Hummingbirds: Feeder, Food, & More!

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Intro: Hummingbirds: Feeder, Food, & More!

A hummingbird is one of the coolest creatures on Earth. It's wings can beat between 10 to 80 times per second, depending on the size, and their heartbeats range from 100 beats per minute in slower birds to 1200 beats per minute in faster ones. In this Instructable, we're going to take a look at hummingbirds, what plants they like, and also build a feeder by recycling materials.

Let's save the environment, study it, and help it grow with this project!

Step 1: Hummingbirds

The most commonly seen of these creatures in North America are the Ruby-throated and Rufous hummingbirds. They beat their wings about 53 times per second. To find out what hummingbirds are in your state or province, check out this link at hummingbirds.net.

In my area, there are only these two types of birds, Ruby throated and Rufous. According to this website, the best flowers to attract hummingbirds are "bee balms, honeysuckle, clematis, impatiens, phlox, and fuchias." I've seen hummingbirds attracted to flowers in my yard as well as the feeder we put up (which unfortunately broke), and color draws the attention of the bird. I've also seen hummingbirds drawn to the vivid zinnia flowers. Taking that to mind, if you plant any of these flowers, you'll be killing two birds (oh, that's wrong...) with one stone; having some beautiful oxygen emitting plants and the birds attracted to the plants!

Some quick facts!
  • Hummingbirds are the only group of birds able to fly backwards.
  • They were named for the hum emitted by the beating of their wings.
  • The smallest hummingbird is the Bee Hummingbird, also the smallest bird in the world, weighing only 1.8 grams.
  • Male hummingbirds are more colorful than their females, who instead display " cryptic coloration "; basically, camouflage.
  • Hummingbirds, during flight, have the highest metabolism of all animals, due to its rapid wing beatings.
  • Rufous Hummingbirds have been found to migrate east in the US/Canada during the winter, instead of down to Central America. This is due to the number of feeders put out in gardens.

Step 2: Feeders - Basin & Inverted

Hummingbird feeders are a great way to attract hummingbirds for your viewing pleasure. You can either buy a commercial one or make your own one (see the rest of this Instructable).

If you feel you're looking to buy yourself a feeder, there are plenty online (check Amazon.com). This one is probably my favorite design, though the basin style design is easier to clean. Because hummingbirds are attracted to any feeder with fresh syrup, pick one that is the most convenient or best for you.

I dislike bee guards on feeders because wasps always get stuck in mine and then you have to clean them out. Luckily, the guards come off and make it a bit easier to get the wasps out of there.

Step 3: Make Your Own Feeder - Get Your Gear!

What you need to build the hummingbird feeder include the following items:

  • One 20 oz. bottle
  • Two clear water bottles (see pic)
  • Fake flowers - the more colorful, the better!
  • A coat hanger

And to make it:

  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hot glue gun
  • A drill with a small drill bit
  • Pliers
  • Box cutter / Scissors

I welcome any improvements on my design or any new designs (credited to you of course!).

Step 4: Construction - Part 1

Grab your water bottles, box cutter, and gloves (don't want to cut off a finger...). Cut the bottoms off of these, the first ring up.

Fit both bottom pieces inside of each and trim along the top as you feel necessary. Then, cut at ninety degree intervals, essentially making a plus sign cutting through the plastic.

After this, test your fit to see if you want to cut more. This will be the base for the feeder with the flowers coming off and the sugar water coming in.

Step 5: Construction - Part 2

After the test fit, discern which half you want to be the top. Put on your gloves and safety glasses to prep for the drilling. You will make a hole on this side (I finished mine up by sanding) for the water to come through. Keep in mind that you want it big enough to make cleaning easier and let the water flow.

Drill the same size hole in the 20 oz. bottle cap. Then grab a marker and place dots where the fake flowers will be located above. I found that three flowers fit comfortably on the base. After marking these, drill small holes. These should be big enough for the hummingbird's beak to fit through to drink the water, but not big enough so yellow jackets and other pests can't climb through. The beak of male Ruby throated hummingbirds is 15 to 18 mm long, and for females, 17 to 21 mm, but both are about 1 to 1.5 mm in width.

Finally, clean all of the parts after the drilling, sanding, and cutting in warm soapy water.

Step 6: Construction - Part 3

Heat up your glue gun while you prep. I first glued together the two bottom pieces. Do a simple water test to make sure you don't have any leaks. Then, the cap was glued on, followed by the flowers. I had to disassemble the flowers a bit (see pic) until they were petals. Then, I cut bigger holes out of the existing ones just to be sure they didn't overlap the hole.

After these the flowers, you're finished the base.

Step 7: Construction - Part 4

Grab your 20 oz. bottle, coat hanger, gloves, safety goggles, and a pair of pliers. Put on your protective gear first because the wires are sharp when cut. Cut the hanger on one side after the wire twist at the top and bend the wire straight. Cut the hanger again however long you want it. Bend the non-hook side flat and hot glue this to the top of the bottle. Bend as you see fit, and it's good! I also sanded down the cut bits so I wouldn't cut myself when handling the item.

