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DIY hummingbird feeders: any recommendations?

 
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I keep two hummingbird feeders in my yard. They live here year round, and right now, in the deep of winter, they need supplementation if they're going to be alive to raise their babies in the spring-- very little is in bloom as the temps dip down to near freezing at night and I'm very happy to have at least 4 different species visiting my yard.
My feeders are the usual plastic gickola (never seen any here made of glass or anything else), and in the subtropical sun they get weathered and worn quickly. One looks like it's about to give up the ghose and I'd like to make my own to replace it, we recycle a lot of bottles and it seems like a reasonable project.

A few designs (from this list of DIY feeders) look possible but I wanted to know if anyone has done it successfully.
I am not 100% sure about the kind that have rubber or cork stoppers, we have very serious temp fluctuations and I am not sure that the stopper would stay in with the bottle upside down. But there are some types that look more like a bottle-into-a-pan type thing that seem more promising, like



I am also really interested in SIMPLE, like the glass-salt-shaker thing



Anybody done it and have any suggestions?
 
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The second one seems like it will be very hard for the birds to use as soon as the level of liquid goes down at all.  

I'm very interested in people's ideas about this, I would like to make some too.
 
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I wanted to mention that I’ve always had more luck with a plant or two they like rather than sugar water setup. Comfrey seems to be a favorite. It also pops up around the time most of them migrate to my state. Are you sure they are supposed to be locals?
 
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After moving to an area overrun with outdoor cats I had to put my feeders away...with the completion of our solid metal roofing fence I feel I can safely encourage birds to our mini sanctuary.

My favorite feeders were ones that are just the bottom reservoir with feeding outlets, you supply the pop bottle that screws into this base. This way you can adjust quantity at will all the way up to 2 liters.

Now, if I can just find them...
 
Tereza Okava
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6 months later, I went and bought more of the plastic ones, unfortunately. I tried the hanging jar and it was impossible. The upside down bottle in the plastic recycled pan apparently is some sort of container we do not have here, I looked high and low and nothing. So oh well!

Shawn Harper wrote:I wanted to mention that I’ve always had more luck with a plant or two they like rather than sugar water setup. Comfrey seems to be a favorite. It also pops up around the time most of them migrate to my state. Are you sure they are supposed to be locals?


Sorry I didn't see this when you posted it, Shawn. I am finding the same thing, I had a flowering papaya (no fruit, only flowers) come up and they are enjoying it, but I have plenty of hummingbirds so they need lots of things to eat (5 types, I can't even guess how many individuals. At any given time when I look out my office window there are 1-3, and we've had dinner parties on the back porch with 5 chasing each other, it was like a war zone). They are definitely locals!  (comfrey, on the other hand, I can't seem to get to grow here for love nor money)
 
Lorinne Anderson
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Being unable to find my "pop bottle" adapters, and the ones online being outrageously priced I am going back to my second favorite, a "chick waterer".

I can't take credit for this clever idea, but it worked great. These units are designed to trickle feed into an open saucer that screws onto a Mason Jar. The adaptation was the addition of the lid from a disposable plastic container (yoghurt, cottage cheese etc.). A hole is cut so it can be threaded onto the Mason Jar and then using the hot tip of a solder gun or heated nail, holes are made for the Hummers to feed through. The holes can then have flowers painted on with nail Polish, or stickers made from vinyl to show Hummers where to drink. You could purchase "replacement flowers" for regular feeders and slot/snap them into the holes, also.

I've just ordered a bunch of the screw on bases (yes, they are plastic - there might be metal screw on bases available elsewhere) from Amazon.ca for less than $5 each - WAY cheaper than any feeder available. As the homemade cover is made from a used lid, it would be easily replaced, and just might protect the purchased base (as it would be somewhat shielded from UV which kills plastic, making it brittle).

For those JUST starting out NOW is the time to get feeders out, and if possible, lots of them. Here on the Wet Coast the hummers show up around Valentines Day - in other areas, note when you hear the geese returning (no, the hummers do NOT hitch rides on geese) as the return migration in North America coincides with the Hummers.

