Nevada Fish & Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region



Feeder Maintenance

Hanging a hummingbird feeder means assuming a certain amount of responsibility for the well-being of a fragile and trusting animal. If you are not prepared to follow the rigorous maintenance routine outlined below, perhaps you should consider planting a hummingbird garden, instead.

Cleaning of the Feeder

Experts tell me that hummingbirds will starve rather than consume spoiled feeder syrup, so a dirty feeder isn't likely to cause harm. But it may cost you the pleasure of their company if they abandon your yard for more reliable food sources elsewhere.
Every filling, flush the feeder with hot tap water; a bottle brush can be very helpful. Do not use soap - hummers apparently don't like the taste, but bleach will remove it if you have this problem. Visually inspect the entire feeder for black mold; a bleach soak (see the next paragraph) is the best way to remove mold. Discard any unconsumed sugar water - if the birds are not emptying your feeder between cleanings, just partially refill it. If the sugar solution in your feeder turns cloudy, it's spoiled and needs to be replaced When the temperature is over 80 degrees (F), clean and refill every three or four days. Over 90°F, it might spoil in two days.
At least once a month, clean the feeder thoroughly with a solution of 1/4 cup bleach to one gallon of water. Soak the feeder in this solution for one hour, then clean with a bottle brush. Rinse well with running water and refill. Any remaining traces of bleach will be neutralized by reacting with the fresh syrup, and there's no need to air dry before refilling. Bleach is both safe and very effective.

When to Take Down the Feeder

Hummingbirds will not delay migration if a feeder is present; they are driven by forces more powerful than hunger. The Pacific coast of the U.S. (and extreme southwestern Canada) has a population of non-migratory Anna's Hummingbirds; if a feeder is maintained over the winter, hummers will visit it year-round.
Last updated: April 16, 2014