Aug 2, 2013 | Featured Web Article

Hummer Trouble

Hummingbirds flock around a backyard nectar feeder.
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Any backyard in North America can expect to have hummingbirds during the warmer months of the year (April through late September). But sometimes those hummingbirds don't get along. Other times, uninvited guests help themselves to the sweet nectar in your feeders. Here are some solutions to a few of the most common problems that plague North American hummingbirders.

Bullies. It is very common for an alpha male hummer to claim a feeder as his designated spot, fighting off all others who venture near his turf. The easiest solution is to cluster multiple feeders in the same general area. The bully will become tired and overwhelmed by all the other hummers trying to visit the feeders. Eventually the territoriality will break down, allowing everyone to eat in peace.

Ants. Ants can certainly become a problem for the backyard hummingbirder. Not only is it annoying for you, but also most hummers don't like to eat from a feeder that has more than a few ants on it. Some feeders come with a small basin surrounding the hanger, providing a water hazard preventing the ants—which are terrible swimmers—from accessing the nectar. If a feeder does not have such a feature, you can purchase a simple device called an ant deterrent. Remember never to use pesticides on or around bird feeders.

If you want to see a hummingbird eat insects, leave an old banana out until it begins to draw fruit flies. Place the banana and its band of bugs outside near your hummingbird feeder. If the wind isn't too strong (which blows the flies away) you may get to see a hummingbird snapping up these tiny insects. Hummers eat lots of insects, which are a good source of protein.

Bees, Wasps, and other Pests. Many hummingbird feeders come with detachable bee guards designed to deter these flying freeloaders. Other feeders are designed so that insects are unable to land, and because they cannot hover, the pests are out of luck. If worse comes to worst, take your feeders down for a week or two. The bees and wasps will move on to other food sources, and once your feeders are replaced, it will take awhile for the insects to return.

Cleaning Feeders. One of the most important things you can do as a hummingbirder is to keep your feeders scrupulously clean. They should be thoroughly washed every time you replace the nectar, and during the heat of summer, this should be done at least every two to three days. Spoiled solution can harm hummingbirds. Wash every part of the feeder in hot, soapy water, and rinse well.

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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