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Hummingbird Feeder Tips

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at a feeder. Photo © Steve Byland.


Homemade Nectar is better and less expensive than store bought. Mix 1 part white sugar with 4 parts hot water—until the sugar dissolves. Don’t boil the solution and DO NOT ADD FOOD COLOR; hummers will still find your feeder. Place the remaining solution in a clean glass jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Locate your feeder in a semi-shaded or shaded place near some flowers.


Feeders need to be cleaned and the nectar replaced every 3 days in hot weather. Black spots inside your feeder indicate mold and it’s important to remove it. If a bottle-brush won’t do the job, add some sand with water and shake the feeder till the mold is removed. NEVER USE DETERGENTS for cleaning your feeder.

Use 2 tablespoons white vinegar to 1 cup of hot water to clean the feeder and base. Let the mixture sit 5 minutes, then shake, rinse thoroughly in hot water, drain and refill! Use this cleaning solution each time you change the nectar and there should be no problem with mold. Fill the feeder HALF FULL ONLY; because hummers won’t be able to drink a full bottle before it needs changing.


Most hummingbirds migrate to North America in the warmer seasons — so feeders should be put up in time for their arrival. Timing will vary greatly depending upon your location. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey they arrive in May. Hang your feeder 5-10 days before their average arrival date so they will see your feeder, take a drink, and possibly stay in your backyard for the season! In Northeast PA, hummers usually arrive when blue flowers first appear on Vinca (a ground cover).


One of the biggest misconceptions about hummingbirds is the belief that if you leave your feeder up, hummers will not migrate. This is absolutely false! In many areas hummingbirds start to migrate even before flowers and insects start to wane. Males generally migrate several weeks ahead of immatures (new hatchlings) and females. Migration coincides with changing length of days. To benefit migrating hummers, leave feeders up at least two weeks after your last resident hummer departs.

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