Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Beautiful Hummingbirds

The hummingbirds diet requires nectar as a source of energy and for their protein source small insects. Hummingbirds love artificial nectar from man-made humming bird feeders. Such feeders provide the hummingbirds with a good supply of nectar, and at the same time allow people to observe and enjoy hummingbirds up-close. Homemade nectar can be made from 1 part white, granulated table sugar to 4 parts water, boiled to make it easier to dissolve the sugar and to purify the solution so that it will stay fresh longer. The cooled nectar is then carefully placed into the hummingbird feeder. You should avoid using diet sweeteners because, though the hummingbirds will drink it, they will not get the calories they need to sustain their metabolism.

While it is true that bright colors attract hummingbirds, it is better to use a feeder that has some red on it, rather than coloring the water. It is possible that red dye is harmful to hummingbirds. Some commercial humming bird nectars contain a red dye that’s not needed. Hummingbirds get all the nutrients they need from the insects they eat, not from nectar, so adding nutrients to the nectar is not necessary. Just plain sugar and water is all that is needed.

Prepared nectar can be placed into a refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks before being used, but once placed outdoors it will only remain fresh for 2-4 days in hot weather before becoming cloudy or developing mold. Rinse the feeder thorouhly with warm water when changing the nectar to remove any contamination or build-up of sugar. If dish soap is used, it needs extra rinsing so that no residue is left behind.

Other animals are also attracted to humming bird feeders. It is best to get a feeder that has very narrow ports, or ports with a mesh, to prevent wasps and bees from getting inside where they get trapped. Woodpeckers, banaquits, and other animals are known to drink from hummingbird feeders, sometimes tipping them and draining the liquid. If this becomes a problem, it is possible to buy feeders which are designed to support their extra weight and which hummingbirds will also be able to use too. If ants find your hummingbird feeder, one solution is to install an "ant moat", which is available at specialty garden stores and online.