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Jun 21, 2012 06:42 AM

Hummingbird nectar-sugar&water or store bought?

good morning,
hubby and I were at EmmaJeans in Victorville Ca yesterday having breakfast.
it's a place GF featured on DDD's and hubby & shooting buddies go after shooting targets in the mountains...I've never been.
EmmaJeans use several hummingbird feeders - and the number of hummingbirds that were using the feeders was so fun to watch so on the way home we stopped and bought several.

I asked what they used in the feeders to attract so many birds and they said sugar-water-coloring. hubby bought a box of HD's brand of HB nectar .
I read how to make the sugar syrup which says NO food coloring.

I just want to attract lots of hummingbirds and wonder what you use.
the sugar syrup with/without coloring or store bought.
hubby is ready to hang them all, TIA

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  1. I use a simple syrup - one part sugar, one part water. Micorwave until the sugar dissolves and let cool. I get birds by the dozen.

    DO NOT use red food coloring! It's unnecesary and may harm the birds.

    Be sure to change the syrup every few days. If it gets moldy, it could harm the birds. Thoroughly wash the feeders. I put mine in the top rack of the dishwasher and I hit it with a bleach solution, then rinse thoroughly and dry, if it gets any mold.

    17 Replies
    1. re: shoes

      well although I know we have a lot of hummingbirds, we had one feeder that never attracted a single bird. so = parts water to sugar. well that's easy enough. so no coloring at all of any color?
      should I make sure there is red somewhere around feeder? we noticed that lots of feeders are red somewhere.

      1. re: iL Divo

        Yes, red is almost necessary to attract hummingbirds (at least shy hummingbirds). Any time we try to buy a feeder that doesn't have red (like a copper one we had), it just doesn't get used by the birds. I also plant "butterfly bushes" and other butterfly/hummingbird-attracting plants under our feeders, which seems to work very well.

        1. re: team_cake

          our copper beautiful ones were ignored and got no attention.
          but then some dumb plastic ones with red on them didn't do much better.
          one we love was $28 @ a "do it yourself store" is red clear apothecary jar-see thru so it's red baby RED. they totally ignore that now...BUT...they try to stick their beaks into our life size parrots on the patio. go figure...

          1. re: iL Divo

            Frankly, the most successful hummingbird feeders we use are the El Cheapo ones you can get for $10-$15 at any Lowe's or Home Depot or Wal-Mart, etc. They are clear plastic barrels for the nectar and red and yellow plastic flowers for the feeder part. Not classy by human standards, but the hummingbirds love them. Every now and then we try and buy a hummingbird feeder WE like to look at (like the copper one I mentioned before), and the birds send their disapproval by ignoring it. Then, we get a $12 plastic one like I described, and we have lots of little hummingbird friends. No accounting for taste. ;)

            Also, I make our nectar. A simple syrup on one part sugar to three parts water, no food coloring. We have just as many birds as when we used the pre-made instant nectar and I feel much better about giving them something that doesn't have food coloring in it. Also -- it's much less expensive, and one less thing to remember to pick up at the store.

            Good luck!

            ETA: Sometimes birds like to have a "cover" area nearby a feeder because they are especially vulnerable while pausing to feed. We currently have one hummingbird feeder hanging under a locust tree lower branch and another on one of those iron hook garden stands. The iron hook one is still quite near the overhanging branches of a lilac tree, so although the placement of the feeder is easy for us to see without branches obscuring our view of the li'l guys, it's close enough (I guess) to the lilac branches the birds feel safe using it; I often see hummingbirds scout the feeder for a minute from the lilac branches. I think it's definitely helpful to the feeder on or near a tree or at least close branches from a tree.

            1. re: team_cake

              i found the el cheapo ones very difficult to clean.
              the holes would get stuffed up by mold.

              also, i moved the feeder AWAY from the tree and bought a "shepherd's crook" type of stand when i saw the neighborhood cats sitting in the tree lying in wait for the birds. a

              1. re: westsidegal

                the Shepherds crook is a good idea. I know the little ones are scared when they feed wondering how close an enemy is.

