One of the best ways to see hummingbirds is by putting up a hummingbird feeder. Feeders come in all shapes and sizes and can go from very cheap to un-necessarily expensive. Regardless of the feeder, so long as it attracts hummingbirds you can enjoy these amazing birds. I’ve been fortunate enough to set up feeders in a variety of locations, which has enabled me to see many different species of hummingbirds. Here are a few pictures of different species I’ve seen at feeders in Panama, California, and Arizona:
While you might think hummingbird feeders only attract hummingbirds (hence the name), you will find out otherwise. Some of the common alternative attractants to hummingbird feeders are bees, wasps, and ants. My experience with wasps is mainly from Panama, where there would be one or two hanging around the feeder, but not enough to prevent hummingbirds from also drinking. I have also not had too much trouble with bees, however when they find your feeder they can cover it. I have come up to my feeders before to find 30-50 bees on it. In my experience, the best way to avoid bees is to make sure your feeder does not leak or drip sugar water. If bees do find your feeder, take it down for a few days and then move it to a different location and hopefully the bees will not find it again. Ants are a bit harder to avoid. They tend to be experts at finding feeders. Many end up dead inside the feeder, which can lead to some lovely mold growths if not cleaned quickly. But many ants will just hang out in a feeder and you will not necessarily notice them until you move the feeder and they come swarming out. The best way to avoid ants, is to use ant guards. The feeders I use for fieldwork (below) have built in ant guards, which kind of work. To better ensure the success of the ant guard, fill the top part with some water (which unfortunately will not last long in Arizona).
In addition to ants/bees/wasps, you can attract several other bird species to hummingbird feeders. I’ve seen woodpeckers, orioles, house finches, and tanagers all try to partake in the delicious sugar water from a feeder. While these birds can scare off hummingbirds, they will not stay at the feeder all day, so hummingbirds will still visit the feeders. The main issue with these birds, is that they tend to spill a lot of the nectar from feeders because they tip it over. Sometimes woodpeckers will also break feeders, trying to drill into them! I’ve been lucky in that most of these other bird visitors were just fun birds to watch and did not have any major negative effects on the feeders. Here are a few pictures I have of non-hummingbirds at my feeders:
Now you might ask what this post has to do with my fieldwork. Well I deal with hummingbird feeders at lot in my work, as that is the best way to catch wild hummingbirds. Here are two of my setups to trap hummingbirds using feeders:
The past several days, I have been working to capture the three males I filmed last week with Jess and Aly. This week, I finally managed to capture them all! It took longer than normal to capture these three males, partly due to some crazy winds, but in the end I succeeded. While I was using the mist-net method of trapping these hummingbirds (see picture above), I ran into other species going in my traps – mainly Scott’s orioles. Here is one in my trap:
Also, I often had to deal with hummingbirds that were not the target male I was trying to capture not being able to get out of my trap, like this female broad-billed hummingbird who just clung to the side of the nets.
Anyways, now that I’ve caught all of my male hummingbirds, its time to finish analyzing all of the display videos and start taking pictures of each male’s feathers. I’ll provide the details and a better explanation in my next post. In the mean time, I would highly encourage all of you to put up hummingbird feeders in your yards so that you can also enjoy these wonderful birds! Just remember to clean your feeder to avoid mold and do not use red dye in the sugar water! It is bad for the hummingbirds. All you need is sugar (raw sugar is best) and water (I typically use 1 part sugar to 4 parts water) and you are good to go. Happy hummingbird (and non-hummingbird) watching!