Excerpted from "Ambrosia for the Hummingbird Gods” in "Popular Birding Series: Hummingbirds,” published by BirdChannel.com publisher I-5 Publishing LLC.
Hummingbird feeders with clear glass or plastic reservoirs allow birders to monitor hummingbird nectar levels.
There are two types of hummingbird feeders: the vertical bottle and the horizontal basin. Bottle hummingbird feeders are just that: an inverted bottle with attached ports where birds can reach the sugar water. Basin-style hummingbird feeders, sometimes called flying saucers, look like covered bowls with holes on top.
Hummingbirds will use either type of bird feeder, but how do you know which feeder to purchase? Well, it depends on who you ask.
Roxanne Brune from Duncraft recommends choosing a hummingbird feeder that’s "easy to fill and clean because you’ll be taking it apart often.”
Bob and Martha Sargent founded Hummer/Bird Study Group Inc., a nonprofit organization in Clay, Ala., that’s dedicated to the study and preservation of hummingbirds and songbirds. They’ve banded and studied hummingbird species and also tested bird feeders for years.
"My personal favorite is the Clean Feeder by Dr. JB’s Hummingbird Products (which the Sargents helped design and field test),” Bob says, "but I still use the Perky-Pet Four Fountain model.”
Regina Garr, owner of Birds-I-View in Jefferson City, Missouri, prefers the saucer types. "I like them because they don’t drip as much, and they’re easier to clean than bottle types,” she says. "Anything with fewer pieces is easier to take care of, and if people take care of it, it will get used.
"Another advantage is that if you only fill them halfway,” Garr said, "the hummingbirds can still access the nectar, but wasps and bees can’t.” Saucers also don’t lose sugar water as easily in window locations as bottle styles.
The Sargents also rave about Aspects’ Jewel Box window feeder. "This is the best window feeder we’ve ever tested,” Bob says. "It is rugged, it has a good built-in ant moat, and the perches are elevated so the observer in the home has a full view of hummers as they feed.”
Examine the hummingbird feeder in the store before making a purchase. I prefer bird feeders with clear glass or plastic reservoirs so that I can monitor hummingbird nectar levels. Take apart the feeder, and put it together to see how it works. (If you’re lucky and it attracts swarms of hummingbird species to your yard, you’ll do this every few days all summer.)
While you’re at it, check for loose parts or potentially difficult spots to keep clean when the feeder gets dirty. Pretend that you’re filling it and carrying it outside. Is it awkward to disassemble and reassemble? Will you lose half the hummingbird nectar – and have a sticky floor to clean later – before you get the bird feeder out of the kitchen?
Bird feeder manufacturers constantly improve their designs, and shopping for a hummingbird feeder can be like searching for the perfect mouse trap. Brune recommends choosing a feeder size that’s appropriate for the number of hummingbirds that typically visit your patio or yard.
"If you’re just starting out and haven’t seen many birds,” she says, "start with a small feeder or one that you can adjust the capacity to the number of birds you have and not waste nectar.”
Find out where to place hummingbird feeders to attract the most hummingbirds by clicking here.