Friday, February 28, 2014

Hand Made Feeder for Hand Feeding Hummingbirds

fingers spread wide over the perches of a Humzinger feeder
Ever since moving to West Marin sixteen years ago, I have been drawn to the local hummingbirds. We have Anna's year round and migrating Allen's and occasional Rufous in the Spring and Fall. We had so much traffic our first year that I stood next to my feeder and waited for them to come around. They would fly close to me and I could feel the wind of their wings on my face and hear their buzzing wings in my ears. I would look them in the eye and feel a sense of connection. A sort of questioning look and eventual trust as I got them to land on me. It took a lot of time and patience but they eventually warmed up to me. I've spent hours over the years standing by my feeders watching and waiting for them, sometimes being rewarded with 3 to 4 hummingbirds sitting on my fingers at once! This hobby can become quite addicting especially during migration and high traffic time of year. Evening hummer happy hour is my favorite time of day. 

I bought more feeders over time. It seemed like the more feeders there were, the less fighting amongst the birds. Next, I decided to attract more hummers to my house by placing even more feeders around my deck to entice those flying by who might not see the feeders tucked under my roof. I found that the McCormick brand spice jars were perfect for the job. I had recently cleaned out my pantry and pulled some spices that were very old and stale off the shelf. I emptied them and soaked the jars in boiling water to loosen the labels and sterilize them. Next, I drilled holes in the red tops. McCormick has designed a top that comes with a snap lid with an inner lid with pre-made holes. How handy! Remember, if you drill your own holes, smooth out the edges with a file.

McCormick spice jars
After I had made 4 of these little jar feeders, I placed them on my deck and on the arm rests of a couple of deck chairs. It wasn't long before they were discovered by the hummingbirds. Ants also discovered them so I placed them in shallow bowls of water to discourage the ants. Hummingbirds like to sit on the lip of the bowl and rest while they eat.

Spice Jar feeder inside bowl of water to detract ants
Now the fun begins! Once the hummingbirds were used to eating from the feeders on the arms of the deck chairs, it was an easy bit of persuasion to get them to feed from the jars while holding them in my hand. I no longer had to stand at the feeder with my arms raised high. This was so much more relaxing. 

If you are fortunate to live where hummingbird traffic is heavy and they swarm around feeders, the jar is your ticket to a magical close encounter. In the video below, it took about 5 minutes before I had a few visitors to my feeder. That's not a very long time to wait and the rush of standing in the middle of a hummingbird swarm is pure happiness! Scroll 2/3 way through for the close up! Turn up the volume!

My Youtube Hummingbird Playlist
More info on handfeeding hummingbirds

If you would like to make your own hummingbird food, here is the recipe:
1 part sugar
4 parts water
Boil the sugar water until the sugar is completely dissolved. This will also kill any mold or bacteria that might be present. Do not boil longer as that will make syrup and change the water/sugar ratio. Never add red food coloring. That can make birds sick. Wait for the water to cool before filling feeders.

I hope some of you get a chance to try this inexpensive method to get close to these little jewels.