The word “hummingbird” takes me immediately to my grandmother’s kitchen in the summertime. I spent a lot of time with my Georgia grandparents growing up. And I love the memory I have of stirring the sugar and water together in a pot over the stovetop with my grandmother. I must have been 5 or 6. I can completely put myself there right now. The kitchen lights aren’t on because the sunlight is coming from the window over the sink and the open, screened backdoor. It is warm outside, but a cool breeze blows through the kitchen. The warmth from the stove radiates but it is a good heat, like a kitty laying in a sunbeam. I would help her carefully fill the hummingbird feeders and then we would hang them– outside the kitchen sink window and along their carport. Hummingbirds will always belong to my grandmama.
When we moved to Burbank this past summer, I was surprised to see hummingbirds darting through the courtyard of our apartment complex. What is really surprising is that I was surprised. Of COURSE there are hummingbirds in Southern California. I’m not sure why I had always assumed that hummingbirds were purely a “southern” thing. What I’ve realized is that I DO still live in the Southern United States… just on the other side of the country from where I grew up.
After getting tired of being jealous of watching the hummingbirds fly to my upstairs-across neighbor’s porch, I finally bought a hummingbird feeder several weekends ago. I went with the Pennington Glass Feeder. It looked a step-up from the standard, plastic jobs. I got mine at Lowes. Sadly, it isn’t offered through our new Amazon store.
Having never owned my own hummingbird feeder, I (of course) went straight to the internet to over-research. I learned that the perfect hummingbird nectar really is that simple. 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. That’s it. No supplements. No fancy sweeteners. No dyes. Just plain ole white sugar and water. Research suggests that the 1-to-4 ratio of sugar and water is the perfect mimic to the nectar found naturally in plants. More than that is too much and there is speculation as to the over-sugaring of nectars causing hummingbird diabetes. As much as we as humans are told to avoid refined white sugar, alternative sugars are actually dangerous and sometimes fatal to hummingbirds. Unrefined cane sugar contains extra mineral salts and iron not found in white sugar or naturally in nectar. Agave nectar is also not the same sugar as flower nectar. And, terrifyingly, honey contains a mold that can give hummingbird’s a fatal tongue and beak infection. So, white sugar it is, then.
Many of the commercial hummingbird nectars are dyed red supposedly to attract the birds. Although there is no concrete research, there is an internet rumor on the forums of hummingbird websites that red dyes cause hummingbird kidney failure. Yes. I’ve been reading the forums of hummingbird websites. Unless you are having problems luring the birds, I’d 86 the red dye. My feeder has ample amounts of red on it and why add anything extra to the food. Speaking of which, adding supplements to hummingbird nectar is also frowned upon. They get all the nutrients and protein they need from eating bugs (bonus, unless you love bugs).
I wanted Josh to be involved in the project, and asked him to research the proper method of making their food. Easy peasy. Bring 1 cup tap water to a boil on the stovetop. Stir in 1/4 cup pure, refined, sweet, sweet, white sugar. Let cool. Oh God, let it cool. We filled our feeder and placed it high on the bakers rack we have on our porch and let the magic happen.
We had birds by the end of the day. Apparently, one bird tells his bird friend about it, and his bird friend tells HIS bird friend and so on, and so on. I love watching them swoop through the corridor and chitter amongst themselves. Since our feeder is on a wire rack, they often perch upon it and rest… which I love. Josh and I have become obsessed with them and have debated the merit of getting motion-sensor cameras.
To find out what hummingbirds are in your region, check this out!
And if any one ever asks, my favorite hummingbird is the Lucifer hummingbird. In my mind there is a car right off the screen. The caption is, “Get in the car. NOW!” Or, perhaps, “Oh yeah? Well explain THIS?!” That is one p.o.-ed hummingbird.
What do YOU think the Lucifer hummingbird caption should be? Are you a bird watcher? Do you have any feeder know-how? Got any tips? As always, let us know in the comments!
Leigh, Sitting here in Afghanistan, this particular article took me to my Nana’s breezeway (though I certainly remember Aunt Betty’s kitchen well too), sitting on the chaise lounge, sweat-stuck to the green vinyl that used to cover it, reading a book and drinking sweet tea. That is living and such is the power of good writing. Thanks for the vacation!
Col. Parker- I do not know how the armed forces/international mail works, but I got a package off to our mutual Franklin County friend a few days ago. Sent a letter to you with it. Love that you read this. Love that it took you to BA’s breezeway. I go there frequently in my mind. The cool brick tile on bare feet. The sweet relief of fans on high taking the edge off the radiating heat of summer. The evenings of laughter and family- full of drink and still some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had. I hope this finds you doing SO well, Worth. Thinking of you often.
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