The trick to attracting loads of Hummers is to have feeders out BEFORE the males arrive; they scout and settle on territories based on nesting and food availability, each feeder will be "owed" by a male (assuming they are spread out/out of sight of each other). The ladies arrive 1-3 weeks later. The more feeders, the more males will think your property is great territory, the more females will nest nearby. Once nests are built, you can consolidate the feeders into just a few large or centrally located feeders, instead of having to maintain 6-12 feeders.

Please, NEVER use red dye/food coloring as it is toxic. Also, use ONLY regular, white table (cane) sugar (do not use  brown or raw sugar, agave, artificial sweeteners, Stevia etc.).

Making the syrup can be time consuming and messy. I mix mega batches of 1:1 sugar and water, bring to a boil to sterilize, then store in the fridge. When ready to use, dilute one part syrup to two or three parts WARM water and fill cleaned feeder. By warming the mixture you will minimize leakage often caused when fridge cold syrup warms and expands once outside.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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So...the chick waterer bases arrived ($5 each). Discovered the lid from "Soap Exchange" 2kg tub (laundry/dishwasher soap) was the perfect fit so stopped by and got four lids. Next went to the local birding store and purchased "replacement flowers" for a commercially available feeder (9 for $5); then to the Thrift Store for Mason Jars (4 for $2) and got two sizes. Then, using a red permanent marker, colored the outside to make them red. Used Exato knife to cut out middle circle; paper hole punch (made just a tad larger with knife) for flower holes, and assembled. All in, worked out to $9 for each feeder.

I'm still working on the best method to 'hang' the feeders, some sort of harness thingy (Ideas?!?!).  
IMG_20200219_050105.jpg
Chick waterer
Chick waterer
IMG_20200219_050032.jpg
Feeder Components
Feeder Components
IMG_20200219_045939.jpg
Finished Feeder
Finished Feeder
 
Lorinne Anderson
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Figured out how to hang them with some wire.
IMG_20200316_152634.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200316_152634.jpg]
 
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Awesome DIY Lorinne! I've made my own perches but never a feeder - that would be a fun project to try! I have two feeders currently - one of the cheap plastic ones that run about $4 at the infamous smiling big-box store which and needs replaced every few years due to weathering, and a nice glass one that I received as a gift with a dish beneath a jar, very similar in design to your "chick feeder" - the hummingbirds seem to like them both pretty equally, though I have my own preferences. That said I have made some modifications to mine, mostly removing parts like the flowers and rubber bits. They don't have any trouble finding the ports without them.

On the US West Coast up to BC, we have some resident Anna's hummingbirds year round in temperate areas, and migratory Rufous and even more Anna's from early spring through summer. I saw so many Anna's around our yard in the aftermath of our recent ice storm (Winter Storm Uri), I was glad to have a feeder there for them, I assume they were displaced from their usual territories and shelter due to all the ice and falling debris.

I look for a couple of things in a hummingbird feeder - I try to avoid any stickers, potentially flaky appliques/paint, or hard-to-clean bits especially, the simpler and easier to take apart the better. I usually only have one or two feeders out, in addition to flowering plants through most of the year. I'm working on having something blooming year round but that's been easier said than done sometimes! Though the hummingbirds do stay here in the winter, hard freezes can be tough on these birds so I like to go to a 3:1 sugar solution when it starts getting colder to help them fuel up. I've been told this is good to do also when they are nesting to help the mamas fuel up and feed her chicks more easily, and when you first put out a new feeder, to make sure they "log" it as a good, reliable spot.

