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Bird-Feeding 101 – Book Giveaway!

When you make up a batch of sugar-water solution to put in a nectar feeder, you can make it with boiling water or hot tap water, or just use running water as long as you make sure the sugar is completely dissolved before you pour the nectar into the feeder. Some people feel that boiling the water keeps the nectar solution from spoiling as quickly, while others disagree and say that it really doesn’t matter. During migration, there are people that feed hundreds of hummingbirds on a daily basis; they don’t boil the water for their nectar solution, because they don’t have time given the volume of nectar they’re serving each day. Others who feed hummingbirds are rigorous about the nectar-making process: boiling the water, stirring in the sugar, the cooling the solution in the refrigerator for hours before putting it in a feeder. As with most types of bird feeding, the key is to develop a system that suits your level of interest and ability to maintain it, while offering the birds appropriate foods in adequately clean conditions.

If making homemade hummingbird nectar is not your cup of tea, there are numerous commercial products sold either as ready-to-serve liquids or in powder forms that you mix with water and put in a hummingbird feeder. Many of these products contain red dye, because it’s well known that hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. But the use of red coloring in nectar solutions is an ongoing source of controversy — some hummingbird experts feel it may be harmful to the birds, and many believe it is at least unnecessary. While it’s true that hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, they’re also attracted to all the colors in the high end of the color spectrum.

Many of these prepared nectar products also advertise that they contain vitamins and minerals for the hummingbirds’ benefit, but that’s a subject on which experts actually agree: Such additives are unnecessary and a waste of money. Hummingbirds get all the nutrition they need from the natural foods they eat. Plus, by the time a ruby-throated, Anna’s, rufous, black-chinned, or other species of hummingbird is lapping up the artificial nectar solution in your feeder, most added vitamins and minerals are long gone.

Excerpted from Secrets of  Backyard Bird-Feeding Success by Deboarah L. Martin. Published by Rodale.

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253 comments

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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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