Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Nectar Feeder Require Frequent Maintenance
July 02, 2016
By Steve Grinley

     In the past couple of weeks, I had several customers say that put out hummingbird feeders a few weeks ago, but they haven’t seen any hummingbirds. Actually, one said that they saw a hummingbird briefly when they first put it up, but no activity since. In every case I asked if they changed the nectar (a.k.a. sugar water) regularly. Apparently, none of them realized that it was necessary.

     Sugar water ferments and goes bad very quickly, especially in hot weather. Harmful bacteria grows that could hurt the birds. All hummingbird and oriole nectar feeders need to be changed at least twice a week to keep the sugar water fresh for the birds. When nectar goes bad, it could make the birds sick. Most of the time the birds will ignore the bad nectar and find food sources elsewhere. 

     Nectar feeders are a little more work than most bird feeders, but if you make up a batch of sugar water in advance and keep it in the refrigerator to use over the next couple of weeks, it will make changing the nectar that much easier. Every three days or so, just rinse out the feeder and pour in fresh sugar water. This will keep your birds healthy and keep them returning to your yard. By providing a source of fresh nectar, these beautiful tiny birds will reward you with their presence!

     If you have been regularly feeding hummingbirds or orioles and they suddenly disappear for days at a time, don’t despair. They are likely off nesting and these birds often turn to insects for protein for the young. It probably won’t be long before they bring the young birds to your feeder to show them how they can supplement their natural food.

     Just this week, we saw adult orioles coming to our jelly feeder and picking up gobs of jelly only to fly off with it. I assumed that they were taking some to their recently fledged offspring. Sure enough, by the end of the week, the young birds were at the feeders. At first, the young birds, seemingly, did not know quite what to do with the dish of jelly before them. They were initially fed the jelly by the adult orioles right at the feeder. Eventually, they should get the idea and feed themselves!

     Speaking of young birds, this is the time of the year when baby birds are everywhere. We receive many calls from well meaning people that find baby birds out of their nest, assume that it is abandoned, and want to help it. In most cases, unless the bird is injured in some way, it is best to leave the bird alone. 

     If the bird has feathers, it is likely a fledgling that left the nest on it own, or with some coaxing of a parent bird. The bird may not be able to fly yet, but it is normal for it be outside the nest to get use to its surroundings. The parents are likely nearby and they will continue to feed the fledgling until it can fly and fend for itself. 

     If you find a bird without feathers, or with small pin feathers, it is a nestling and you should try to return it to the nest. If you can’t reach the nest, put the bird in a small basket or plastic container and place it close to the nest, or high off the ground away from cats and dangers. Then leave the bird alone. The parents are likely nearby and should continue to feed the bird.

     If the bird is injured in any way, or if you are certain that it is orphaned, contact the nearest wildlife rehabilitator. Do not try to care for the wild bird yourself-it is illegal. Wildlife rehabilitators have the proper licenses and the know-how for handling birds and other wildlife. A list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be on the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Website at www.masswildlife.org.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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