How To Avoid a Dead Hummingbird In Your Garden
If you live anywhere in the Americas, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter hummingbirds in your garden.
With 300 species found from Alaska to Chile, 12 of these species will spend summer in America before heading to tropical climes during colder periods.
We will look today at how to limit the chances of coming out one day to find a dead hummingbird rather than hearing the delightful sound of their rapidly flapping wings.
These tiny, brightly colored birds with their iridescent feathers are among the smallest of birds. They measure anywhere from 3 to 5 inches.
Hummingbirds are from the family Trochilidae and, for birds with such rapid metabolisms, they have surprisingly long lifespans. Some live for up to a decade while the average is somewhere between 3 and 5 years. From hatching to fledging, hummingbirds are pretty vulnerable. Many die in this critical period.
They normally rely on nectar, the sweet liquid found inside certain flowers. Nectar is a combination of fructose, sucrose and glucose. As such, it’s a poor source of nutrients. Hummingbirds will top this up by preying on insects or spiders.
How can you give them a helping hand?
Because of their fast breathing rate, rapid heartbeat and elevated body temperature, hummingbirds need to eat often.
Many gardeners also choose to provide these majestic little birds with a feeder so they can further supplement what they can forage in the wild.
Hummingbird feeders are very inexpensive. All you need is one of these feeders, some refined white refined cane sugar and some water and you’re good to go.
Most feeders are red since this color seems to draw hummingbirds in more than others.
When you are looking for the best feeder, think about how easy it is to clean and fill. Look for a model that will come apart so you can regularly clean all the components.
Some feeders come with a handy little perch. This is not necessary and hummingbirds will happily feed without needing to rely on any assistance. The advantage of perches, though, is that you get to enjoy watching these incredible little birds just sitting there gorging on nectar.
Hummingbirds get their energy from nectar while the bugs they eat deliver a shot of protein.
Flower nectar is nothing more than sucrose in the range of 21% – 23%. Making sure the hummingbirds in your garden are well fed is extremely cheap. It’s also pretty easy…
- Mix up 4 parts of water to 1 part of cane sugar in a pan
- Bring to the boil while stirring to dissolve all the sugar. Boiling will kill any yeast spores or mold in the sugar. It also removes any chlorine from the water
- Remove from heat, cover and cool
It’s in your interests to make up batches of nectar so that you are not continually performing this task every time you want to fill your feeder. Store in plastic bottles in the refrigerator.
Do not be tempted to replace cane sugar with any alternatives.
Do not feed hummingbirds any of the following:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Raw sugar
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup
- Red dyes
- Preservative mixes
The last thing you want is to try doing a good turn only to end up with a dead hummingbird. Stick to the tried and true combo of water and sugar and you’ll be perfectly safe while giving the hummingbird exactly what it needs. They expend massive amounts of energy and need plenty of real sugar to compensate.
Keep Things Clean
Sugar water might be cheap but it’s also a highly fertile growing medium. Yeasts like to eat sugar. This causes fermentation which can be harmful to hummingbirds.
Various bacteria and mold also tend to proliferate in sugar water. Again, this could lead to a dead hummingbird rather than hours of mutual pleasure.
For these reasons, keeping the feeder sparkling clean is essential.
It’s equally important to ensure that the nectar is always fresh. If you live somewhere with cooler temperatures, changing the nectar weekly is fine.
At 70 degrees or above, use these temperatures as guidelines for how often you need to swap out the feed…
- 71 – 80 degrees: 3 days
- 81 – 85 degrees: 2 days
- 86 degrees plus: Every day
Keep a close eye on the nectar. If you spot any black spots or white strings, make sure to clean the feeder more frequently.
Each time you refill the feeder with nectar, wash it thoroughly with very hot water. This is where your life will be much easier if you buy a feeder that can be completely disassembled. Cleaning the parts is far simpler when they are broken down.
Where To Put Your Feeders
Ideally, choose a shaded location for the feeders. This will ensure the nectar lasts longer than if exposed to the sun. If you must place the feeder in direct sunlight, simply change it more often.
It obviously pays to situate the feeder near to a window so you can enjoy the view of the feeding hummingbirds. Keep it well out of the way of cats.
In no time at all, the birds will become tame enough to go about their business with you watching them from tight up against the window.
Pests That Threaten Hummingbirds
If you have any bees or ants menacing the feeder, hummingbirds will not use it.
- Ants: Install ant guards. These are small moats preventing the ants from finding the feeder
- Bees: Try to make certain there’s no nectar leaking out that might attract them. Avoid feeders with tubes as they tend to drip
Benefits of Birds in Your Garden
What To Do If You Find a Dead Hummingbird in Your Garden
In the event of coming across a dead hummingbird, check out first if it has a band. If it does, contact the Bird Banding Laboratory.
Being careful not to ruffle the feathers, wrap up the dead hummingbird in a paper towel.
Pop it inside a Ziploc bag then double-bag it with another.
Label it with the location, time and date it was discovered.
Here is a list of rehabilitators across North America.
Failing that, try contacting the biology department of a local college or university.
Your remaining options are either to bury it or give it to your local animal control agency.
We hope you’ve found this glance at how to limit the chance of finding a dead hummingbird when you planned to relax in your garden with a coffee and watch these magnificent birds happily feed.
It needn’t cost much to do your part and give these survivors a little helping hand with some nectar. Pay attention to the advice above and you should be rewarded with a nice throng of feeding birds.
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Now get some nectar prepared!