The Hummingbirds are Hovering
by Karen Siemens, March 2016

Spring and the hummers have arrived! Time to unearth your feeders, give them a clean and fill them with nectar to give life support to our fine feathered friends after their long journey north. They rely on the nectar to give them energy to feed on insects which are not plentiful at the moment. If you cannot commit to maintaining a feeder for the whole season then consider planting a hummingbird garden in containers or hanging baskets. Here are some tips to responsibly and successfully feed the hummingbirds.

Clean Feeders

Clean with hot water (no soap).

Feeder should be completely dismantled and feeding ports taken apart.

Use a bottle brush for inverted feeders and pipe cleaners for the small holes.

Every time you refill your feeder take it apart and rinse with hot water.

Twice a week use the brush and pipe cleaners to ensure it’s clean.

Black mould is a death sentence to hummingbirds. If there is any sign of it soak your feeder for one hour in a mixture of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water. Rinse the parts several times in hot water to remove all traces of the bleach.


Glass feeders are the best. If you buy plastic make sure that it is “Food Grade Plastic” or “UV Stablized.” This ensures there is no chemical leakage into the food they eat. Cheap plastic disintegrates and will contaminate the food.

Whether you use upside down feeders or the basin style make sure that the feeder can be completely dismantled for cleaning.


The best food for the hummingbirds is made by you! One part white sugar to four parts water. Boil water then add sugar, stir till it dissolves. Cool to room temperature before filling feeder. You can store this in the fridge for seven days.

Never use brown sugar, honey or sugar substitutes as these contain components that will harm the birds.

Do not use red dye (the red on the feeder is all that is needed to attract them). Do not add scent.

If the food is cloudy it is bad; clean feeder and refill.

Even though it may not look like it, the food can go bad quickly in hot weather.

To avoid mould change your food frequently, err on the side of caution.

Temperature 25 degrees or less, change every four days; 25 to 30 degrees, every two days; over 30, every day.


You may already have perennial hummingbird plants in your garden like bee balm, bleeding hearts, columbine, foxglove, honeysuckle, joe pye plant and Russian sage to name a few, but you can accent those plants with annuals in containers or hanging baskets. These can be salvia, fuschia, snapdragons, verbena, zinnia and the old favourite, petunias.

Keep your hanging baskets beyond the reach of predators.

Enjoy another season of watching hummingbirds’ antics in your garden or around your feeders.

For more information, see (Rocky Point Bird Observatory in Victoria.

Karen Siemens is a member of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club. To inquire about our hummingbird banding program, contact Gail Loughridge 250-545-7455 or