Now, to add some color to it. Grab a red sharpie/marker and add some dots, lines, and designs. Red cling wrap would also work well.

Step 8: Food

Hummingbird feeders were made to imitate flowers. Therefore, the liquid inside should be something similar to nectar. Hummingbirds do not live off of sugar water alone, but also hunt bugs and insects. Some scientists believe the nectar simply gives them energy to execute this task.

This means those fancy pants commercial nectar mixes with "added vitamins and minerals!" or whatever else they put in there is superfluous. You can make your own sugar water yourself.

The generally accepted recipe is 1 part sugar for every 4 parts of water. This proportion is used because it is close to the average sucrose content, about 21%, in flowers hummingbirds frequent. It is also enough sugar for the hummingbirds, but not too sweet that it should draw attention to ants, wasps, and other pests. Another reason not to add too much sugar is that it can cause liver damage to the hummingbirds.

Though not necessary, I usually boil the water before use. The microorganisms that cause fermentation come from the hummingbirds' beaks, not the water. The hot water makes it easier to dissolve the sugar. Add 1/4 cup of sugar for every cup of water and stir. Continue until you feel you have enough "nectar".

Bottle the rest and stick it in your fridge until the feeder needs a refill. The refrigerated solution will last up to two weeks.

You might think that hummingbirds are attracted to color, so add some red food coloring. DON'T! The feeder we just made, or one that you bought, probably already has color on it, so this is extra. The food coloring is also foreign to the hummingbird's digestive system, which could cause sickness.

Also, never use honey! This can kill them! Only use plain sugar when making nectar.

Step 9: Upkeep & Tips

Whatever type of feeder you use, make sure you clean it every couple of days or every week. This means you don't need to put massive amounts of food in the feeder every time you fill up. The food can also go bad if the hummingbirds don't drink it fast enough of if it's out in the weather (sun, wind, rain) for too long. Molds and other nasty stuff can grow on the feeder too in time.

When washing the feeder daily, use warm water. Do not use soap! Hummingbirds don't like the taste, so don't take a chance. If there is black mold on the feeder, you've left it outside too long. Just use hot water and some sand, shaken, to get rid of it.

In addition to the usual clean, once a month, feeders should be soaked in 1/4 cup of bleach to every gallon of water. Leave it in the solution for one hour and then clean with a bottle brush if available. Make sure you rinse well before putting nectar back in it, though any leftover bleach will be neutralized with the fresh syrup.

  • Try to hang your feeder in the shade because the expanding gas from the sun's heat can cause leaks in your feeder. Also, it can make the nectar burning hot and injure the birds.
  • Place your feeder near flowers or a garden to begin with. The hummingbirds will investigate and figure out it's a food source and will look for it. After the hummingbird becomes familiar with the feeder, you can move it to a different location.
  • Aim for a slow trafficking time period when you can clean your feeder. I find that during , morning, noon, and afternoon I see the hummingbirds come, so it'd be better to clean it at night.
  • Don't put too much food in the feeder! Use enough for two to three days of feeding. If it gets cloudy, the food is spoiled and may hurt the hummingbirds.
  • Try placing overripe fruit - banana peels work too! - to attract flies for the hummingbirds to eat.

Step 10: What Should I Do If I Find an Injured Hummingbird?

Here's what to do, according to Project Wildlife:

  • If you find an injured or orphaned hummingbird on the ground, lift it along with the material it is sitting on, and place it on crumpled tissue in a small box with holes in the lid.
  • Always use tissue or paper towels, NOT cloth. The bird's feet may become entangled in the cloth. Provide the bird with a low heat source, but be careful not to overheat the bird. If it starts open-mouth breathing or its neck is outstretched, it is too hot.
  • Hummingbirds can die within four hours if not fed. Offer adult hummers a sugar water mixture of 1 part sugar to four parts water. Hummingbird babies that are fed sugar water or commercial hummingbird nectar for more than 24 hours may develop crippling deformities.

Step 11: Works Cited

I used these websites when researching:

  • "Amazon.com: Hummingbird Feeder." Amazon. 1 Sept. 2007 <http://amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw/104-2300731-8503945?initialSearch=1&url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=hummingbird+feeder&Go.x=0&Go.y=0&Go=Go>.
  • Hilton, Bill. "Hummingbird: Measuring Hummingbirds." Ruby Throat. 20 Aug. 2007 <http://www.rubythroat.org/HummerMeasureMain.html>.
  • "Hummingbird Food." For the Birds. 20 Aug. 2007 <http://www.for-the-birds.info/hummingbird-food.htm>.
  • "Hummingbirds." Hummingbirds.Net. 17 Aug. 2007 <http://hummingbirds.net/index.html>.
  • "Hummingbirds." Project Wildlife. 1 Sept. 2007 <http://www.projectwildlife.org/find-hummingbirds.htm>.
  • "Hummingbirds." 19 Aug. 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummingbirds>.
  • Lake, Jane. "Hummingbird Food." All Free Crafts. 17 Aug. 2007 <http://www.allfreecrafts.com/nature/hummingbird-food.shtml>.
  • Mark. "Feeders & Things." Mark's Hummingbirds. 1 Sept. 2007 <http://www.geocities.com/ms8534/donoharm.html>.
  • Wren, C M. "Should I Use Red Food Coloring, or Commercial Nectar Mixes?" Gardenweb. 18 Aug. 2007 <http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/hummingbird/2003034451007591.html>.

