Sunday, September 11, 2022

Best Hummingbird Feeders

 Hummingbirds are one of the most beautiful birds on the planet. They're so tiny and their wings flap so fast that they appear to be hovering in place, but in reality these birds are able to fly hundreds of miles in a day. That's right, hummingbirds can fly faster than any bird or airplane!



Hummingbirds feed exclusively from flower nectar. This means it's not uncommon for them to visit your yard several times per day. Many people find this behavior annoying because it can leave behind messes, and it can also attract unwanted attention from predators. To keep your hummers happy while reducing the risk of attracting predators, you'll need to build some feeders. There are many types of hummingbird feeders available, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Which type will best fit your needs? Let's take a look at the different types of hummingbird feeders available so you can make an informed decision about which is right for you.

Types of feeder

There are two main types of hummingbird feeders available: hanging and ground-mounted feeding stations. Both of these feeders have their pros and cons, but the choice comes down to what kind of location works best for you.


Hanging feeders are hung above the ground, usually from a nail or hook. These kinds of feeders are generally more expensive to buy, but they're easier to install. The drawback is that if someone were to trip over the feeder, it would fall onto the ground. If you want to hang a feeder on a tree branch, then you should consider using a climbing style feeder instead. Ground-mounted feeders are typically designed to sit just below the ground level. In general, ground-based feeders are less expensive to purchase, but installation requires digging up the area where you plan to put the feeder.


Hanging feeder


These are often referred to as "cage feeders," as the feeder itself typically looks like a cage with perches inside. You can choose between a single feeder or multiple feeding stations. Typically, the single feeders come with one opening through which all hummingbirds must pass before reaching the food source. Multiple feeders are designed so that there are openings along the sides. However, only one hummingbird at a time may enter the station through the side feeders.


The major drawback of caged feeders is that they require access to power outlets. This makes them difficult to use in areas without electricity, such as a back patio or a deck. It also increases the chance of electrocution, as the cage is likely placed near overhead wiring. Additionally, there's a greater risk of breakage due to the wires. Because of these drawbacks, I recommend avoiding caged feeders all together.


Ground-mounted feeder


If you live in an area where power outages occur frequently, then a ground-mounted feeder is probably your best bet. These feeders come in various styles; however, most are made with stainless steel. Some models have perches built into the ground, whereas others include a tray that sits directly under a hole in the ground. When installing ground-based feeders, make sure you dig deep enough to prevent the feeder from becoming buried.

You'll notice that these feeders tend to be much cheaper than those hanging feeders. One reason for this is that they don't require any special tools for installation. Another reason is due to the fact that they are usually made of sturdy materials. For example, stainless steel provides durability while aluminum is lightweight. Additionally, ground-based feeders are easy to clean and maintain. All you need to do is wash the container after each use to remove any dirt that has accumulated.


Pros and Cons of ground-based feeders


Pros

Easy to install

Low price

No electricity required

Cons

Dirtier looking

More maintenance

Not ideal for backyard use


Feeding Station Accessories


While the primary purpose of a feeder is to provide food for hummingbirds, there are accessories available that help increase the attractiveness and efficiency of hummingbird feeders. These feeding station accessories help to attract hummingbirds by mimicking plants they prefer to eat from. Most of these products are designed specifically for use with hummingbird feeders, but others are useful for other bird feeders as well. Let's review what these accessories can offer you:


Nectar spouts - Nectar spouts, or "feeders," are designed to give birds something to drink. This helps to reduce spillage and waste, since hummingbirds aren't very good drinkers.


Refills - Refills are often used with nectar feeders and water bottles. By refilling the bottle, you eliminate the need to worry about cleaning the bottle every day.


Vine wreaths - Vine wreaths resemble the flowers hummingbirds love to feast upon. When used correctly, wreathes can increase the number of visits hummingbirds make to your feeder.

Strawberry baskets - Strawberries are high in sugar content, making them the perfect treat for hummingbirds. You can easily add strawberry baskets to your feeders to lure hummingbirds to your yard, especially during the winter months when berries are scarce.

As you can see, there are many benefits associated with using hummingbird feeding station accessories. Each accessory offers a unique advantage, and I highly encourage you to experiment with different types to determine which ones work best for you. 



Feeding Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds have a unique relationship with humans. In many ways, they’re like children — they’re curious and they want to be fed. But unlike kids, hummingbirds don’t just accept food out of the goodness of their hearts; they need it in order to survive. And if you love them as much as I do, you will feed them. 


The good news is that feeding hummingbirds isn’t difficult, but it does require some effort on your part. The bad news is that feeding hummingbirds is also quite expensive, so you aren’t going to be able to do it every day. There are other options for providing artificial nectar to your hummingbird friends, such as bird houses and feeders made specifically for hummingbirds. You can find these items at pet stores or online, as well as from specialty bird shops. 

How do hummingbirds get their food? 

Hummingbird food comes in all shapes and sizes. Some come in powder form, while others are sold as pellets. All hummingbird foods contain sugar, though not necessarily in the same proportions. 

