Warning: Hummingbird Feeder Hazard and How to avoid it

posted in: Garden Discussion, Research | 0

hummingbird feeder hazardHow is it that a feeder with a few specks of black or a content going stringy or worse, slimy can cause premature death to tiny hummingbirds? Helpful tips to continue to provide for safe ongoing enjoyment of hummingbirds year after year. Here’s how, why and frequency to tend to hummingbird feeders easily while avoiding hummingbird feeder hazard.

A hummingbird feeder left uncleaned can be fatal to these tiny birds. Tiny little birds feeding on spoiled nectar can cause fatal fungus infection. Mold, bacteria and dead insects can cause contamination in the feeder, resulting in sick birds. A hummingbird feeder doesn’t have to appear grimy with black build up to be an only hazard, although I see this more and more.
Within four days to a week, largely dependent on weather temperatures, hummingbird sugar water can ferment, turning the sugar water into a rancid solution that can be fatal. Hummingbirds instinctively avoid feeders with sugar water gone bad. Unbenounced to their fate, there are however, some that will continue to feed off the spoiled hummingbird water.

Why it’s important to tend to hummingbird feeders regularly is to avoid the birds coming in contact with contaminated food, on behalf of our own negligence, rather even ignorance. The tiny specks of black is a fungus build up is highly detrimental to these tiny birds. Additionally, spoiled hummingbird water can go unnoticed long after it’s too late, unless you get up close and peer, maybe jiggle the feeder a touch to get a better view of the strings or specks of off white to clear, jelly-like content, even cloudy content. The water is bad. The feeder must come down, the sugar water must be renewed.

Dead insects, mold, fungus and fermented nectar are dangerous for hummingbirds but microorganisms transferred to the nectar from the beak of these birds in another consideration and reason to keep your feeders cleaned on a regular basis.

Apparently, my research shows that fermented nectar can cause liver damage in these tiny birds. Fungus infection, that can be picked up from dirty hummingbird feeders can be passed onto the young hummingbirds as well. The fungus that can affect hummingbirds feeding from a contaminated feeder can cause their tongue to swell which in turn makes it impossible for the birds to continue to feed.

Hummingbird feeder should be emptied and cleaned every 1 to 3 days in hot weather and every 4 to 6 days in cooler weather, without fail. Anything less is a killing with kindness recipe for disaster.
Before you decide to set out hummingbird feeders, these are things you must know.
First and foremost is a commitment to these birds from here on in. They will continue to visit the same feeder, year after year so keep it clean, hazard free and full of luscious content the hummers simply can not resist for your own ongoing enjoyment. The hummingbirds will become dependent on the feeder so is why once you start to provide for hummingbirds, you must continue. Our feeders are up year round. Yes, we have hummingbirds visit our feeders during the winter months as well. Rufus hummingbirds to be more specific.
There’s always a big bag of sugar on hand for their demand.

Do you have a secondary feeder you can switch out with the original, while it is being cleaned? Not a bad idea. I do but don’t bother with that process anymore. Instead, I make my sugar water at night before turning in. In the morning, since this house is always up before dawn, the sugar water has now cooled, the feeder is cleaned and replenish before the birds come for more.

Commitment to weekly cleaning and replenishing the hummingbird feeder is first and foremost but also the ability to continue to supply the birds with sugar water, week after week.

If the feeder shows any specks of black, the feeder must be thoroughly cleaned to avoid the fungus to continue to grow on the feeder that the hummingbirds will visit, as said earlier, this fungus can be fatal for hummingbirds.

How you clean your feeders matter. Thoroughly cleaning hummingbird feeders can be daunting but doesn’t have to be. Over the years I have come up with a routine that works perfect and takes only a few minutes.
Here’s how I clean my hummingbird feeder easily.

If you have more than one feeder up in different locations, I suggest to put them out in succession if to thoroughly clean several feeders at a time can result in feeders that still have any black spots remaining on the flowers, the distribution cup or worse, inside the hopper itself. Allowing yourself time to clean the feeders well is one of the two most important tasks of providing hummingbird feeders for the birds. Second is the content of the sugar water.
Never use the dye in the hummingbird water. There are products available that require the provider to simply add water for a result of red hummingbird water but for the birds sake, don’t buy into it. Never use the colored sugar conveniently boxed up and found on some store shelves. The hummer’s don’t need the additions of dye in their water.
The content of the feeder doesn’t need colored water to attract these birds. The flowers on the feeder are enough.

