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Bird-Feeding 101 – Book Giveaway!

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Bird-Feeding 101 – Book Giveaway!


We are giving away a copy of Secrets of  Backyard Bird-Feeding Success by Deboarah L. Martin! Read this excerpt and leave a comment for your chance to win the book!

Nectar for Hummingbirds and Others

Like the other birds we enjoy at our feeders, hummingbirds do not rely upon the food we provide for their survival. Nectar feeders attract hummingbirds to our yards so that we can see the tiny birds up close and admire their dazzling colors and their physics-defying flight, but the feeders are for our benefit — not the hummingbirds’. They have gotten along without man-made nectar for countless centuries and would be fine even if no feeders were ever put out for them again. Hummingbirds use nectar feeders because they’re available and full of free food. If you truly want to make a difference for the hummingbirds that live in your area, create an inviting backyard habitat for them that includes trees and shrubs to offer shelter and nesting sites, as well as flowering plants to provide nectar and attract the tiny arthopods — insects and spiders — that make up most of a hummingbird’s diet.

On the Hummingbird Menu

Hummingbirds instinctively know where and how to get the nutrition they need, and it comes from far more than just nectar. They also eat tiny arthopods, such as spiders, fruit flies, midges, and countless others so small they’re referred to as “no-see-ums.” Some biologists and others who have studied hummingbirds extensively think of them as little flycatchers, because they consume so much protein from the insects they eat along with the carbohydrates they get from nectar. Hummers will explore every flower they find, but they quickly learn and remember which ones produce the most nectar or have the largest supply of insects. People unfamiliar with what and how hummingbirds eat often mistakenly think the tiny birds are getting nectar from some flowers just because they’re red, when in fact they’re poking their bills into the blossoms because there are lots of insects in them. If you observe hummingbirds a lot, you’ll see that they fly back to the perches just like flycatchers do.

Hummingbirds’ bodies, like human bodies, are designed to process and digest the foods they eat in a certain way. In the wild, the birds naturally choose flowers that produce nectar that is 20 to 30 percent sugar. To mimic that, the sugar-water solution you serve in your feeders should be 1 part sugar to 4 parts water: for example, 1/4 cup sugar in 1 cup of water.

Use only white sugar, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that if 1:4 is good, than 1:3 is better — because it’s not. Don’t make your sugar-water solution any stronger than 1:4, and don’t use sweeteners other than white sugar. Never use honey, brown sugar, molasses, powdered sugar, or any sugar substitute. You may meet people who tell you they’ve substituted another sweetener for sugar in their nectar solutions without any ill effects on the hummingbirds at their feeders. But the truth is that there’s little way of knowing what happens to birds once they leave our feeders. In exchange for the pleasure we can get from watching birds, the least we can do is offer foods that are appropriate and unlikely to cause any harm.

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10:34AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

We have a big drought in Costa Rica and humming birds are dying now. Not much is available here. What in my home can I use to help them.

8:31AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

I hang my hummingbird feeders next to my red hibiscus. They love the red flowers on the bush and just gravitate to the feeder for a drink.

7:18AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Erin, one thing that works to attract the first hummers to your feeder is to plant one of their favorite flowers near the feeder. For me, Pineapple Sage worked like a charm--its bright red flowers drew them like magnets and they found the feeder soon after. But just about any salvia or other tubular-shaped flower will work. And it can be planted in a container/pot too, if you don't have a convenient bit of ground nearby.

6:49AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Humming birds are my favorite birds. I am always in awe when I am blessed enough to see one.

4:53AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

i have been feeding the birds for a long time , Water is the best attraction that is for sure . After trying for many years i now have ruby throat Hummers! Its a miracle for me im in Saugus Mass

3:10AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

I tried a hummingbird feeder and never got any takers:(

10:22AM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Love the Hummingbirds that visit my garden during the summer. Seems I even have some trying to nest in my maple tree on the north side of the house. So sweet seeing them hovering over my Rose of Sharon bushes as they gather nectar.

12:21PM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

They are the most amazing birds thx for sharing

11:07AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

This appears to be a most informative and valuable book.

7:21AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

Good article. I really enjoy watching birds, especially Hummingbirds. Such busy creatures! We plant Canna Lilies by our deck every year and love to sit and watch the Hummingbirds flit from flower to flower. They are true wonders of nature. I would love to win this book and find out new ways to attract and feed the birds that come and go from our yard.

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