Just a word to anyone who puts out a hummingbird feeder: Feeders need to be cleaned every few days, or daily, depending on the temperatures, or fungal growth quickly begins in the sugar-water solution. Lack of regular cleaning, or hard to clean designs, can lead to murky nectar or black spots, and can cause a life-threatening condition (Candidiasis) for the hummingbirds where there tongue is infected with a fungus (sometimes it swells up to the point where they cannot retract it) and their gut flora dies off so they can no longer digest food. It is a slow horrible death for these little birds so I like to make people aware... I've seen many well meaning people put out a feeder and then forget to clean it, or leave it out during a hot week in summer while they're one vacation. A simple solution of water and vinegar, dish soap, or bleach (I rotate. do NOT combine these as you could kill yourself!) or just a good scrub down with hot water every 1-3 days is usually sufficient to keep feeders clean. If it's hot out, daily or even more often is best. If you have a spare you can store a clean one or give one a soak and swap them as needed. I know people love these little birds and wouldn't want to cause them harm, but without knowing how bad it can be it's easy to maybe neglect the feeders. Just like people use the red dye without knowing, simply because it seems normal to do if you're not aware of the dangers to these amazing little creatures with their almost alien-to-earth super-metabolism. Perhaps another argument for more plants! But feeders are great as long as you keep them clean and stick to a pure cane sugar and water solution between 4:1 and 3:1.

Speaking of the solution, you all are right on the money. Pure cane sugar is nearly identical chemically to the nectar they get from flowers, and hummingbirds seem to prefer diverse food sources when possible and still happily choose flowers quite often when they can, as most hummingbird experts agree. The feeders seem to be a supplemental/back up food source for hummingbirds most of the time, and allow us to see and appreciate them more easily from our windows and yards. Some people will add some of this or that extract, honey, etc but these are really best to be avoided - hummingbirds eat SO MUCH compared to their body size and metabolize it all so quickly, sugar which can be burned off efficiently without anything extra really is the best feeder solution for them aside from flowers. Honey promotes aforementioned fungal issues. Some people say beet sugar should be avoided because it is a GM crop, others because it contains extra iron that hummingbirds cannot properly metabolize, others (even experts) say its fine and and others simply think sticking to the known safe bet (pure cane sugar) is best. I've heard of at least one aviary accidentally killing hummingbirds by using, to the best of my knowledge, raw turbinado sugar.

If you have issues with aggressive bees or wasps around your feeders, or just around your garden, here's my tip: I've heard that these insects are attracted to the color yellow and not red, so I try to stick to red, white, and clear for my feeders. I've recently taken off the white plastic flowers and the hummers have no problem finding the ports, but its not quite bee season yet so we will see if I need to put them back on as insect guards. Our true bees tend to be docile and not drive off the hummingbirds, but hornets and wasps are another story - we have both bald-faced hornet and the usual yellow-jackets which are both aggressive. I'm very allergic to the bald-faced hornets so I do put out traps for them. If you do choose to put out traps (I know this is perhaps not the most Permie way but I personally take a harsher stance with something that can send me into anaphylaxis within a minute of one sting, and I know I'm not alone), its best to do so in the very early spring, when queens are emerging hungry & seeking places to nest, and not wait until the warmer months when they are already becoming a problem. Each queen you capture in the spring, prevents a whole nest of hornets in the summer.

Lastly, hummingbirds have excellent eye sight and great memories, and will check out anything red, so putting some plastic christmas balls or toys, flowers fake or real, solo cups, etc. near your feeders and making sure they are highly visible but with shelter nearby, will ensure the hummingbirds will find and then remember your feeders. They see the red from a distance, come in to investigate, and very quickly hone in on feeders or nectar-laden flowers with almost magically keen sense. Once you have them coming, and moreso nesting nearby, you'll have increasing numbers year after year. If you have issues with them being territorial, try spacing out the feeders, or adding more flowering plants and visible obstructions. They also love to have somewhere to perch nearby, and some clean running water or mist to bathe in. Even just soaking down the leaves of the surrounding plants during the hot part of the day can provide them the chance to bathe and cool off. You can DIY a bath for them using a cheap solar fountain and a plastic salad bowl or similar and be amazed by their antics splashing in the water.

I would love to see what others are doing to bring in hummingbirds and what kind of feeders & modifications people are making!
 
Lorinne Anderson
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YES!...To everything Rebecca Ross posted!!!
 
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