Feeding hummingbirds by hand has never been easier with these simple birding tips.
By Dave Sapienza, McArthur, Ohio
These simple tips will have hummingbirds feeding out of your hand in no time. Photos: Jim Slonaker
It all began more than 10 years ago when I was outside, replenishing the sugar water in one of our hummingbird feeders. As the park naturalist, attracting birds to our area is one of my favorite parts of the job.
I reached up to hang the feeder when a ruby-throated hummingbird zoomed in for a drink. I stood frozen, watching in awe as the bird sipped from the feeder in my hand. At that moment, I knew I was onto something.
We started hand-feeding hummingbirds around the nature center where I work, and in 2002, it became an official program in the park. Now, we have hundreds of visitors each year, eager to join in during feeding time. We estimate that during any given program, roughly half the participants will attract a hummingbird to their hand-held feeder.
Some people try different tricks to lure hummingbirds to their feeder-brightly colored shirts, red hats and floral bracelets. You name it, and someone has tried it. From my experience, though, I don't know what kind of impact the different techniques have. Many times, our visiting hummingbirds don't seem to have any rhyme or reason for which feeder they choose to stop at.
Do you want to hand-feed hummingbirds? We'd love to have you visit us the next time you're in Ohio. Until then, here's our three-step program that you can try at home to increase your chance of success.
1. Choose the Right Feeder.
We've tested many sugar-water feeders over the years, and we finally found a winner from the company First Nature. Even if you don't buy from this company, they provide good criteria for what you should look for in a sugar-water feeder.
One of the features we like about our feeders is that they are all plastic with red parts that don't fade in the sunlight. They also come apart in three pieces, which exposes all part for easy cleaning. Plus, the feeder itself has a wide mouth, which helps with cleaning, too.
Perhaps one of the best features of it is that there are no yellow parts that may attract bees. Finally, the feeders have comfortable perches 360 degrees around, so there's always plenty of room.
2. Get the Right Mix.
We use a mixture of four parts water to one part sugar, and we do not add red food coloring. The red on the feeders is enough to attract the hummingbirds, so why use another product that isn't necessary?
We know it's simple, but our method seems to be working. We go through more than 50 pounds of sugar each year!
3. Have a Little Patience.
There is no magic involved when it comes to attracting hummingbirds to feed from your hand, though it does require patience.
First, get the hummingbirds in your area used to your feeders that are already hanging. Once they are comfortable, begin taking your feeders down for 10 minutes at a time. Put them out of sight, and then begin offering nectar with a floral hand-feeding tube. Try to hold it close to where your regular feeder usually hangs.
Don't give up if they don't come right away. They'll be curious at first, and it might take them a few times to build up the courage to drink from your hand-held feeder.
Now you should have everything you need to feed hummingbirds by hand. The first two steps are easy. It's the final requirement-patience-that will make you most successful.
Visit Lake Hope State Park's Web site to learn more about feeding hummingbirds by hand.