Hummingbirds are fascinating little creatures that may need your help from time to time! Many people enjoy feeding hummingbirds, and you can do the same by offering homemade sugar water in the hummingbird feeder. While this water won’t provide the nutrients the hummingbird needs, it does give them the energy to look for other plants, such as the flowers you’ve planted in your backyard for them. If you find injured or stunned hummingbirds, including, you can also take steps to help, though you should call a wildlife rehabilitator for professional guidance.
Make a 1-to-4 ratio of sugar syrup. The mixture should be 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Boil the water in a pan you’ve rinsed thoroughly to make sure there’s no soap left. When it’s cool enough to measure, measure out the amount of water you need. Add the sugar to the warm water and stir until it completely dissolves. Let the mixture cool completely.
For instance, boil a little over of water (to account for evaporation). Measure it out, and then add 1 cup (225 grams) of sugar to the water.
Only use white cane sugar. Don’t use brown sugar, turbinado sugar, honey, or artificial sweeteners, as these are toxic for hummingbirds. Use spring water if you can, but you can also use tap.
Pour the mixture into the feeder and put it outside. Change the mixture every 1-2 days. Store any extra sugar water in the refrigerator, and it will stay good for about a week or so. It’s bad when it starts to go cloudy.
When you change out the mixture, rinse it out thoroughly before adding more solution to the feeder.
Put the feeder in a shady area away from predators. If you leave the food in the sun, it will ferment faster. Fermented sugar is bad for the hummingbirds. In the shade, it can last 1-2 days before going bad in the summer, but in the sun, it may go bad in a couple of hours.
Also, place the feeder out of reach of animals like cats, which are natural predators of the hummingbird. Try to place the feeder at least off the ground.
Clean the feeder at least once a week with mild soap and warm water. Take the feeder apart. Pour in warm water and a dash of dishwashing soap. Use a sponge or scrubber to clean out the inside, and then rinse it thoroughly. Make sure to scrub out the nectar ports, too. You may need a small straw brush to get inside the ports. It’s even better if you can clean it every couple of days.
If you can’t take the feeder apart, try to use a bottle brush to scrub the inside. Alternatively, pour water and soap in it. Shake it up and then rinse it out.
If the feeder is moldy, clean it out with soap and water, then leave it in a solution of of bleach and of water for an hour or 2. Rinse it off when you’re done.
Some of them can be put in the dishwasher, so check the bottom of yours to see if it says it’s dishwasher safe.
Include a wide variety of flowers in your backyard for food. Hummingbirds will eat nectar from perennials, annuals, and biennials, so plant a diverse selection to help feed your friends. You can try hollyhock, geraniums, snapdragons, lantana, Indian paintbrush, bee balm, and/or impatiens.
You can plant flowers in the ground or in flowerpots; the hummingbirds won’t care.
EditHelping a Hummingbird
Capture a hummingbird in your home or a building by making it dark. Turn off all the lights and close the curtains, which will make the hummingbird flutter down to the floor. Then you can use a flashlight to find it. Scoop it up with your hand to take it outside. Be gentle!
If the room is bright, the hummingbird will try to fly upward.
You can also hold a hummingbird feeder just outside the window but use a broom handle and hold it very still. The bird may head that way eventually.
Put a stunned or injured bird in a small box. Poke holes in the top of the box so the hummingbird can breathe and put crumpled up tissue paper in the bottom. If you find a hummingbird on the ground, gently pick it up with your hand, trying to stay as close to the ground as you can to see if the bird decides to fly off. Cup your hands around it if you need to and gently place it in the box.
Set the box in a warm but not hot area. If you see the hummingbird stretching out its neck or opening its mouth to breathe, move it to a cooler spot.
Offer sugar water to a stunned bird. Try offering it a little sugar water in an eyedropper. Hold it up to the bird and place a drop or 2 on its beak. Don’t squeeze it out, as you could drown the bird.
If you don’t have an eyedropper, try holding it up to a hummingbird feeder.
Let the bird drink every 30 minutes or so but don’t force it to drink.
Call a wildlife rehabilitator if you think it’s injured. If you see an obvious injury, then you should call right away. If a stunned bird without an obvious injury doesn’t recover quickly within 1-2 hours, you should also call a wildlife rehabilitator to see what you should do.
EditAssisting Hummingbird Babies
Return babies to the nest if they’ve fallen. Check the nest to see if it’s been attacked by insects like ants or even a larger predator. If the nest seems okay, gently place the baby back in the nest. Watch the nest to make sure the mother returns to the baby.
If the nest isn’t okay, put the baby in a small box or basket and put it near the nest. Watch to make sure the mother finds the baby.
You can also move a nest back to a branch if it simply fell down.
If the baby has been abandoned, move on to feeding it and calling a wildlife rehabilitator.
Watch an abandoned nest for 1.5 hours before taking action. Most of the time, nests are not abandoned by the parents. You may just be missing the mother coming by to feed the babies. If you think a nest has been abandoned, don’t take your eyes off of it for 1.5 hours, and if you don’t see a parent, then you can take action.
If the birds make noise consistently for more than 10 minutes, they are likely abandoned and very hungry.
Call a wildlife rehabilitator. You can find this information online or in your local yellow pages. Baby hummingbirds need specialized care, so you really need to turn them over to a trained professional.
As babies grow, they need to be fed a specialized diet of ground fruit flies, vitamins, enzymes, and oils. They require feeding every 20 minutes to stay healthy over a long period.
Offer sugar water to the babies every 30 minutes until you can get help. It’s best to leave the babies alone if you can, but if they are crying out for food, you may need to offer something until help arrives. If the baby opens its mouth to be fed, you can drop in 3-5 drops of sugar water every 30 minutes. If you can’t get the baby to feed this way, you need to get it to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Trained professionals will use a very small catheter to give the babies food.
Don’t try to bring the nest inside. Babies have trouble regulating temperature, and they may get too hot inside. If a baby is abandoned on the ground, the nest has been attacked, and the mother doesn’t return, you can put the baby in a box like the one you’d use for an adult.
EditThings You’ll Need
Eyedropper or syringe
Make Perches for a Hummingbird Feeder
Create a Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden
Make Hummingbird Food
EditSources and Citations
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