                I've shelved the el cheapo feeders I bought in HD. they leak the mmers don't like them > they just ignore.
                last 3 days in a row, we've gone to HD to buy then
                return a glass globe feeder.
                all 3 leaked>returned and got last one they had yesterday. yeah it doesn't leak but so far the hb's are ignoring it :(

          2. re: team_cake

            the answer to the problem of the copper-colored feeder is to put a couple of pieces of red tape near the feeding holes.

            i use red electrical tape

        2. re: shoes

          Shoes, the standard is one part suga to four parts water. Simple syrup might draw ants and bees, or so I'm told by bird experts, and the Arizonan Sonoran Desert Museum.

          1. re: EWSflash

            = parts must taste fabulous though yes? yummmm

            1. re: EWSflash

              The 1:4 mixture attracts ants and bees, too. In any case, the 1:4 ratio was developed by researchers who approximated the concentration of sugar in natural nectar.

              Yes, it might help to have red and/or tubular flowers nearby. Other attractants are overhanging tree limbs. Feeders out in the open tend not to attract as many birds.

              1. re: Just Visiting

                I might disagree with you about feeders out in the open. I've got one hummingbird feeder that hangs on an "arm" that's attached to the house. The feeder is right on my deck -- on the house side, not the deck railing side. I've got hummers stopping at that feeder about every five minutes all day long.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  I have two feeders, each one sort of nestled into the trees. I have regular traffic from the two pairs of hummingbirds that live in our yard, one set in front and one in back. I was at a friends house where the feeder hangs in the sun outside their kitchen window with not a tree, limb or leaf in sight. There was a hummingbird at each of the four feeding spots virtually the whole time I was there, with others banging into them trying to get their own chance to eat. Changed my mind about out in the open being a bad thing.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Agree--we live on a golf course, so the back is open completely, and the hums fight each other to get to our feeders.

                    1. re: pine time

                      They prefer to perch on dead branches or places where they have a wide view.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        it's fun to go outside and listen to see if they're around. if I don't hear them I call them. you're right, they have several trees they like to perch on. one is a huge silver eucalyptus with thin leaves. I think they choose that one cause they disappear sitting on a lone branch.

                2. re: Just Visiting

                  agree with Cindy,
                  the "out in the open" feeder not only attracted more birds but prevented the squirrels from raiding the feeder and prevented the cats from killing the birds.

              2. re: shoes

                I agree don't waste your money on store mix the HB like home-made better. I end up tossing all the store mix because they always go for the clear home made with no color. However I have found the home-made sugar mix works fine with tap HOT water. They are picky about my feeders and like the cheap single bird style and a smaller 3 serve disc which has a rim to rest on. They all have red rims which they like.

              3. My mom has a couple of hummingbird feeders and a Baltimore oriole feeder. She cooks her own sugar syrup. And attacks a few hummingbird pairs and lots of orioles. No need for expensive mixes from the store. The liquid doesn't need colour as long as the feeder has colour.

                You need to make sure to clean the feeders regularly in really hot water. and keep everything clean when hanging it or you'll attract wasps.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Sooeygun

                  when I put up other one that we owned last year, we noticed ants being attracted to the nectar albeit no birds. also wonder if they won't come anywhere wind chimes exist?

                  1. re: iL Divo

                    You need a water cup that hangs above the feeder. The ants won't cross the water, thus saving the feeder from them. Can be had most places that carry feeders.

                    Also agree, no red dye for them. mix water & sugar in a 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Not needed to cook it. Love our hummers. We had a dozen juveniles buzzing around our feeder last summer constantly, they were so cute. This year so far we have 1/2 a dozen, but I doubt they are this years crop of babies. We have never seen Ruby Throated Hummers sharing the feeders til last year, and sometimes all port had babies feeding at the same time. We're in De, halfway down the MD border.

