Having Hummingbirds

Summer is a great time for projects. Attracting and studying hummingbirds would be a great project. Wouldn't it be fun to have them right outside your window where you could watch them? Give hummingbirds what they like and maybe you can. Here are some things to try.


Flowers
Hummingbirds eat nectar and insects from flowers. They have long beaks that can reach deep into flowers to find nectar. This helps the flower because hummingbirds get pollen on them as they search for nectar. Some of this pollen gets left in the next flower they visit. When a flower gets pollen, it can begin to grow into a fruit with seeds. The seeds can grow into plants for the future.

Flowers that attract hummingbird pollinators usually have a shape that is a little like a tube. The flowers are often colored red or orange. You can plant some flowers for hummingbirds to visit for food. Some good hummingbird flowers are: bee balm, petunias, columbine, hollyhocks, trumpet vine, trumpet honeysuckle, zinnias, cardinal flowers, coral-bells and lilacs.

Feeders
You can put out a feeder to attract hummingbirds. There are some great ones sold at garden centers and other stores. You can also make your own hummingbird feeder. To make a hummingbird feeder, you will need something that can hold sugar water and that has red or orange color to catch the eye of a passing hummingbird. You should not put food coloring in the hummingbird food. It might not be good for the hummingbirds to eat. Instead, decorate your feeder with red ribbon or yarn.

An Easy Feeder To Make
A simple feeder can be from a small empty plastic medicine container. I used an aspirin bottle. I tied a red piece of yarn around it near the top to make it colorful. I also twisted a piece of wire around it near the top so I could hang it from a tree branch. 

A Harder Feeder To Make
A second feeder takes a little more work. First look around to find a plastic jar with a tight fitting screw-on lid. I used a candle to heat a nail so I could melt two small holes in the side of the jar I had found. I held the nail with a pair of pliers as I heated it so I would not burn my fingers. You should get an adult to help you do this. Never work with a flame without an adult there to help keep everything safe. It might be a good idea to have an adult make the holes for you.

The holes need to be about 2mm (two millimeters) or 1/16 inch wide. I tested the size of the hole as I worked by seeing if the end of a burned wooden match would fit into it. The holes should be just below the edge of the screw-on lid. I kept the lid on when I made the holes so I would put them in the right place.

The jar will be hung upside down. When the lid is on, the sugar water cannot leak out the holes because air has no way to get into the jar. The bubble in the upside down jar is at low air pressure, keeping the sugar water from just running out the small holes.

First I tried to tape a wire to the center of the jar bottom so I could hang the feeder. An hour or so later the feeder had fallen on the ground. The packing tape I used didn't hold. Next I tried putting a large rubber band around the jar. When I put one piece of wire under the rubber band, the jar did not hang straight and the sugar water started leaking out. Instead, I put 3 wires under the rubber band and twisted them together to make a hook at the center of the bottom of the jar. I used this hook to hang the feeder from the wire outside.

Again, the red yarn helsp hummingbirds find the feeder. They were there using the feeder in less than a week.

Hummingbird Food
The recipe for hummingbird food is easy. Measure 1 part sugar to 4 parts of water. At home, I use ¼ cup of sugar and 1 cup of water so that it makes enough to fill my 8 ounce hummingbird feeder. For my homemade feeders I used 1 ounce of sugar and 4 ounces of water. Do not use honey, Jell-O® mix or anything except sugar and water! Other sweet mixtures can be very bad for hummingbirds!

I heat the sugar and water mixture on the stove or in a microwave until it boils or comes close to boiling. You really don't have to boil it, but having the water hot helps the sugar dissolve better. Once the sugar water has cooled, you can fill your hummingbird feeder and hang it outside.

Clean and Fresh
The feeder should be emptied, washed clean with soapy water, rinsed, and refilled every 3 or 4 days. The sugar water can spoil if it is left outdoors too long. No one wants to accidentally poison any hummingbirds.

Good luck! I hope you can bring hummingbirds into your yard where you can see these amazing little birds for yourself.

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