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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