Birding Activity: Create A Hummingbird Feeding Station

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Hummingbirds get only a small percentage of their daily calories at our feeders, but appreciate knowing they can count on a good meal whenever they need it. A single hummingbird feeder will do, but you’ll be able to satisfy more birds with feeders set in different places in your yard. Hummingbirds are always aggressively territorial, and so spacing small feeders can accommodate more hummers than putting out one large feeder.

Anna's hummingbird perched

What you’ll need:

  • One or more store-bought hummingbird feeders OR do-it-yourself feeders. The most important thing to look for in commercial feeders is how easy they are to clean. You’ll get more birds with two or three inexpensive feeders with just one port than a large feeder with four or five ports, because hummingbirds are so territorial.
  • You can make a hummingbird feeder using a hamster water bottle. Hummers may not notice a homemade feeder without brightly colored decorations—a few hand-painted designs with red nail polish can be ideal.
  • Fresh sugar water or hummingbird nectar. Mix up your own sugar water to contain ¼ cup of sugar per cup of water.
  • Strong store-bought suction cup holders for window feeders, or suitable tree branches, store-bought bird feeder poles, or hooks to attach feeders to underhanging eaves, balconies, window frames, etc.
Male Ruby-throated hummingbird perched on branch

To reduce or even eliminate the possibility of window collisions, locate the feeders directly on the glass (using suction cup holders), or dangling within just a few inches of a window, or set them well away from the nearest window. Feeders that are more than a few inches but less than 20 feet away are most likely to result in window collisions, because they are too far from the glass for hummers to notice it while close enough that the hummers may fly into it.

It may take days or weeks for hummingbirds to notice your feeder, especially if none are nesting right around your yard. If your neighborhood habitat doesn’t include the things nesting hummers need, such as natural nectar-bearing flowers, lots of tiny insects, and spider silk and lichens for nest construction, you may not see any hummers until July when they begin to migrate.

Even if they don’t discover your feeders right away, it’s important to keep the sugar water fresh—change it every three or four days, and more often when temperatures are hot. If your water mixture gets cloudy, the water is badly contaminated already.

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