Nectar Water ratio?

catwhiskas(z5 Denver, CO)July 14, 2005

Is is bad for or can it harm the hummingbird to use a 3:1 ratio instead of 4:1 to make it more desirable for them?

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wardw(z6 NJ)

That sounds like a real bad idea. I say sounds, because although I recall there were reasons not to increase the sugar content, but I don't remember what they were. Even if no one can come up with a valid reason not to do it, I still wouldn't. Four to one works very well and doesn't seem to harm the birds, and the first rule of bird feeding is to do no harm. And I say 'doesn't seem' because there is a minority hummingbird enthusiasts who believe that any kind of artificial nectar is harmful. I wouldn't go that far, but occasionally the lunatic fringe is correct about something, so we may all see it differently in the future.

Sorry to go on like that, I couldn't stop myself.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 2:48PM
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hummymummy(zone8vancouver)

SOME people do use thst ratio in winter to prevent the sugar from freezing so easily. IMO I 'think' it could be dangerous in the heat. I have to agree with Ward.
Happy humbratting!
Cheri
(aka hummymummy vancouver, b.c. canada z8)

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 2:56PM
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catwhiskas(z5 Denver, CO)

Thanks for the advice - I would never want to do anything to hurt the birds.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 3:11PM
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mimidi(z8)

Catwhiskas we all know what you mean. I am always paying attention to the authorities on the forum. If they say it probably would not be good for the hummingbirds I don't do it.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 5:23PM
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catnappurr(Zone 6)

Good question Catwhiskas! :) I was wondering about that myself. My mailman who has a gazillion feeders in his yard and two of my neighbors up and down the street use a 3 to 1 ratio. They think it will attract more birds! I'm using the 4 to 1 ratio and so far no complaints from Peanut and Sassy! :)

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 6:05PM
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mimidi(z8)

You "Cat" ladies are getting me confused. I had to go back and check your names to realize that there are two of you.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 6:11PM
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oubliette(z7 MS)

I think someone on the forum said one time that the higher concentrations of sugar can cause the hummers to become dehydrated -- they need the extra water to stay hydrated.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 6:51PM
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tzunun(z8 SS10 SE AZ)

Natural nectar varies widely in sugar concentration, and a 3:1 feeder solution is well within the range of variation and shouldn't pose a risk of dehydration under most circumstances. In fact, many popular hummingbird-pollinated garden flowers produce nectar much sweeter than the time-honored 4:1 feeder solution. Many experts now use and recommend 3:1 solutions, especially during migration and winter. For more, see this article:

Sugar Content of Hummingbird Plants in Louisiana Gardens

I don't recommend solutions higher than 3:1, in part because of the dehydration issue (particularly important here in arid Arizona) and in part because stronger solutions are also more syrupy and harder for the birds to lap up.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 7:25PM
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frankj(MtnCntr CA - z9)

I use 3:1 during the COLD winter months to provide the hummers more caloric intake, (Also provide water via our bird bath/fountain.), but would never consider doing so during the HOT summer months, and couldn't afford too during the peak migration period even if I wanted!!!

Frank

Here is a link that might be useful: Frank's Hummingbird Photo Album

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 9:51PM
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flowerpowereverett

What a great thread! Thanks for posting.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 12:58AM
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standard65(z6/7 nashville)

after reading some stuff on humnet about this, I've been trying different solutions between 3:1 and 4:1. it's very unscientific since I don't even know if I have the same birds in the yard from day to day, and I can't watch them on a work day like I do on an off day, but I saw the most visits on the days I mixed a 3.5:1 ratio. I put 8oz. sugar in 28 oz. water.
it seems like I read that the stronger the solution, the more time might elapse between feeder visits, in other words, fewer observable feeder visits per day. 4:1 is probably best for frequent feeder visits, and I won't go stronger than 3:1 after reading tzunun's informative post.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 3:24AM
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tzunun(z8 SS10 SE AZ)

That's true, at least in theory, Stan. In fact, on hummingbirds.net Lanny Chambers has a reprint of a magazine article from a few years ago in which a couple of hummingbird researchers suggested starting with a very strong solution to develop a loyal clientele, then switching to a very weak solution to force them to visit more often. The old "bait and switch" - not a very nice way to treat the birds!

It's risky business manipulating sugar concentrations to increase your hummingbird activity, even if you don't go overboard and put out a 1:1 syrup. As you pointed out, a stronger solution means each individual bird has to visit less often, but it can also mean more birds visiting. On the other hand, using weaker solutions to encourage more visits may backfire if the birds have access to a richer sugar source nearby (a good patch of flowers or other feeders).

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 3:51AM
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wardw(z6 NJ)

Interesting, my information was obviously old information. I sure would have liked to know a couple of years ago when we had a Rufous into January. Currently the Ruby-throates are spending nearly all their time at flowers, with a lot of gnatting in the morning. Maybe I'll see if the 3/1 increases feeder use. There are a lot of hummers around, and with the cypress vine looking to be very late this year, it would be nice to increase the property's carrying capacity.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 8:41AM
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oubliette(z7 MS)

Great reading. Thanks for sharing the links, Tzunun.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 9:29AM
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mimidi(z8)

Same here Tzunun. I know we can always depend on you to keep us on the right path when it comes to the hummingibrds.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 9:47AM
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standard65(z6/7 nashville)

that article is exactly where I read that, tzunun, thank you. when I first read it, I was not motivated to change concentrations. I actually began thinking about it because I think both pineapple sage and beebalm taste sweeter than 4:1 to me, and because folks mention using 3:1 during migration. I think my place here is in a southbound migrating lane. I don't get individual birds that stay right in my yard all season, but from july through october, I have different bunches of adult males all the time, changing every few days, I think.
I've mixed 1:1 for my wasp/hornet trap, and I wouldn't put that sludge in my hummingbird feeders.
it hadn't dawned on me that what I thought was providing 'variety' could be perceived by our little buddies as 'bait and switch.' good point, thank you.
we sure appreciate all the good help and expertise you generously provide here on the forum, tzunun.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.hummingbirds.net/hainsworth.html

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 10:52AM
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