that like fruit

Birds that like fruit, like the neotropical Orioles – Finches, Sparrows, Woodpeckers, Warblers, Titmouses, Grackles and Mockingbirds will all crash the hummingbird feeder. Keeping fruit out for the neotropicals and a suet cake near the feeder helps – especially with Woodpeckers.

Blue Jays and Orioles

These are the biggest bullies of hummingbird feeders, often scaring the hummingbirds away. These, and other large birds, can tip the feeder over, emptying the nectar. If you like to watch the hummingbirds perch, you’re going to have to put up more feeders in different areas of your yard or use perchless hummingbird feeders.

Bees

Never use feeders with those cute yellow flowers. They attract bees, yellow jackets and wasps. The bees need water – just like everyone else in the heat – keep a water supply near your hummingbird feeders. You can also purchase feeders with bee screens, but they can hamper the hummingbird’s ability to access the nectar.

Ants

Use a nectar feeder with an ant moat. Ants aren’t great in water.

Squirrels

Most backyard bird watchers have surrendered to these creatures, but if they are able to get to your nectar feeders, use a free-standing pole or a squirrel-proof assemblage for multiple feeders to reduce access. Those ornament-style feeders are almost impossible for squirrels to access.