Building a hummingbird feeder from recycled materials commonly found around in the home is a fun and environmentally responsible DIY project.
Seeing a hummingbird in Massachusetts is a real treat, especially if it’s in your own backyard. There are a number of species of hummingbirds that migrate through New England in the spring and summer, including the Ruby Throat Hummingbird and to a lesser degree the Rufous Hummingbird. Having one or more feeders will increase the chances that they will not only visit, but frequent your backyard during their trip.
You could purchase a new hummingbird feeder, or polish off your DIY skills and turn some “trash into treasure”, with a recycled and resued hummingbird feeder. This can be a great project for kids and adults alike, and requires materials commonly found in most households.
The Materials – What You Will Need
- A clean soda or water bottle with cap
- a 6″ length of 1/4″ copper tubing (commonly used for refrigerator ice makers)
- A coat hanger or thin wire for making the feeder hanger
- Hot glue gun for sealing around the tube to prevent leaks
- A drill with a 7/16″ bit to make the hole for inserting the 1/4″ tube into the cap and bottle
- A hacksaw or copper tube cutter, and file or sandpaper to cut and smooth copper tubing
- A silk flower or old beach ball to craft a “faux” flower to attract attention to the feeder
Building the Recycled Feeder
Thoroughly rinse the used bottle, cap and copper tubing (inside and out) with fresh water. Using the 7/16″ inch drill bit, make a hole in the bottle cap. Cut a 6″ length of copper tubing and smooth (file or sand) any rough edges made from cut. About 2 inches from the top of the pipe, make a 30-40 degree bend in the tube, and insert the shorter end of the tube into the bottle cap. Note that the tube will fit snuggly into the hole, minimizing the opportunity for leakage. Put a small bead of hot glue around the tube on the inside and outside of the bottle cap. Make sure the inside glue bead does not impede on the cap threads, or you may not be able to tighten the cap thoroughly.
Next, attach the “faux flower” on the longer end of the copper tubing. If using a silk flower, snip the end of the flower and insert the tube through the middle of the flower, extending the tube about halfway through the flower. The “faux flower” can be secured with a few drops of hot glue, or can be wrapped with string or wire. If a silk flower is not available, a flower pattern can be cut from an old old beach ball (use the red or orange panel of the ball), cinched around the tube and wrapped with a wire.
Finally, wrap a hanger or length of wire around the bottom end of the bottle, leaving a length of wire long enough to loop back down to the bottle making a hook for hanging.
How the Recycled Hummingbird Feeder Works
Gravity is the engine behind this feeder, and it keeps the tube constantly filled with a fresh supply of nectar ready for the hummingbird’s grooved tounge. Because there is no air entering the feeder, nectar will not flow out of the bottle when inverted. When hanging or moving the hummingbird feeder, some nectar may drip from the tube but will cease once the pressure from hanging is equalized and the feeder is still.
Making the Nectar
Filling and maintaining the feeder will require a supply of homemade hummingbird nectar, and thankfully it’s very easy to make. The recipe for homemade nectar is 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Boil the water and mix in the sugar. Allow the mix to cool to the touch before adding it to the feeder. Extra nectar can be stored in used 2 liter soda bottles in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
Do not use honey, as it can ferment easily and kill or seriously impede hummingbirds. Also, there’s no need to add red dye to the homemade nectar mix.
Placement and Maintenance of the Hummingbird Feeder
Locate your feeder where it can be seen, near brightly colored flowering plants that hummingbirds are attracted to. Hummingbirds feel more comfortable feeding with cover nearby, so make sure other plants are within 5′-10′ of a feeder. Additionally, the heat from direct sunlight will cause fermentation, so placement in a shady cool area will extend the life of your hummingbird nectar.
During the spring, when it’s cooler change the nectar every 3-5 days. During the hotter summer months, change the nectar every 1-2 days. Thoroughly clean the feeder with fresh water each time you fill it, because a clean feeder is more likely to be an active feeder.
In New England, hummingbird feeders should be put out in early to mid-April and can generally be left out until late September. As a rule of thumb, the feeder should be left out and filled for three weeks after the last hummingbird is seen.
More Information – Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Backyard
Having a yard stocked with native flowering plants with bright red blooms will appeal to the traveling hummer, as well as the occasional cut open bannana (attracts fruit flies and hummingbirds love fruit flies), and of course a regularly cleaned and replenished hummingbird feeder.
More Information – Hummingbird Facts
Hummingbirds are one of the smartest species of birds, with a brain proportionally larger than any other bird. They have an amazing memory, and can remember not only the location of every flower they feed from, but also how much nectar each flower can hold and the time it takes to refill.
It is a common misconception that they “sip” from flowers, when in fact they lap nectar with their “W” groove shaped tounges over 13 times per second. Although they are typically tiny creatures the weight of 1-5 pennies, they have a metabolism greater than an elephant. They eat about seven times per hour, and can consume up to eight times their body weight per day.
There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds, mostly found in South America with some found as far north as Alaska.
“by Bill Askenburg, Owner & Artisan – New England Birdhouse. We specialize in fine architectural bird houses and feeders, offering handcrafted custom and stock replica bird houses and backyard birding supplies and garden decor. For more information or articles please visit our blog.”