Introduction: Up-class a Broken Hummingbird Feeder
Plastic hummingbird feeders are notoriously brittle after a year in the sun. One drop and sugar water is everywhere. But the important base components are salvageable and can be used to make an even better hummingbird feeder. One that uses water for stability and as a natural barrier against ants. If you prefer Orioles to Hummingbirds, this project will meet their needs just as well. Either way, as the climate gets hotter and drier, our feathered friends need all the help (and food) they can get.
- Bottom portion of the broken hummingbird feeder
- Plastic water bottle (preferably colored)
- 2-3 plastic bowls - 1 large, 1-2 smallish bowls (depending upon height)
- Basket (dollar store)
- 2 screws and large washers
- 3-4 feet of thin wire (or pipe cleaners or string)
- Hummingbird food (4:1 water to sugar - skip the red food coloring)
- Soldering iron or glue gun (for Oriole option)
Step 1: Select the Right Materials
The goal is to place the feeder in the water bowl without the rim of the feeder touching the side of the bowl. If it touches, that's where the conga-line of ants will invade the feeder. Make sure the base of the feeder is above the rim. This helps the birds see the red base (which attracts them) and allows them to land easily.
To make the base high enough, I stacked two small bowls together. (They usually come in a set of 2 anyway.)
TIP 1: Purchase the basket and bowls in the same trip to the dollar store. That way, it's easy to find items that fit well together. Or simply make due with items from home. (You're reading this, so I know you're creative.)
TIP 2: Purchase the replacement water bottle from the local Good Will store ($1.59). Take the feeder with you to the store to ensure the replacement bottle fits correctly. The feeders are a pretty standard size, but the mouth of water bottles vary. And note that hummingbirds like brightly colored bottles best.
Sometimes, you can even find hummingbird feeders at Good Will. Snatch them up for about $5 each. Hummingbirds are territorial, so the more feeders you have the better.
Step 2: Assemble the Feeder
Drill two sets of holes in the small plastic bowl(s).
Drill small holes at the very bottom (base) of the small bowl for the wire that will attach the feeder to the bowl. The holes should align with the crossbars of the feeder. We'll turn the bowl upside down to insert it into the water bowl.
If you stack two small bowls (for height), you only need to drill these small holes in the outermost bowl.
Drill 8-10 larger holes into the side of the bowl(s), where they will be under the waterline. These holes let the water in and create the suction that holds the feeder in place. We get a fair amount of wind, yet this design is surprisingly stable, even when the food bottle is nearly empty.
If you stacked two small bowls, drill the large holes through both bowls at the same time to ensure the holes align.
Attach the bowl with the small holes to the base of the feeder using the thin wire. Sure, you could probably glue the bottom of the feeder to the upturned bowl. (I luv glue guns!) But glue probably won't hold up to the periodic scrubbing that a bird feeder needs.
Fill the replacement bottle with hummingbird food and screw it into the base of the feeder. Turn it over quickly. (Best to do that over the sink or outside.) Skip the red dye in the sugar water - the birds don't need it.
Step 3: Assemble the Water Barrier
In the first iteration of this design, I attached the water bowl directly to the post and I was pretty proud of myself for waterproofing the screws. What a mistake! The water in the bowl gets scummy fast and needs to be replaced not just refilled. Obviously, when the bowl is screwed to the post, draining the water is problematic. Lesson learned.
In this iteration, I attached an inexpensive basket to the post, using screws and large washers. The plastic bowl fits nicely into the basket and can be easily removed for periodic washing. (And the basket looks so much nicer than a plastic bowl on the top of a fence!) Of course, you don't have to attach the feeder to anything if you have a flat surface that accommodates it. We prefer the post because it keeps the birds safely out of reach of our very dedicated bird dog.
Fill the large bowl with water and place it in the basket.
Insert the feeder into the water bowl. Suction is naturally created - it's that simple.
NOTE: around our hanging hummingbird feeders, we use Tanglefoot to keep the ants off. It's effective but it's nasty stuff. It looks like caramel dipping sauce, but it's a 100 times stickier. Sure, it stops ants. But it's a challenge to find a place to lather it where the birds can't accidentally get it on their feet, wings, or beak. A water barrier is much safer for the birds (and the ants).
Step 4: Adaptions
Prefer Orioles to Hummingbirds? No problem!
Because this is a sturdy non-swinging feeder, it's good for Orioles, which need to land to feed. But because they're larger than hummingbirds, they appreciate larger ports. Use a soldering iron (or the tip of the hot glue gun) to enlarge some of the ports of the feeder.
Replacement water bottles also work for hanging feeders. Some string and a couple zip ties are all you need. You can substitute pipe cleaners or hair bands for the zip ties. I don't recommend rubber bands - they disintegrate after a couple weeks in the sun.
Step 5: Sit Back and Enjoy the Show!
Participated in the
For the Birds Speed Challenge