Migrating hummingbirds usually reach their northern destinations by the first week in May except for the far northern areas. Typically they begin their return migration during the early part of September. In mid-to late August, hummers start on a feeding frenzy of nectar and tiny insects so they can nearly double their weight in less than a week to prepare for the rigors of the trip. Hummers usually feed five to eight times per hour.
To attract them during the few months they are in backyards and help them prepare for their return south, offer them sugar water from specially designed hummingbird feeders. They prefer feeders to be 4 to 6 feet from the ground, but since many flowers are lower growing, they also visit flat top type feeders on a pole only two feet from the ground.
IT IS CRITICAL TO CLEAN FEEDERS OFTEN!!!--especially those in the sun--every other day or so, if possible, to prevent toxic mold developing as the sugar water ferments on feeder surfaces. Keep hummingbird feeders free of mildew by washing them at least weekly with equal parts vinegar and water. Rinse thoroughly with clear water before refilling.
Protect From Ants - Be sure and put some sticky substance on the pole to discourage ants.
Be patient. It may take awhile for hummingbirds to discover a feeder in your yard, especially if there are not many brightly colored flowers there.
Choosing a Feeder
The best feeder for hummingbirds is:
Easy to clean (can be dismantled and go in the dishwasher) and refill frequently.
Has at least an 8 ounce capacity to support several hummers each day.
Is durable so it can withstand frequent cleaning and inclement weather.
Does not drip in hot weather and attract unwanted insects.
Is visible from the house, yet within 15 feet of shrub or tree cover.
Has some red on its plastic parts to attract hummers.
Making Syrup Solution
Fill the reservoir of the hummingbird feeder with a syrup solution of 1 part white, granulated sugar to 4 parts water. Dissolve the sugar in the water by bringing the mixture to a slow boil at low heat. Boiling is necessary to kill bacteria or mold spores and vaporize chemicals in the water such as chlorine. After about 2 minutes, remove the solution from the stove and allow it to cool. Store any unused syrup in the refrigerator.
Never use honey, brown sugar, artificial sweeteners, food supplements or red dye food coloring in hummingbird feeders. Also, do not make the sugar syrup any more concentrated than 1:4, sugar to water. Prepackaged feeder syrup is available at retail outlets or in catalogs that specialize in bird feeding supplies.
Available fresh water is not as critical to hummers as it is to other backyard birds, because they get most of their moisture through the nectar they drink. Hummingbirds do not use birdbaths for bathing either, preferring to fly through water mist to cleanse their feathers. Otherwise, they wait for a good rain.