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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