                    1. re: Nanzi

                      yea Nanz, we're in southern California and it's probably too hot for those type of HB's :(

                    2. re: iL Divo

                      I have several wind chimes on my front deck where two of my feeders are and they don't deter the hummers. You could try brightly colored hanging flower baskets to attract them to where your feeders are.

                      1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                        Beefeater+Rocks, used to love that drink :)))
                        We have a few more than several ;:+/ .
                        My husband and I buy all the chimes we see and love so there are a lot. Ok it's made using water&sugar (and bought stuff in other half) all feeders hung. NOW WHERE ARE THE LITTLE BIRDS?
                        Now I need to get hanging brightly colored flower pots? sheesh, they're demanding little guys huh? :)))

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          It may take a few days for them to find you, depending on how much natural flora competition is in your area, but when they find you they spread the word like little winged Paul Reveres.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            " but when they find you they spread the word like little winged Paul Reveres"

                            hahahahaha, where are you veggo, in Philadelphia, Boston or Lexington......hahaha

                            ok so not to worry if we're underwhelmed with lack of HB's for a short bit...thanks veggo

                        2. re: BeefeaterRocks

                          We have wind chimes near one of our feeders, too, and it doesn't appear to deter hummingbirds, either.

                    3. Sugar and water, one part sugar to 4 parts water, according to the Audubon Society. And here is an interesting link for next spring--a map that tracks the northward migration:

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: sparrowgrass

                        I used 4-1 water to sugar also, when I had my mountain house in Colorado. I learned quickly to bring the feeder in at night because the bears would whack them like pinatas and lick up the sweet liquid.
                        il Divo, you will enjoy watching the social order of the hummers, and which ones won't let another feed along side it. Then at the end of the day, they all make peace and bulk up for the cool night ahead. I used to get 8 of them at a feeder with only 6 ports. They all had names; Ralph was the alpha male.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          veggo: I LOVE YOUR STORY...
                          there are a boatload of varieties of birds where we are and we do see HB's so I know they're here. we have a few water fountains in the yards as well and I've seen the HB's dart for the huge wall hanging one on front porch to simply stick their beak in the formed calla Lilly part just for a drink, I even took a pix which of course now I can't find :(

                        2. re: sparrowgrass

                          thanks for measurements that are more to my liking. sugar at times can be pricy even in WalMarchay. so a cup of sugar to 4 cups water, good deal. we'd asked the waitress first about ingredients and tgen asked the manager or owner for his list and he said they use "flavoring" in their mix too, I thought "wut?" I didn't ask bcz my meal was mediocre and I was just ready to leave.

                          1. re: sparrowgrass

                            hey, sparrowgrass, any research on when to put out the feeders? the map at your source (thanks!) says i should have hung mine 2-3 wks ago. think it's okay to put them out now (May 7 or 8), or have i missed them for the season?

                            1. re: martinlou

                              I put mine out last weekend and had visitors less than an hour after they were out. I don't know where you're located, martinlou, but I expect to be seeing hummers regularly until they leave the area in the fall.

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                thanks cindy j! they went out this morning - p.s. i bought a set of six beautiful round hand painted glass feeders that i've been dying to set out. can't wait to see if i get any visitors! i'll let you know.

                          2. To begin attracting hums, try a sweeter solution: 3:1 water to sugar ratio. Once they're used to your feeders, you can go to 4:1. No coloring. Some people prefer to boil the syrup, saying it keeps longer, but I just use 1 cup of hot water to dissolve the sugar better, than add the remainder of water. Happy Humming!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: pine time

                              better walk into the kitchen. think I'll wash (well) the new feeders and make the solution but I'm gonna do half (so 4) of the feeders with recipe found here by you kind folks and the other half will get the $5.99 HD box of premixed that by the way is RED. \*+*/

                            2. 4:1 water:sugar, no coloring, the hummers seem to like it fine.