Some are not aware that hummingbirds are susceptible to diabetes as well. How to measure sugar to water ratio for a hummingbird feeder is simply 1:4. How much syrup you make depends on how many feeders you have to fill.

I use one feeder here. I measure 1/4 cup of white granulated sugar to 1 cup of water. Stir, bring to a boil and take off the heat to cool.
Note that boiling the water, rather than simply adding hot tap water is because boiling the water will help slow fermentation of the nectar. Additionally, hot tap water is not potable and should not be used for drinking by use humans so what does that do for these birds?

Well, I’ve done my research, so here’s the skinny on that. Turns out hot tap water is fine. The best information, to sum it up, all in one place for your convenience is Here View for more thorough information. (Scroll down to “Boiling Water” paragraph). Thank you to http://www.hummingbirdmarket.com/hummingbird_tips_faq.html for that great post!

Always use pure white cane sugar. Avoid the idea of using honey as honey can cause a fungus that grows in the mouth of hummingbirds.

I’ve read where some suggest to just boil up and store left over sugar water in an air-tight container in the fridge, for up to two weeks! Done that. The water can still spoil in the fridge so why not figure out how much sugar water you need and make only that much. Only put out what the

hummingbirds will consume in three days.
If you must store nectar in the fridge, keep an eye on it. I completely avoid that, making fresh nectar each time.
1 cup of water doesn’t fill my extra large feeder to the top but is enough to get the birds through until next week so that is how I do it. Made fresh every time. Dispersed into a sparkling clean feeder.

Right now this works. Once high summer commences the feeder may need refilling closer to twice a week.

When deciding to put up feeders, consider the influx of required cleaning and replenishing during the high season which will occur if there are birds visiting your hummingbird feeders. The numbers will increase as will feeding. This means cleaning and replenishing more often for several months of the year.

Just leaving the feeders to say when you get to it is often a matter of ignorance. People think Hey, I’ll put up a hummingbird feeder but don’t realize what this all entails.
It is because of the fungus, bacteria and fermenting that is a real issue for the health of these birds that people really need to be educated about before making the decision to provide for hummingbirds. If you are not going to be able to provide the birds with ongoing sugar water in a regularly cleaned feeder, think twice. For the birds sake that you think about putting a feeder up for in the first place for you to enjoy the show.

If you’re having trouble meeting requirements due to the number of feeders put out consider gradually decreasing the number of feeders to a more manageable lot.
Bottom line is to keep hummingbirds feeder squeaky clean and measure the content of sugar water precisely. Don’t think you’re doing the birds a favor but loading up the sugar. Quite the contrary. What people don’t realize is that these tiny birds are also susceptible to diabetes. It is crucial that the ratio if content in the sugar water remain the same 1:4.

Cleaning the feeders doesn’t require a pile of elbow grease and certainly Not Bleach.
Avoid bleach. If not thoroughly rinsed with blazing hot water, a bleach film can easily exist. Bleach is not the answer here.
Fungus and bacteria can not live in white vinegar and is so much more milder for you and the birds. Bleach is a bit over-kill for cleaning hummingbird feeders in my opinion, especially when vinegar to water ratio of 4:1 does a perfectly good job.

When you see those speaks of black mold anywhere on the feeder and the little flower cups, simply prepare to soak for one hour minimum in a vinegar water solution. Scrub and rinse well.

I use the little wire brushes that are five different sizes, designed closely to pipe cleaners for cleaning the feeders, the flowers, the hopper and I use these brushes on the feeders only.
I wash in a stainless steel bowl and rinse thoroughly before refilling for these tiny bundles of joy.

So that’s about it. How, why and how often to tend to your own hummingbird feeders to keep the show going on in a manner that is the most safe for these birds, avoiding the most dangerous hummingbird feeder hazard for these small birds. Avoid disease from contaminated hummingbird feeders by following regular cleaning regimes. Keeping feeders squeaky clean and measuring precisely the sugar to water ratio to ensure that the hummingbirds visiting your feeders remain healthy, happy and visiting your feeders regularly.

If after reading Warning Hummingbird feeder hazard and how to avoid it, you feel this is a commitment that you can not fulfill for the best interests of these birds, another consideration is to plant a hummingbird garden instead.

Happy Bird Viewing!

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