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    39 Discussions

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    jonboy25

    8 years ago on Introduction

    I tried to make the feeder and the food (water) just poured out of the holes.
    I'm not sure what the problem is.  Would a straw between the bottle and top help?
    Or maybe the cap is too loose.

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    jonboy25jonboy25

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Never mind.  I used a hook on the top and put put hot glue around it.
    Some air must have been leaking through the top.  More glue fixed it.
    This was cheap

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    J@50n

    8 years ago on Introduction

    HHere is a video i made of my humming bird at my feeder!

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    LakeLivin

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Don't mean to tc, but a couple of months ago I read about possible negative effects from people reusing certain types of plastic bottles for water. Something about the plastic breaking down over time & releasing unhealthy compounds into the water. If this could present a danger to humans I'd guess it might be magnified in the tiny hummers. I'll try to remember where I read this (Time mag perhaps?) & see if I can add more precise info & possibly a link. Sorry to introduce a potential note of negativity, but thought it worth mentioning. Otherwise, thanks for the info. I've been feeding hummers for about 10 years. During the peak season mine go through probably 3/4 gallon of nectar a day. Don't know how many I've got, I've estimated up to approx. 2 dozen feeding at once (hard to count em, it looks like a bee hive at times). And like you and others have noted, stay away from the red food coloring. If anyone feels they need red they can always add some to the base or bottle (a bit of permanent red magic marker perhaps)?

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    LakeLivinLakeLivin

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, appears that the concern about reusing plastic water bottles may be overblown (it's certainly controversial). See the Snopes article below.

    Bottle Royale

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    Shut Up NowLakeLivin

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    even if its a valid concern, the commercial feeders that are made from plasitc would have the same hazard so theres not much to do about it.

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    technick29LakeLivin

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Don't worry, it's perfectly fine. It's funny because someone told me this before, but I never linked it to my Instructable... Thanks for the input, you helped me on two accounts. ;) Now I can re-use bottles without fear!

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    jtown

    9 years ago on Step 9

    Awesome! thanks so much well done when do you find is the best time to place the feeder outsider? last year i waited to long and didn't attract any birds :(

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    miezimau

    10 years ago on Step 6

    I tried it, but for some reason when I used the hot glue gun it melted the bottle? :(

    2 replies
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    technick29miezimau

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    Are you using an industrial glue gun? Some glue guns reach very high temperatures. This glue gun is similar to one from the dollar store, and doesn't get hot enough to melt through plastic.

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    miezimautechnick29

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 6

    The one I was using was a very cheap one I had buoght at Walmart.

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    turner22

    10 years ago on Introduction

    i read that the birds are very attracted to red, so another idea would be to paint the bottom 'bulb' red and then put the flowers on.

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    jboppx22

    10 years ago on Introduction

    i like hummingbirds, The Giant Hummingbird's wings beat at 8–10 beats per second, the wings of medium-sized hummingbirds beat about 20–25 beats per second and the smallest beat 70 beats per second. there also the only birds that can fly backwards

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    Smurphette

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Oh, thanks. I didn't mind that it was longer, it was broken into reasonable steps. I wish there were a better way to keep the food fresh. I am always afraid of poisoning them.

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    LakeLivinSmurphette

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    You may be a bit over concerned. As long as you keep the equipment well cleaned between changing and don't leave it out there for an inordinate amount of time I really doubt you'll have any problems. Like I said, I've been feeding masses of hummers for probably ten years. I try to keep the food reasonably fresh (certainly avoid it going cloudy), but I'm definitely not meticulous re changing it every so many days. And at times I'm out of town, which means the food sometimes stays out up to a week or so, and I haven't ever noticed a problem. As technick said, the nectar stores really well in a glass bottle in the refrigerator, so just put out as much as they'll drink over several days and refill from the fridge on a regular basis. Also, I read somewhere that if the food does turn they just won't drink it, rather than poisoning themselves. Sorry Technick, don't mean to step all over your instructable. It's just that I've had a fair bit of experience over a number of years and want to share it (perhaps too much experience; I get so many that at times it becomes almost a chore feeding them, lol).

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    technick29LakeLivin

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Haha this is fine Lake. After all, this is what Instructables is all about; everyone working together to gain a better understanding of things, right?

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    Smurphette

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Yup, I saw. There was so much discussion about coloring the water, I thought it might be prudent to expand on the little you said there. Didn't mean to upset you.

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    technick29Smurphette

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    You didn't upset me at all! In fact, I'm glad you added that. Sometimes people just look at comments and not through the entire Instructable. And this is quite a long one too. Keep up the input!