Life in the Real Desert: The Hummingbird Feeder Experiment

Hummingbird wikipedia

Hummingbird wikipediaI am not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination. Innate curiosity does drive much of what I do and as a young boy I did think that science was the path to be taken. That was overridden by the realization that I would not be the next Brains Benton or even Sherlock Holmes. My brain lacked the essential element necessary to make one an expert in the scientific world.


Years later my curiosity and imagination are still here and logic, while it has increased in some aspects, has ceased to be the main reason behind not pursuing a scientific path. It is now brainpower and time that stops me dead in my tracks.

It was the curious part of me that wondered why all of the neighborhood birds flocked around my nectar filled hummingbird feeder. The upside-down bottle is full of a homemade concoction, recipe taken from the good old Internet, and when first filled only the little manic wing flappers supped from my good-natured offering.

When I made a new batch, using slightly different measuring utensils, other feathered friends began stopping by to have a drink. Even the woodpeckers would land awkwardly on the small feeder, using a series of gymnastic maneuvers that can only be described as comical to the extreme, to drink from my tiny well of nectar.

This intrusion on my little hummingbird friends would be acceptable except that a lot of the other birds are actively chasing off my little feathered chums. First there were the yellow, quite pretty birds, then the red headed and red crested ones and now the woodpeckers are all having a go at the original recipients of the nectar.

I left the feeder empty for a couple of days and all of the winged ones were approaching it, landing and dipping a beak in to see if anything was left. I then filled the thing with common tap water, sans boiling and sans sugar.

The idea being that as this is the desert and not a lot of excess water is to be found, perhaps the other birds are just thirsty. Time will tell whether this hypothesis is correct or not.

Thus far, the feeder has not been approached by anything apart from the odd hummingbird. After a day or two, I will boil some water to see if the avoidance is because of “treated” liquid. Apparently the tap stuff needs to be boiled in order to rid it of the chlorine, et al.

It will be interesting to see if all of the winged neighbors in my area return to have a sup of plain old water after the chemicals have been removed. Afterward, I will go back to the original utensils to make the nectar and see if the hummingbirds can partake of the sweet drink undisturbed by the bullying birds that have invaded their feeder.

I wonder if the enormous road runner spied this morning will decide to have a drink in either of the provided fluids in the feeder. While is seems unlikely that this veritable giant could manage it, the woodpecker with gymnastic tendencies is not shrinking violet.

Watch this space…

23 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

17 thoughts on “Life in the Real Desert: The Hummingbird Feeder Experiment”

  1. I’m in total agreement with you Marilyn.
    Use fish line to hang bird feeders and ants should not be able to access sugar water, which should be red food color. Food color is safe.


    1. Somewhat amazingly, I’ve only had ants once and bees once. It’s the other bleeding birds who steal the nectar! LOL It’s funny you mention the red food color as the site I got the recipe was emphatic that this was bad for the hummingbirds… Weird…


  2. Love hummingbirds. Rose and I never get tired of watching them. We don’t get them hardly at all in Alberta so it’s special when we go travelling and can see them. Thanks Mike.


  3. If you want to give food to other birds, give them bird seed. Different feeder. Hummingbirds eat a very specific diet and other birds do NOT eat it, cannot eat it. This is more like teasing the birds. It’s not an experiment because everyone already knows ONLY hummingbirds can (should, must) eat sugar water. All other birds eat other food. There are books and the information is available online.


    1. This is the mystery, the other birds should not be drinking what is, in essence, sugar water. Granted it has been boiled, to remove chemicals, but they should not crave the “nectar.” To explain, these birds, both the hummingbirds and the others, are nor reliant upon me to feed them. This is not the middle of winter or a drought, just normal desert conditions (flowering plants are all over the place and the hummingbirds, bees, tarantula wasps, et al all sup freely from these beautiful flowers) Hummingbird feeders are all over the place and it appears that only my one is “attacked” and consumed by other birds as well as my targeted consumer.

      Since putting in the water, which is only temporary as I’ll be making another batch of “nectar” later today, it appears that no one is thirsty. It just looks like the creatures like their bit of sweet. I am going back to the original utensils and see if that makes any difference. Talking to the more knowledgable neighbors who already are quite adept at feeding, they are plagued by bees and ants, not other birds…

      Thanks for sticking up for our feathered friends but they all apparently have a large quantity of food, the hummingbirds at least, and I am not starving, nor teasing, the creatures who share my temporary garden.


      1. Hummingbirds can’t eat anything else. If you set up a bird bath — bowl style — you will discover how thirsty they all are. They just don’t drink that way. Honest. I’m not kidding you. Also, bird baths make GREAT photo opps. The birds totally love them and they will hang out as if they were at the beach. You just have to keep filling it up. They are sloppy bathers.


      2. Cheesh! Never has it taken me so long to answer a comment, bloody Internet… I’ve been trying to say that out here, the birds seem to prefer dust baths! There is a small bit of sand/dust near the gate in a hollow spot on the ground and I have watched birds roll about in it and then shake their feathers off. Fascinating. Also, I’ve filled the birdbath, no takers. I have discovered that the main draw for the hummingbird feeder is the sugar. After remixing the recipe I now have bees and ants (both of these adore feeders) and the other birds still chase off the hummingbirds although not quite as regularly. There are now some of the intended customers showing up again. 🙂


      3. I get a lot of hummingbirds by growing cup-shaped red, purple, or dark pink flowers. They love any shade of red. Fuchsia work for me, but you probably can’t grow them there. Too much sun. I once had a hummingbird land on me. I was wearing hot pink and I guess he thought I was a flower. Bird baths around here are busy busy busy. Maybe it’ll take them a while to discover your “spa.”

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That may well be the case. I had just assumed that the colour scheme was indigenous to the area, the same plants and flowers seem to be in everyone’s gardens. Of course that could also explain why there are hummingbirds everywhere. On a side note, after my seeing a road runner on the side of the road, there was one outside my house on the fence, he was huge! Sadly by the time I got my “camera” he, or she, had buggered off! LOLOL


      5. The real ones are pretty…ugly. None of the really pretty Looney Tunes coloring for these chaps. They are tall and unique looking though!


      6. As you can tell, I’ve not had proper Internet for a while…I meant to tell you the main color scheme may be pink and red but there is a lot of white and yellow as well. The yellow on the mesquite, which the little creatures love and white on a mystery bush that they are not as fond of…


  4. Love the video. You might want to check on what I was told years ago about feeding the birds. Your recipe doesn’t matter to the birds but once you start feeding them you can’t really stop. They have become dependent on the sugar water, at least for a few months.
    Try spreading peanut butter on a corn cob or ? then coat it in seeds. Seeds stuck to the PB. Hang it from the roof for larger birds. The humming birds need the sugar water.


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