We’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of our hummingbirds, the most precious, tiniest of our migratory birds. And chances are you are too.
As you begin putting out your nectar feeders in anticipation of their arrival, here are a few things to consider to keep our hummingbirds safe.
1. Use the Right Ingredients
Don’t use unprocessed sugars, raw sugars, powdered sugar, honey, or corn syrup to substitute for granulated sugar when making hummingbird food. They can be harmful to hummingbirds.
Although some of the hummingbird nectar sold in stores is red, don’t use red dye to make hummingbird food. The red coloring won’t help attract the birds to your feeder. In fact, the red dye can be harmful to hummingbirds.
Most hummingbird feeders are already red, so dyeing the nectar is unnecessary.
Now that you know what it takes to attract hummingbirds to your yard, you want to keep them safe during their visit.
How to Make Hummingbird Nectar
The secret to attracting hummingbirds to your backyard requires two simple ingredients: water and granulated sugar or table sugar. When these two ingredients combine to create hummingbird nectar, magic happens.
Grab some tap water and granulated sugar or table sugar.
To create hummingbird nectar, use a mixture ratio of four parts water to one part sugar (four cups of water to one cup of sugar).
Mix the sugar and water until the sugar has completely dissolved. Shake, shake, and shake the mixture some more. Now you’ve made hummingbird nectar.
Transfer the mixture to a bottle to quickly pour into your hummingbird feeder.
We like to create a large batch of nectar solution, pour it into a large water bottle, and store it in the fridge so we can refresh the hummingbird feeder frequently.
2. Position Hummingbird Feeders to Avoid Predators
All creatures in the wild are vulnerable to predators, even agile tiny hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds can fly as fast as 30 mph in direct flight and more than 45 mph during courtship dives. The Anna’sHummingbird has been clocked at 61 mph.
Even as tiny and fast as these birds are, please use caution when positioning their feeders. Cats see them as delightful toys to catch in mid-air.
Place hummingbird feeders near a tree or bush and offer shelter within 15 feet of the feeder so it has a short flight to cover if it senses danger. But not near where Praying Mantises lurk in your yard—more detail below.
We insert long sticks and small tree branches on the top of the feeder pole, so the hummingbirds have a place to perch and look around before coming to the feeder. Often, our Ruby-throated Hummingbirds perch above the nectar feeder, fly down when they feel comfortable, and fly back up before feeding a second and third time.
Let’s talk about hummingbird predators, and what you can do to keep your hummingbirds safe.
Keep Feral Cats and Pets Away
Cats are the most common predator of backyard birds, and a hummingbird’s agile movements and fast reflexes make it natural to attract a cat. Once a hummingbird catches their attention, they’ll wait in bushes and trees or hang around feeders waiting for the chance to pounce.
Steps to Cat-proof Your Feeders
Take these steps to protect your backyard hummingbird sanctuary.
-Try placing your feeders at least eight feet above the ground, where a cat will have difficulty reaching it.
-Be cautious where you are housing your feeder. Keep it far away from tree limbs, fences, stone walls, or high brush where a cat can hide.
-Keep your cat indoors and let them birdwatch out the window or inside a catio.
Keep Bees and Wasps Away
Bees and wasps hang around hummingbird feeders, searching for water during the hot summer.
We see large bumblebees bullying our hummingbirds daily, so we use nectar guard tips so the bees can’t drink the water. And we reduce the hummingbird sugar-to-water ratio to thwart bees and ants.
Coexisting with nature is essential, so we do not recommend putting up disposable yellow jacket traps. Instead, if nothing else works, consider adding a bee watering station in your backyard.
Hummingbirds tolerate the disturbance from the bees for some time, but eventually, the birds will take up residence elsewhere.
Beware of Praying Mantis
The Praying Mantis is a little green killing machine on the top 10 list of hummingbird dangers.
A Praying Mantis is 3.5 to 4 inches long and can kill prey three times its size, like a hummingbird. And relies on patience and waits hours before attacking and capturing its victim.
