Hummingbirds, like most birds, have little to no sense of smell. They rely purely on sight and instinct to find food. Brightly colored flowers are what catch their eye, which is why most hummingbird feeders are red. While homemade or store-bought food can provide a nice supplement, nectar from actual flowers is more nutritious. The good news is that once the hummingbirds find your yard and the sources of food, they will stick around.
First and foremost, avoid using pesticides, herbicides or any other chemicals on or near plants that hummingbirds feed on. Even small doses can be toxic to the tiny birds. When making your own food you should only use white sugar, and food should be changed every few days if it is exposed to hot sun (the food can ferment or thicken if left out too long). It’s best to add a small amount to your feeders and refill often.
Do not use food dye and avoid store-bought mixes that include additives or preservatives. The hummingbirds are attracted to the red or other bright colors on the feeders themselves -- no need to dye the liquid red. The dye provides no nutritional benefit and can cause health problems.
Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned frequently, as mold can develop rapidly. The best method is to soak them in a mixture of hot water and vinegar. Avoid using soaps or strong cleaning chemicals, as residues can be fatal to the birds. Rinse feeders well after cleaning.
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