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Caring for Hummingbirds

May 22, 2014
Hummingbird

Two weeks ago, I assisted one of my co-workers as she taught a class to homeschool children about birds.  During the class we talked about the different species, what makes birds unique, and how you care for birds. That got me thinking that now is a great time to do some adjustments to your landscape to attract hummingbirds to your residence.

As most individuals can guess, hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. Therefore, it is a good idea to plant flowers outside your house that will bloom in shades of red, orange, or pink. Don’t worry about these flowers attracting bees as bees do not see the color red. Additionally, blooms in these colors often don’t smell, thus preventing them from attracting butterflies and moths.

When you are planting your flowers, realize that it is best to have a healthy mix of annuals, biennials, and perennials on your property. A few of the ones you might consider for your landscape include: bee balm, Indian paintbrush, lantana, and hollyhock. If you are planting flowers for a flower pot, then you might consider snapdragons, impatients, and geraniums.

If you have the time and energy, then you might want to consider providing your hummingbirds with feed out of a feeder. There are many different types of commercial feeders that range in size, shape, color, and availability of a landing platform. There is no ideal feeder to purchase, however it is a good idea to purchase a feeder that you can easily take apart and clean. The ability to clean the feeder thoroughly is very important since you should clean the feeder at least once a week (and even more often if it receives direct sunlight). By cleaning it, you will prevent the sugar water from becoming moldy and harmful to the hummingbirds.

Once you have your feeder purchased, you should mix a solution of sugar water to put in it. The mixture should be a four-to-one solution of water and granulated white sugar. You should probably boil the mixture for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar completely. You may add artificial coloring to make the mixture red, but it is not required. Do not use honey, brown sugar, or artificial sweeteners to make the mixture as it will make the mixture harmful to the hummingbirds.

After filling the feeder with the mixture, you should place any excess solution in the refrigerator to store for later. You can store the solution in the refrigerator for up to one week. The feeder can then be placed outside. You should try to place it in a spot where it will receive some shade to slow down the fermentation process. If you are using more than one feeder, try to place them at least 6 feet apart to prevent one hummingbird from dominating all feeders. Also, try to get an “ant moat” to attach above the feeder and prevent ants from getting into it.

As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay Co. or 829-5020 in Owen Co. or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

May 26—Memorial Day—Extension Office Closed

May 31—Plant Propagation, 10-10:45 am, Owen County Public Library  

June 13-14—Purdue Master Gardener Conference, Indianapolis, www.2014indymgconf.org

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