All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hummingbird Feeders

Dear Marie:

Hummingbirds have always fascinated and intrigued last week I bought a hummingbird feeder which I have hung outside my window.  Already, three hummingbirds are visiting the feeder on a regular basis and I am thrilled.  So far, I have been feeding them sugar water.  But I have some old honey that is slightly discolored, and I was wondering if I can dilute this with water and use it in the feeder.  I don’t believe it has gone bad.  It smells okay; but I will wait for your reply before I fill the feeder,...just in case!

Villa Park

Dear Anne:

Thank you for asking before you put out any of the honey you described!   Chances are, the honey is completely contaminated with a number of “bugs” that could kill your little hummingbird friends in very short order.  In fact, your sugar solution can be equally deadly if you are not careful.  In warm weather, hummingbird feeders should be emptied and thoroughly cleansed every four hours.  If this is not done, the contents of the feeder can become a veritable biology lab experiment of rapidly breeding bacteria.  In cooler weather, you can get away with cleaning your feeder every two days.  To make sure you keep to your cleaning schedule, maintain a log on your refrigerator door so that you don’t forget.

Furthermore, regular old sugar water is the best thing for your little friends.  Back when I worked for O.C. Animal Control, one of the foremost experts in Hummingbird rehabilitation and rescue—Helen Bishop—told me that you should mix one part sugar to four parts BOILING water.  Fill your CLEAN feeder with this solution and allow it to cool before placing outside.  Also, do not use red food color in your mixture.  The feeder itself is colored and there is no need to add any hue to the liquid food...artificial dyes may be hazardous to the health of the feeding birds!

Finally, if you want to take the most natural approach to attracting hummingbirds, there are a number of flowering plants that you can grow in your garden that will draw hungry hummers to your home.  Often, natural flowers attract far more birds than any feeder.  I have a quite a few flowering shrubs at my house that get a steady stream of hummers, butterflies, and other interesting flying wildlife that are fascinating to watch and enjoy.  

For more information on hummingbirds, check out “The Hummingbird Book” by Donald and Lillian Stokes.  It is available in most book stores and libraries.

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