Providing hummingbird feeders

Hummingbird nectar ©Janet AllenHummingbird feeder

In the early spring and again late in the fall, I put out a hummingbird feeder.

And for hummingbirds' health, it's important to thoroughly clean hummingbird feeders every few days—which is why we provide lots of natural sources of nectar instead of nectar feeders in the summer.

Plants are so much easier, and I suspect that their nectar provides nutrients missing from simple sugar water.

Measuring sugar and water ©Janet AllenMeasuring sugar and water

I generally make nectar with table sugar and water.

If I'm using a lot, I find that ½ cup sugar and 2 cups water makes about the right amount—it's enough to change a few times, so it's used up before it gets moldy in the refrigerator, but often I halve that amount.

Any amount will work as long as it's in the proportion of four parts water to one part sugar.

Artificial nectar  ©Janet Allen
This artificial nectar is supposed to have more of the nutrients needed

CAUTION: We never would give honey to hummingbirds (or to human infants for that matter)!

And, obviously, we don't use artificial sweetener since there's no food value.

We don't use red food coloring either since it would just introduce unnecessary chemicals. Our feeder, like most hummingbird feeders, is itself made of red plastic, which is enough red to attract the hummers.

Bringing sugar water to a boil ©Janet AllenBringing sugar water to a boil

I combine the sugar and water, bring it to a boil, and boil it for one minute. After it's cool, I can fill the feeder.

The extra nectar keeps in the refrigerator up to a week.

Hummingbird in November ©Janet AllenThe hummingbird that stayed into November

I last spotted this hummer on November 5 a few years ago. Although it was thrilling to see, it was rather sad since it seems unlikely that it made it to its winter home in Central America.

For those hummers who do make it, though, we purchase shade-grown coffee so that their winter home will still be there when they arrive!

These flowers are 'Lady in Red' salvia, a cultivar of a native salvia (Salvia coccinea). It's actually native to the southwest, not the northeast, so it's not truly native, but it doesn't seem to present a problem since it doesn't overwinter. But it isn't one of those hybrid creations they generally sell as bedding plants ,and so it has the nectar resources of a native plant.

It was still blooming in late October since we hadn't yet had a killing frost, even though we had an early snow.