|A male Allen's hummingbird visits a nectar feeder. Photo by J.J. Meyer|
Wildlife experts at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach explain that hummingbird feeders need to stay squeaky clean or you may be responsible for giving the birds deadly bacterial and fungal infections. The rehabilitation center receives 200 to 400 hummers a year. A significant number of adults and orphaned babies are admitted with infections from dirty feeders.
The center’s printed instructions on how to care for a hummingbird feeder clearly state:
“Please do it right or don’t do it at all.”
The wildlife experts recommend cleaning the feeder and replacing the sugar solution, or nectar, every two to three days. If you see mold or the solution is cloudy, you're waiting way too long to clean the feeder and replace the nectar.
To clean, take the feeder down and rinse it thoroughly in hot water. White vinegar is good for cleaning, but avoid soap. Hummers may reject a feeder with soap residue.
The care center recommends making homemade nectar over purchasing commercial solutions.
Use 1 cup of sugar per 4 cups of water. Too much sugar is hard on the birds’ liver and kidneys, and too little doesn’t provide the calories they need. Never use artificial sweeteners or honey.
To make nectar: measure a little more water than you’ll need. Boil the water for three minutes, then measure the water again because some will have evaporated. Add the sugar and stir. There's no need to boil the sugar and water together. Do not add red dye, which is unnecessary and potentially harmful to the birds. The nectar can then be stored for two weeks in a glass container in the refrigerator.