Holding Out Hope for Hummingbird Friends
"If You Hang Impatiens, They Will Come," Says Mentor Feeding Station Owner
I've been serving the hummingbirds for two weeks now.
Still no takers. The feeder hangs there idle, sweet hummers still finding their nectar elsewhere, I suppose.
But I really, really want them bringing their sweetness to our yard. Once they visit, they'll always return. They may as well be pet birds outside cages.
So this week I rang the Backyard Feeding Station, 8661 Mentor Avenue, and sought some advice from delightful owner Donna Jacko, who has been feeding hummingbirds much longer than the 26 years she's been in business.
So why don't you think they're coming, Donna?
Have you changed the nectar? I sell it, but you can just as easily make it at home: four cups boiling water, one cup granulated sugar, refrigerated overnight. It will keep in in the fridge for up to a month.
As hot as its been, you should change the nectar three times a week, sooner if it ever gets cloudy. If it spoils at all it can kill them, and the others will know and then they'll stay away from it. The other thing is, when you first put your feeder out they were probably still on the nest with babies. But now they're off and the babies are with Mom, so you should be getting some hummer activity soon.
If you can put your feeder in the shade and enjoy them, that's best. But it's only going to protect the nectar a couple hours, so don't worry, put it anywhere you can enjoy them. They're fearless, really, they'll come right up to you. They're not afraid of other birds either, but other birds are afraid of them, so it's best not to hang your feeders side by side.
Is there some way to attract them other than just hanging the feeder?
A basket of impatients, or tubular flowers; they like to go to the center of a deep flower because the other birds can't reach it, and the nectar and the insects are in there and that's what they're after. If they're in the area, you can almost know for sure if you have a flower out there. And the fuschias are almost like a hummingbird magnet. Birds don't smell at all, but they're always looking for flowers. Consider a shephard's hook with a plant on one side and a feeder on the other.
Is there a possibility there aren't any hummingbirds in my area?
No, there definitely should be. They just have to find it. But they'll find flowers first. Once they find it, they'll never forget, and when they're there, they're yours. They're worth the effort, but they're a lot of work — pretty soon it just gets to be automatic.
My parents' feeder attracts bees, but mine hasn't yet. Is it possible there's something wrong with my feeder?
It's not really bee time right now. That's August and September. To deter them when they eventually do come, spray your feeder with Avon Skin So Soft; bees don't like that smell, but the hummingbirds don't even know it's on there.
For ants on the feeder we also sell little ant moats, like the top of a hairspray can that you fill with water so no ants can get at the feeder. These days I sell as many ant moats as I do hummingbird feeders.
Once they finally find our feeder, how long can we expect to enjoy them?
We can actually have activity in our yards up to October because our hummingbirds from the summer will leave, but the hummers in Canada come down and fuel up by us before they head south. We definitely do those birds a favor by keeping our feeders out past Labor Day; we're one of their last fueling stations for some reason. Just fill your feeder halfway for these traveling through.
Then next year they generally appear the last week in April, first week in May. I always pick a weekend to put mine out; I don't know why, but I do.
What is your professional opinion — do you think I'll get the hummingbirds to come?
I think you will. Go buy yourself a basket of impatiens.
I told Donna that I hope she's right — and then I followed her advice. In fact, I bought two baskets, two different types of impatiens, hanging them on either side of my newly cleaned and refreshed feeder.
Don't tease me, tiny sprites of summer. Your slightness and iridescence are enough to bring a tear to the eye.