A hummingbird hovers near a feeder. (Photo by Kerry Howard)

Hummingbirds buzz back to Juneau

How to care for backyard feeders.

  • By Laurie Craig, For the Juneau Empire
  • Tuesday, April 23, 2024 11:06am
  • SportsBirds

With the return of springtime weather the hummingbirds are arriving as well. If you choose to hang a hummingbird feeder, here are the key points about care and maintenance, thanks to the Juneau Audubon Society.

• Keep the container clean, use cane sugar dissolved in clean, hot water (cooled before filling the feeder vessel), avoid food coloring or preservatives and plant flowers to help the little birds survive naturally.

• Use feeders that are easy to clean.

• Clean with bottle brushes, pipe cleaners and sponges with mild dish soap.

• Rinse thoroughly with warm water.

• Avoid packaged mixes and use easy-to-prepare homemade hummingbird food (see below).

• Keep the feeder out of the reach of bears.

• Hang feeders away from windows to avoid collisions and out of the reach of cats.

• Change and clean hummingbird feeders about twice a week to prevent mold or bacteria from forming.

Tree sap collects in wells drilled by Red-breasted Sapsuckers. These sites sustain hummingbirds in chilly late winter conditions before flowers bloom. Many other species such as this red squirrel forage on the sap also. Sapsuckers are known to advertise their courtship interest by pecking on metal drainpipes, signs and structures in springtime. The sound rattles loudly through the forest. (Photo by Laurie Craig)

Make your own recipe for liquid food

Measure 1 part granulated cane sugar to 3 or 4 parts clean, boiled water to dissolve the sugar in a glass or stainless steel container. Avoid plastic or Teflon coated utensils.

Stir the mix and when it is cooled to room temperature, pour it into the feeder you have freshly cleaned

So, how to hummingbirds survive in chilly spring weather without flowers or feeders? They slurp the sap that pools in tiny wells on certain trees where Red-breasted Sapsuckers have drilled below the bark to create catchment basins. Squirrels and other animals lap up the sap, too.

To learn more about arriving spring birds, join a free guided bird walk on Saturday mornings in April and May. Find the schedule and locations at www.juneauaudubon.org. Information on preparing and caring for hummingbird food and feeders is provided by “The Raven” newsletter of the Juneau Audubon Society.

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