Hummingbirds use more energy than any other warm-blooded animal. To support their speedy metabolism, they must refuel almost constantly throughout the day. Flower nectar is the perfect choice, and you can attract hummingbirds by planting an organic garden of nectar-rich flowers.
To supplement your flowers, or to attract hummingbirds if you don't have a garden, hang a hummingbird feeder filled with nectar substitute. Once you begin feeding them, they will return to your feeder again and again. Keep your feeders clean and filled with fresh nectar so your hummingbirds will stay healthy.
Flower nectar is the natural choice of hummingbirds, but if there is not enough available in a given area, they will fly off in search of more. Hummingbirds eat gnats and other tiny insects for protein, but nectar is their chief source of energy. Plants with elongated, trumpet-shaped flowers usually contain lots of nectar.
Your garden center will have commercial hummingbird nectar for sale. It comes in a variety of formats. One type is ready to use right out of the jug. Nectar also comes in smaller bottles as a liquid concentrate that you simply mix with water and use. Another type of commercial mix is dry sucrose which you mix with water to dissolve. Follow the dilution ratios so your nectar will be the correct strength for the hummingbirds.
Homemade nectar is the most economical way to feed hummingbirds. The ingredients are water and white sugar. Always boil the water to sterilize it. Allow it to cool slightly, and while it is still hot, mix in regular white sugar at a ratio of one part sugar to four parts water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and let the nectar cool.
Some commercial nectars are red, but there is no need to add coloring to your nectar. Coloring is an unnecessary chemical additive that should be avoided. Hummingbirds would never consume it naturally.
Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, so instead of using red nectar, use a feeder that is red. Many hummingbird feeders are now made with a red nectar tank instead of clear, and nearly all feeders have some kind of red lid, perch, or other attractant.
Improperly maintained hummingbird feeders can be a source of fatal disease for the birds. Feeders should be washed in very hot water before every fill. Rinse them several times, very thoroughly. Any traces of black sooty-looking mold must be cleaned out, including the inside of the lid, the perches, and any other places it may exist. A monthly soak in 1 gallon of water with 1/4 cup bleach added will help prevent the black fungus. Follow the soak by scrubbing the feeder with a bottle brush. Rinse completely.
Fill feeders with fresh nectar every 3 to 5 days whether they are empty or not. Throw away uneaten nectar. If hummingbirds do not visit your feeder, check to make sure it is clean.