Spring is in full bloom in Dallas. Flowers add bright color to your garden and invite visitors to your landscape. This time of year, pollinators like bees and butterflies fly from flower to flower gathering pollen. Some flowers also provide nectar, an immediate food source for pollinators. Another pollinator that eats nectar is a hummingbird. We may not think about birds as being pollinators, but they are. Hummingbirds use their slender beaks to sip nectar from tubular-shaped flowers and in the process of feeding, they transfer pollen from flower to flower.
If you want to attract these fantastic flyers to your garden now, you can add a specialized feeder. Hummingbird feeders are easy to find online, in garden centers, or grocery and home improvement stores. Feeders will be glass or plastic. Select a feeder that is not too large and will come apart for easy cleaning. Look for a bottle opening that is wide enough to get a brush through for thorough cleaning.
Location, location, location
Hang the feeder on a shepherd’s hook near a window so you can see them up close or under a tree so they can perch and rest. Another benefit to placing the feeder near a window is that you can see the nectar level and it’s easy to reach when it’s time to clean it.
What’s on the menu?
Hummingbirds expend an enormous amount of energy because they beat their wings an average of 53 times every second in normal flight. You can give them the energy they need in the form of plain, white sugar and water.
It’s easy to make hummingbird sugar water for your feeder:
Add ¼ cup of sugar to one cup of boiling water and stir to dissolve. Let the water cool to room temperature. When you first put out the feeder, use no more than half of the liquid. Store the rest in a closed container in the fridge and the nectar can keep in the fridge for a week. If you have a lot of birds visiting your feeder, you may use more nectar each time you fill the feeder.
Cleaning the dishes
Unfortunately, a hummingbird will not wash the dishes even though you fixed its meal. But, it is VERY important to clean your feeder every 3-4 days. The Texas heat along with the sugar is a great environment for growing mold and it can also sour the mixture. Mold can be deadly to our feathered friends. Take your feeder apart and wash it with hot water and a brush. Some people make a heavily diluted bleach solution to kill large amounts of mold. Make sure you rinse the feeder very, very well with hot water. Label the cleaning brush and use it only for cleaning the feeder.
It may seem like a lot of work for a little bird, but you will experience so much joy watching these charming and sassy birds buzz around your yard. They have a distinctive chip you will come to recognize, and you will be amazed by their aerial acrobatics. A hummingbird will often claim your feeder and chase off other birds in a frenzy flight. You will be rewarded each year because the birds will come back and visit your feeder during their migrations. Who doesn’t like a visit from an old friend?
Other tips and resources:
- Always use boiling water to make the nectar to kill any bacteria.
- You can make sugar water in any amount if you use 4 parts of water to one-part of sugar. For example, 1 cup of water takes ¼ cup of sugar. And, 2 cups of water takes ½ cup of sugar.
- To quickly cool the sugar water, put it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
- Let cold sugar water warm up a little before adding it to the feeder so it’s more palatable.
- Soap can leave an unhealthy residue in a feeder. Stick to hot water and a brush.
- A toothbrush is a perfect tool to clean your feeder.
- Read this blog from Texas Parks & Wildlife to learn more about these marvelous birds’ coloring, behavior and migration.
- Check out this archived Green Dallas blog about hummingbirds that includes links to flowers you can add to your landscape to attract these fantastic flyers.