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Invited Summer Guests: Hummingbird Feeders

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Invited Summer Guests: Hummingbird Feeders


Have you ever wanted to see a hummingbird up close—to watch as it hovers like a helicopter and then flies forward, backward, or even sideways? If hummingbirds live in your area, you can. In summer, seed-eating birds may not be as plentiful at the feeders but it is an excellent time to feed hummingbirds. All you have to do is follow the directions for building a hummingbird feeder. Then fill your feeder with homemade nectar and hang it outdoors.

In Ohio, hummingbird feeders should be put out mid-April and left until mid-October.

Hummingbird at feeder

Hummingbird Feeder

What you will need:

• three small jars with lids
• hammer
• three nails
• waterproof paint
• stiff wire
• 1 cup water
• 1/4 cup sugar

Be sure to ask an adult to help you with the construction of these feeders. Hammer a nail through each of the lids to make a hole about 1/8 inch in diameter. Turn each lid over and flatten the rough edges by tapping lightly with your hammer. Using waterproof paint, paint a large red flower on top of one lid, a large flower in the color of your choice on the second lid, and leave the third plain. Wrap some stiff wire around the neck of each jar. Twist the wire just tight enough to stay on.

Next, make some hummingbird “nectar.” Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add 1/4 cup sugar. Make sure the sugar dissolves completely. Do not substitute honey for the sugar. A honey mixture may cause a disease in the birds. Food coloring is not necessary.

After the syrup is cool, fill each feeder. Store any extra syrup in the refrigerator. Put the lids on the feeders and hang them in a spot that doesn’t get direct sunlight.

When a hummingbird sees the red “flower” on your feeder, it will think the flower is real. And the bird knows that most red flowers have lots of nectar. (A hummingbird loves nectar. It may drink up to seven times its body weight in nectar in one day.) So while the hummingbird drinks your nectar, you can get a really good look at this incredible flying machine.

Red seems to be a preferred color, but a good experiment would be to measure the same amount of nectar into each feeder. Watch, if you can, to see how many visits hummingbirds make to each of the three feeders in any period of time. At the end of two weeks, compare the contents of each feeder to see what was the order of preference. Which color of lid was preferred more by the hummingbirds?

Wash your feeder every four days (with the exception of the experiment described above). Pour a little vinegar into the jar and scrub it with a brush. When the jar looks clean, rinse it well and fill it with fresh syrup.

Hummingbird Feeder Record Sheet

Date Nectar Checked

Red Flower on Lid-Amount of Nectar Left

Other Color Flower on Lid-Amount of Nectar Left

Plain Lid-Amount of Nectar Left


This activity is from the Ohio Birds 4-H project.