Friday, August 8, 2014


I totally love hummingbirds.  I probably have 60 Ruby-throated hummingbirds here this summer, and the scary thing is – each female will have two 'litters' of two babies each, and these will grow to adulthood very quickly, take off for parts south (Mexico, South America) and come back NEXT summer to my ‘doorstep’ along with their parents and grandparents.

If a hummingbird survives its first year, it can live for 10 years.  Amazing tiny little creatures.

If you want these little birds to be part of your life, you have to work for it and be dedicated.  Don’t start feeding them unless you are ready to KEEP feeding them.  This post is about my experience with them. 

I’m serious about the dedication required to keep these birds happy and healthy.  Right now, after the first ‘birthing’ of the summer, I’m making 3 gallons of ‘nectar’ every two days.  That’s about a 4 pound bag of sugar every 2-3 days.  (I’ve also used a ton of sugar making pickles this summer, so I won’t be surprised if ATF knocks on the door looking for my whiskey still!)

Firstly, you have to know when they are coming… this is the site I check to see when the Ruby-throats are moving north:

This will give you an idea of when to start looking for their arrival.  Time to assemble your gear!

Feeders:  I recommend the quart feeders made by FIRST NATURE.  In North Carolina, they are sold at Walmart and Lowe’s.  Think positively and get at least TWO 10-seaters. (I have 6)

You will also need a brush like the one pictured above (Walmart).  The bristles are very soft and work great for a soapy scrubbing of your feeders and nectar bottles.  Save that brush and only use it for cleaning the feeders.  I also recommend you start drinking Simply Orange or Minute Maid OJ in the 59 ounce plastic bottle.  The bottles are very sturdy and fit in the refrigerator.  And one full bottle will ALMOST fill a 32 ounce feeder twice. (See the picture above)

For one feeding location you’ll need three of these 'nectar' bottles if all goes well.  You will also need a large funnel, a medicine dropper (local pharmacy), red food coloring, and a bottle of PURE ORANGE EXTRACT. (The red food coloring isn’t totally necessary but it lets YOU see when the feeder is almost empty; the orange extract is the ‘secret’ ingredient, and both of these are available in the spice section of any grocery store).

The ‘nectar’ for a 59 ounce jug consists of:

1 cup            sugar
1 drop       red food coloring
5-6 drops    pure orange extract (my secret ingredient)

Add ingredients to the jug and fill the jug 2/3s full with VERY HOT tap water, add the lid, and swirl until all the sugar is dissolved.  Top off with cold water and REFRIGERATE!  Below is my supply I just made.... it will last me almost TWO DAYS! When the 'crowd' is all here, I make 8 bottles which requires almost a full 4 lb. bag of sugar.

Before ^
(Notice my sugar jar is nearly empty!   I've created a monster!)

Choose a location for the feeder that is preferably NOT where it will get full morning or afternoon sun.  The nectar in the feeder can get really hot from the ‘greenhouse’ effect of direct sun.  If you can find such a location that also happens to be outside a window – that is PERFECT.

When the birds start approaching your area (map) begin by putting out a feeder about 1/3 full of nectar…. And keep your eye on it for birds.  At first, you may only get a few that are in transit, heading north to familiar territory, but some will stay if they like you.  Early in the spring, the feeder needs to be emptied after no more than 3 days, because the nectar will become rancid.  EVERY TIME YOU EMPTY THE FEEDER, CLEAN IT THOROUGHLY WITH WARM SOAPY WATER, BEING VERY CAREFUL TO SCRUB THE INSIDE OF THE CONTAINER WITH THE BRUSH.  Also, use the brush to scrub both pieces of the ‘perch’.  Run your fingers over the inside of the perch and inside the neck of the container – IT SHOULD NOT FEEL SLICK OR SLIMY.  This is why I suggest three feeders – one in use and a couple clean in waiting.

When you start seeing hummers, increase the volume of nectar in the feeder.  When you carry a fresh feeder out, soon the birds will be buzzing around your head.  Stand beside the feeder and let them get used to you and soon they will even sit on your fingers and eat!

As summer gets warmer and your hummer population increases, try putting out a COLD refill (another reason it needs to be refrigerated) around 4-5 in the afternoon.  It’s so adorable to watch them drink the cold nectar – sometimes they will fluff out their feathers and shiver – but they LOVE a ‘cold one’ and soon they will rush to the feeder for a cool drink late in the day.  I call that time of day Happy Hour. (You can see the condensate on the outside of this cold feeder.)

A cold one....

The MAIN thing with hummingbirds is…. once you start feeding them, you really have to KEEP doing it.  I’ve found if I go away for a day or two, I have to get a neighbor to change my feeders for me!  It’s worse than having a dog that needs to be walked!

In the past, I’ve had one feeding station on the west side of the house, but like an idiot, one summer I added two more – this time on the east side.  I’m up to 50-60 hummingbirds, and they have had their first round of babies. 

After a few weeks - start looking for the new generation of babies.  You'll recognize the newly raised young by their downy feathers still showing, and their speckled throats.... look around your house - a hummingbird nest is about the size of a golf ball with the top sliced off.  There will be two babies from each pair of parents TWICE EACH SUMMER.... so your visitors will multiply rapidly!

A quarter on a nest.....

Remember – keep the nectar refrigerated – it will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge.  And you absolutely MUST clean the feeders with warm soapy water to have healthy, happy birds.

And one last thing….. if you care for these little birds, they will return to your feeders NEXT spring, and every spring thereafter.  When you think how far these little things fly every spring and fall….. it’s truly a miracle.  Enjoy!

Here are some fun pictures of my annual visitors... and this is at just ONE feeder!



  1. Thank-you for sharing

  2. Enjoyed reading this about hummingbirds thank you for sharing

  3. I really enjoyed reading this thank you so much for sharing this about hummingbird

  4. Great info. I have plants they love which provide for them. I don't get as many, but today they "helicoptered" in the water from the yard sprinkler. So beautiful and entertaining.

  5. Great info. I have plants they love which provide for them. I don't get as many, but today they "helicoptered" in the water from the yard sprinkler. So beautiful and entertaining.