As a general rule, pellet-based foods are more nutritious than powdered foods. Pellets tend to be higher in protein and fat. They’re also easier to work into a mixture because they’re not as sticky as powders. Because of this, some people recommend offering pellets over powdered foods, especially during winter when hummingbirds are harder to attract. 

While all hummingbird foods contain sugar, there are different kinds of sugars in the mix. Some have been modified to make them digestible for birds; others have been altered to make them taste better or last longer. Here’s an explanation of what makes each type of hummingbird food special: 

Sugar syrups: These are sweetened liquids made specifically for hummingbirds. You can buy sugar syrups at any grocery store. They usually come in squeeze bottles, which make them easy for hummingbirds to drink. Be sure to use a clean bottle for hummingbirds; the sugar syrup can cause gum disease if left inside the bottle. 

Birdseed cakes: Birdseed cakes are made from finely ground seeds mixed with a sweetener. They’re typically sold in bags, although sometimes they come in individual packets. Birdseed cakes provide an excellent source of nutrition for hummingbirds, making them perfect for use in mixed diets. Like sugar syrups, birdseed cakes should always be kept away from water, as the moist environment can damage the seed. 

Pellet mixes: These consist of tiny bits of dried animal feed (typically insects) that have been coated in a sweetener. You can find pellets at most pet stores and online shopping sites. This may sound like a great idea until you realize that insect pieces are full of bugs and other nasty things. It’s best to avoid using pellet mixes altogether unless you absolutely have to. Instead, look for pellet mixes that are free of bug parts and other extraneous substances. 

If you choose to use pellets, make sure they’ve been treated with a pesticide that won’t harm your hummingbirds. If you live in an area where pesticides are used heavily, such as around farmlands, you might consider purchasing only organically grown pellets. 

Feeding hummingbirds at home 

There are two main methods of feeding hummingbirds. First, you can put out a bowl of sugary water for them to sip from. Second, you can set up a homemade feeder. Both approaches work equally well, but both require a bit of work before you start seeing results. Follow these steps to ensure success: 

Get your supplies together. Buy a plastic container, some paper towels, and a small funnel. You’ll also need a bottle of water, a few drops of dish soap or bleach, and paper cups for water. Make sure you know how to properly fill the cups, as these are important to hummingbirds. 

Fill the cups with water first. To prevent the cups from drying out, place them in a shallow pan filled with water. Let the water soak overnight. 

Next, let the cups dry by placing them on paper towels. 

When the cups are completely dry, add a drop of dish soap or bleach. This helps kill harmful bacteria and algae in the water. 

Finally, pour in a handful of sugar or sugar syrup and replace the lid. 

You can now leave the feeder outside for hummingbirds to enjoy. 

Keep in mind that hummingbirds prefer to drink from the top down, so make sure that you put the sugar near the top of the cup. 

Using a homemade feeder requires a little more preparation. A feeder needs to be able to hold at least twice its own weight in liquid. So, for example, if you plan on creating a feeder that holds 3 tablespoons, you would need a container that holds 6 tablespoons. 

In addition, a feeder must be placed high enough off the ground that it doesn’t collect rainwater. This is important because rainwater has a tendency to lower the temperature of the surrounding air, thus reducing the amount of nectar available in the feeder. 

To create an effective feeder, begin by cutting a hole in the bottom center of a large garbage bag. Next, cut four slits in the bag about 1 inch apart. 

Open the feeder by pulling on the top of the bag. Once you have opened the feeder, slide one corner of the bag underneath the rim of the feeder and fold the excess material back onto itself. 

Place a couple sheets of newspaper beneath the feeder to catch spilled nectar. 

Finally, hang the feeder somewhere that hummingbirds frequent. When the time comes to refill the feeder, use a funnel to pour in the desired amount of sugar, then close and secure the feeder again. 

Hummingbirds may visit your feeder several times per day. Depending on the weather, there may be days when they don’t appear, so be patient and keep checking. 

One final tip: When you first start feeding hummingbirds, it’s best to keep them in a room without windows. That way, you won’t have to worry about attracting unwanted attention, and hummingbirds won’t be tempted to leave your yard.



Studying Hummingbird Migration Patterns

 In a few days, I will be flying to Miami for the annual meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union. This year it is in Fort Lauderdale as opposed to Miami because Fort Lauderdale has a much more welcoming vibe than Miami does. The meeting takes place during the first week of December and this year I am very excited about one of the presentations I will be attending. It is titled “The Hummingbirds of Florida” and is based on my research with Dr. Robert Kattner at the University of Florida on how we can better understand the birds that visit our state. 


I have been studying hummingbirds since 2006 when I began working with Dr. Kattner. We began by doing field work on the nesting sites of Wilson's Phalaropes (Phalaenoptilus scudderi), which migrate all the way from Alaska to Florida each spring and fall. At that time, I was conducting research along the Gulf Coast of Florida while he conducted his study on the Atlantic coast. Our paths crossed again in 2010 when I moved to Gainesville, Fla., where I worked with him again. While working with him, we were able to compare the breeding and migration patterns of several species of phalaropes, including the most common phalarope found in Florida, the Wilson's Phalarope. 