Then it holds the hummingbird in a death grip with its jagged, notched forelegs and sharp, razor-like mandibles. This process can take all day as the Praying Mantis hangs on, never letting go until it devours the bird.
And remember that Praying Mantises benefit ecosystems as part of nature’s pest control by consuming harmful insects in your gardens. But discourage them from being around your hummingbird feeder.
So keep your hummingbird feeder away from the garden and bushes where you might see Praying Mantis.
3. Keep Hummingbird Feeders Clean
Choose hummingbird feeders with a wide mouth to quickly dismantle and thoroughly clean them. Feeders require frequent cleaning, especially during hot spells.
Never use soap. Instead, soak the feeder in warm water or vinegar for a few hours. Soap can leave a residue that changes the flavor of the nectar.
After soaking the hummingbird feeder, use a long bottle brush to remove excess mold from the feeder and thoroughly rinse it before refilling.
As the temps heat up and reach 90 degrees, cleaning the feeder and changing the nectar every other day is essential.
4. Use an Ant Moat
Nectar attracts hummingbirds and ants, and these pesky insects persist in climbing hooks, chains, and poles to reach a nectar feeder. But they can’t cross a water barrier.
Not only do ants steal the nectar, but they also contaminate it, discouraging hummingbirds from using the feeder.
Don’t use chemical products that can sicken the birds. Instead, hang an ant moat above your feeder and fill it with plain water.
If you live in a hot, dry climate, check the water in the ant moat because it may evaporate too quickly.
You’ll find birds, like finches, Black-capped Chickadees, and the Tufted Titmouse may quench their thirst from the moat.
5. Use Window Decals
Hummingbirds have quick reflexes and a keen spatial awareness to avoid collisions. Still, sometimes these birds fly into windows, cars, fences, and trees.
You can’t control the objects a hummingbird encounters, but you can prevent the tragic outcome of window strikes.
Keep your hummingbirds safe and apply specially-designed stickers to your windows so the hummingbirds don’t see the glass as open space. These decals also prevent window collisions with songbirds at your feeders.
6. Ditch the Pesticides
Google hummingbirds, and you’ll find these birds are on the decline.
The likely causes are habitat loss, climate change, and fragmentation of breeding grounds. But new research shows that neonicotinoid (neonics) insecticides contribute to the decline of the hummingbird.
Neonics in Garden Plants
Commercial agriculture uses neonics in plants sold to consumers for home garden use, and once these insecticides get in water and soil, they last for months to even years.
The insecticide travels from the roots to the leaves, pollen, and nectar. Hummingbirds remember where their nectar flowering plants reside and return to the exact locations for food.
Researchers are concerned that neonicotinoids will disrupt the bird’s memory, making navigating and finding food difficult. You can make a difference by using organic or non-toxic remedies such as Neem oil for curing or protecting plants from insect infiltrations or diseases.
If you’re using organic or non-toxic products, do it at night so it has time to dry when the hummingbirds sleep to protect them.
7. Be Alert in Extreme Weather
When temperatures reach above 100 F, hummingbirds create incredibly harsh living conditions. Severe heat and drought cause dehydration and are deadly for these birds. During the hot summer months, without shade, water or food can spell disaster.
So keep feeders in the shade to reduce bacterial growth from fermented spoiled nectar. Provide bushes and trees in your backyard as a sanctuary for hummingbirds to rest and provide shade from the heat.
We place broken branches near our feeder so the hummingbirds can perch and rest as they go back and forth.
8. Don’t Forget to Add Water
Every bird enjoys having a water feature or birdbath in the summer heat. Who doesn’t want to dip in the pool when it’s hot outside?
Now that you know the dangers facing these unique, tiny, delicate birds, you can help keep your backyard hummingbirds safe and continue enjoying the beauty and wonderment of these glittering jewels.
Hummingbirds are an incredible backyard experience. Still, it’s also vital to protect these tiny birds from danger. With the proper care and attention, you’ll be attracting hummingbirds to your backyard, and they’ll provide you and your family with hours of birdwatching fun.
Happy Hummingbird watching!