Jul 26, 2017 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, August 2017

Ask Birdsquatch: Hummer Bummer

A black-chinned hummingbird discovers a new backyard feeder.
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Dear Birdsquatch:

My hummingbirds are ignoring my feeder. I've had it up for a month now but not a single bird has taken a drink. They visit it, look at it, and leave. What's going on?

—Maggie M, Oak Harbor, OH

Dear Maggie,

Wake up Maggie, I think I've got something to say to you. It's almost September and it's time to change your hummer food. [With apologies to the great Rod Stewart].

My hummer-loving friend, I believe the solution in your feeder might be spoiled and the hummers are smart enough not to drink it. At this point it's either toxic or basically a batch of backyard moonshine! So please, for the love of nature, empty it out, clean the feeder thoroughly, and refill it with some fresh nectar. Your hummers will thank you.

During the summer, when most of us enjoy peak numbers of hummingbirds at our feeding stations and in our gardens, the sun and hot temperatures can make the sugar-water in the feeder spoil quite rapidly. Some feeder operators I know replace the feeder contents daily during very hot weather, just to be sure it's not spoiling. That's dedication!

If you still get no feeder action after cleaning and refilling, consider moving your feeder to a new location—perhaps near some flowering, nectar-producing native plants in your garden or next to a hanging basket that's in bloom. A red ribbon or handkerchief can also be used as a brightly colored beacon for passing hummingbirds.

For my money, there's nothing better than natural nectar sources, such as native flowering plants. You can find a list of hummingbird-friendly plants specific to your region at this link on the Bird Watcher's Digest website »

Good luck, Maggie! I was going to end this answer with some more lyrics from "Maggie May" but they aren't that flattering to the Maggie that Rod was singing about, so let's just leave things be. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to find myself a rock-n-roll band that needs a helping hand.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018