At times, it seemed like we were always in the same location. One day we would be in the Everglades National Park; the next day, we would be near Lake Okeechobee or somewhere else along the coast line. In the beginning, we just did some basic observations of these birds. But then we realized that there is so much more information we could collect if we had some way to record the data automatically. That led us to the development of a program called HumBot that collects data using an automated camera trap. 

>> Hummingbird Migration Map & Patterns

We are still developing new ideas but right now, our focus is on getting these cameras out into the wild and seeing what kinds of wildlife they capture. We have put them up at both nesting and wintering areas. As you might imagine, we have captured a variety of photos, many of which include migrating birds. So far, I have seen some warblers, tanagers, vireos, orioles, flycatchers, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, owls, and even a great horned owl. 

We also discovered that the program works best when the camera captures images every minute or two. Otherwise, the battery dies way too quickly. When we set up the camera, we calibrate it to take pictures at a rate of three per second. If we don't do this, the battery life is extremely short. 

When setting up the cameras, we also try to make sure that they are not pointed directly toward us. We want to avoid capturing our own photographs. We use a variety of camera traps such as the Cuddeback model, the Bushnell Trophy Cam, and the Pelco Scout Camera Trap. Sometimes, we also get lucky and see a bird come into view before the camera is fully set up. 

After setting up the camera, we place a motion detector around its base. Some models have a timer built into the device that allows the camera to take pictures when movement is detected. Others have a sensor that detects any object moving within a certain range of the camera. Either way, we make sure that there is enough space between the detector and the camera so that the camera doesn't pick up our movements. We also test the detector to make sure it works properly. 

Finally, we attach a small piece of wire to the back of the camera and attach it to the detector. This allows the detector to detect the presence of the camera even after it is taken away from the area. Once everything is ready, we set out the camera. Then we wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, something comes into view. But what? We have no idea until we review the images later on. Then we discover things like these: 

This is a male Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) that was photographed by a camera we set up outside a nest box in the middle of the Everglades National Park. He is probably checking for predators. This is a very common behavior among raptors. 

This is the juvenile Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) that was photographed by a camera we set up at the entrance of a nest box in the middle of a swamp forest in the Big Cypress Swamp. These towhees are very aggressive and territorial birds. They have sharp claws that they use to fight other birds for territory. It is hard to tell in the photo whether this bird is a female or a male, but it is likely a male. 

This is the Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii) that was photographed by a camera we set up in a tree stand near the southern end of the Florida Trail. Screech Owls can weigh up to 1.5 pounds! They hunt by listening for prey, usually mice and rats, and catching them in their talons. 

This is a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) that was photographed by a camera we set up near the edge of the Pine Island Preserve in northern Florida. Northern Flickers are small songbirds that are often attracted to feeders. Their tail feathers look like tiny wings and they are often mistaken for birds of paradise. 

This is a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) that was photographed by a camera we placed high above a marshy area in the Big Cypress Swamp. Vultures like this one are scavengers who eat carrion and dead animals. 

This is a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) that was photographed by a camera we set up at night outside a building near the northern edge of the Big Cypress Swamp. There are a lot of owls living in Florida and they are known to nest in buildings. Because many people dislike owls, this particular bird may have been trying to sneak in unnoticed. 

This is an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) that was photographed by a camera we set up in a tree stand in the middle of the Everglades National Park. Eastern Bluebirds are common throughout Florida. They typically live in trees and shrubs, especially those that are full of berries. 

This is a Green Heron (Butteca jamaicensis) that was photographed by a camera we set up in a tree stand in the middle of the Everglades National Park. Green Herons are common in Florida and they are often seen fishing in shallow water. 

This is a Common Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) that was photographed by a camera we set up near the edge of the Pine Island Preserve in northwestern Florida. The Painted Bunting is a beautiful little bird that is commonly seen in Florida. 

This is a Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) that was photographed by a camera we set up near the southern end of the Florida Trail. These thrashers are common in Florida and they are often seen feeding on insects and seeds. 

This is a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus columbianus) that was photographed by a camera we set up beside a trail in the Big Cypress Swamp. Hummingbirds visit flowers in order to drink nectar that contains sugars. 

These are all different types of birds that were photographed by various cameras that we set up. Many of the photos show birds in the foreground, while others show birds in the background. It is amazing to think that all of these birds came into view thanks to the motion detectors that we set up. 

I cannot begin to explain how important this research is. Without it, we would know nothing about the migratory habits of these birds. In fact, without this research, Dr. Kattner and I wouldn't even know why some of these birds are in Florida during the winter months. Without this research, we would never have learned that some of the birds that visit Florida are endangered or threatened.



Best Hummingbird Feeders

  Hummingbirds are one of the most beautiful birds on the planet. They're so tiny and their wings flap so fast that they appear to be ho...