A visit to any bird supply shop or lawn and garden store can be confusing to anyone shopping for hummingbird feeders. Dozens of choices are available, from ornamental glass balls to simple plastic containers. Some are small, with a single feeder spout, while others seem designed to feed an entire flock. Prices vary just as widely, from a few dollars to big bucks. Some of them are well-designed, both for the hummingbirds and the people who feed them.
Hummingbirds are most everyone's favorite bird. Their tiny size, inquisitive nature, brilliant colors and high-speed acrobatics appeal to young and old alike. Hummingbirds can do things no other birds can match, including flying vertically and backwards. Their wings beat as fast as 90 times per second, and their hearts beat even faster, up to 1,200 times per second. This super-elevated metabolism requires enormous quantities of sugar and protein, mostly provided by insects and nectar-bearing flowers.
Their high sugar requirement can be supplemented with hummingbird feeders, which easily attract the birds to neighborhood yards. Feeders should be kept clean, and refilled often with the proper mixture of sugar and water. The type of feeder used can make a big difference in attracting birds, and not all feeders are equally designed for ease of use.
Types of Hummingbird Feeders Available
Hummingbird feeders come in all shapes and sizes, in different colors and in different configurations. Hummingbirds feed by hovering at or perching on a feeder, and inserting their tongues into a tube or hole to access the sugar-water nectar. There are small tube feeders with a single spout, larger feeders with a single feeder tube, feeders with multiple access holes and feeders with or without perches.
Some feeders have narrow refill holes, while others have wider openings. Some are awkward to take apart and re-assemble during cleaning and refilling, while others are much easier to clean and fill. Some are transparent, and others not. Some are made of plastic, and others of glass or copper.
What Type of Hummingbird Feeder is Best for the Birds?
A feeder with only one feeding tube or opening obviously limits the number of birds that can feed at the same time. Feeders with more feeding stations are far better. Feeders without perches require birds to burn energy while they are feeding, a less desirable design than one with a built-in perch. Birds sometimes want to hover while they feed, anyway, but a perch gives them the opportunity to rest their wings.
Color is less critical, although if one is just starting to try to attract hummingbirds, a red-colored feeder is better than any other color. Never, however, add red or any other food coloring to the nectar itself. Once birds have found the feeder, its color is no longer a factor. Desired capacity of the feeder is directly related to use. If you have many birds feeding, larger feeders and more feeders are important. If lots of flowers are in bloom, and few birds are visiting the feeders, smaller feeders, fewer feeders or partially-filled feeders are in order. The sugar water in feeders should be changed every week or two regardless of use.
What Type of Hummingbird Feeder is Best for the Providers?
You will want feeders that are easy to fill and easy to clean. Narrow refill openings are less desirable than wide ones. Feeder containers that will stand on a countertop are much easier to work with than those with odd-shaped bottoms that won't. Feeders should also be designed to disassemble easily for cleaning, and reassemble just as easily after filling.
In addition, avoid feeders with embossed or raised letters or other rough areas in the nectar holding pan, since this can cause sugar to crystallize out of the nectar mixture. Keep this area smooth when cleaning it, as well, for the same reason. Feeders with transparent nectar holding containers are much more useful than those without, so that one can see when nectar needs to be refilled.
Combining Provider and Birds' Needs for the Perfect Feeder
The perfect hummingbird feeder will hold 8-16 ounces of nectar in a clear reservoir, be colored red, have multiple feeding stations and a perch for each station. The refill opening will be wide, and the container bottom flat. It will be made out of glass and/or plastic, be inexpensive and come with a hanging hook. A review of some of the better feeders available today can be found by clicking here.