Of all the birds that can grace your backyard with their presence, hummingbirds are perhaps the most attractive ones. Although these little birdies are not remarkable in size, their glossy, colorful plumage and fast-moving wings are nothing less than a wonder.
Any birder who wants to attract the hummers to their yard begins by setting up feeders for them. But these little birds don’t feed on just any regular bird feeder, no. As you already know, they have a differently structured bill, adapted to feed on nectar.
Because it’s difficult for most birders to find natural nectar sources for their backyard guests, they often go with homemade or store-bought hummingbird nectar to fill up their feeders and draw in hummingbirds. But how long does hummingbird nectar last before it goes bad? That’s the question we will answer here today.
Does hummingbird nectar go bad? Yes, hummingbird nectar can go bad. All hummingbird nectars, be it homemade or store-bought, are essentially made of sugar and water and are, thus, bound to have an expiry date. Various factors can affect the life of hummingbird nectar, both on the shelf and in the feeder. Expiry date varies from brand to brand, but on average, it is between 1 to 2 months.
The key to keeping hummers in your yard for a long time lies in learning when to change the nectar in their feeders.
In this article, we’ll discuss whether hummingbird nectar goes bad and the things you can do to maximize its life. Keep reading to learn all about nectar and its proper usage for the hummers.
Store-bought Vs. Homemade hummingbird nectar: What’s the difference?
Before we dive into discussing the shelf life of hummingbird nectar, let’s take a deeper look at homemade and store-bought nectar and how they’re different from one another.
All hummingbird nectars, whether they’re made at home or bought from the stores, are made from sugar and water essentially to match the nutritional value that the hummers need.
Both homemade and store-bought hummingbird nectars have their own pros and cons, and we’ll discuss them now.
The store-bought hummingbird nectar is also a water-sugar solution but also contains more nutrients that can benefit the hummers in your yard. However, because these little birds are attracted to bright colors, some brands have started adding red dye to their nectar.
This addition has made many birders skeptical about the effect of the nectar on their backyard birdies’ health.
And while homemade nectar is indeed free from any kind of artificial additives, making it is a time-consuming process that requires patience and precision. Additionally, it might create a mess in your kitchen that you’ll have to clean up every time.
When it comes to the hummers, they usually enjoy both homemade and store-bought nectar in the same amount, with no specific preferences.
Which one should you go for?
With all that being said, which nectar you choose for your backyard hummers depends on your preferences. If you have the time and patience it takes to make your own nectar, you can go with it. Otherwise, the store-bought alternatives also work well with the hummingbirds.
Can hummingbird nectar go bad?
Because hummingbird nectar is a sticky solution, it is bound to go bad at some point, right? Now, the main question here is, how long before the nectar goes bad? Well, the answer to that lies in which nectar you’re using.
If you’re making your own hummer nectar, make sure that you prepare a batch that can be used for not more than two weeks; two weeks is a safe period for refrigeration storage.
On the other hand, the expiration of store-bought hummingbird nectar varies for different brands. On average, it ranges between 1-2 months. You can find it mentioned on the back of the bottle.
Factors that impact the life of hummingbird nectar
Have you ever wondered if all nectars last as long as they’re ideally supposed to? No, not really. Many factors can impact the life of the nectar negatively. Below, we’re going to talk about some of these important factors.
The temperature plays a crucial role in the condition of your hummingbird nectar. When exposed to a hotter temperature, the nectar is bound to start fermenting and be spoiled in a day or two.
And once a hummer drinks spoilt nectar from your feeder, the horrible taste will put them off, and they’re unlikely to return to it. For this reason, you have to be extremely careful about replacing or changing hummingbird nectar on a regular basis, particularly during the hot days of summer.
Not all birds that come into your yard can be both pretty and pleasant, right? Take Wood Pigeons, for instance. These birds have a peculiar and rather disgusting tendency to poop in the place they eat.
If any bird’s poop finds its way into the feeder, it can contaminate the nectar. In such a case, you need to change the nectar immediately if you want your hummers to remain healthy.
The sweet, sugary nectar is not only popular among hummingbirds but also among many insects, such as ants and bees. In many instances, these insects are drawn to their sweetness and end up falling into the feeder. And while hummers have no objection to eating insects, their corpses might lead to the spoilage of nectar, degrading its taste.
How to tell if the nectar has gone bad: signs of spoilage
As we just discussed in the last section, it is possible for the hummingbird nectar to go bad before its pre-decided expiry period. But how would you realize that the nectar in your refrigerator or feeder has gone bad before its time?
The appearance of the nectar can tell you a lot about its condition. Here are some signs that you need to look out for:
- The appearance of string-like structures or tiny white speckles in the solution.
- The color of the nectar turns cloudy or milky.
- The growth of mold or fungus inside the feeder or near the opening ports.
- Formation of crystallized residue at the base of the feeder. It is more likely to happen in the upside-down hummingbird feeders.
- Dead insects fell into the feeder or stuck at the feeding ports.
What happens if hummingbirds drink spoilt nectar?
Many birders, especially beginners, seem to think that just because hummingbirds are wild birds, they can eat anything without hampering their health. However, this is not true at all.
There’s a reason why nectar makes up a large part of these birds; it provides them with the nutrition their body needs. And if you think about how hummingbirds stay in flight almost all the time, you’ll realize that the right nutrition is crucial for maintaining their lifestyle.
Following are the things that can go wrong if the hummers in your yard drink spoilt nectar:
- First and foremost, the taste of spoilt hummingbird nectar is bound to degrade. And as soon as these birds taste it, they will stop coming to your feeders altogether.
- When the nectar is spoiled, its sugar changes into carbs, which is not right for the hummers. This is because it takes these birdies a long time to break down carbs.
- The smell of spoilt nectar often attracts other pests, ranging from insects to raccoons to your feeders. They can pose a threat to the little birdies.
- Spoilt nectar often crystallizes or grows thicker. And, if the hummers touch this thick solution with their wings or bill, those parts will be coated with it, making it difficult for them to fly or eat properly.
How often should you change hummingbird nectar in the feeder?
The first thing you need to know, if you don’t know it already, is that the life of hummingbird nectar is much shorter inside the feeder than in the refrigerator.
When the temperature rises in the summer months, you should change the nectar in your feeders on alternate days. However, in milder weather, it can easily last up to 5-6 days. In any case, make it a point to check on the feeder daily to avoid any mistakes.
How to keep hummingbird nectar fresh: tips and tricks
Now that we’ve learned about how hummingbird nectar goes bad, let’s take a look at some quick pointers that you can use to avoid their spoilage. Here you go:
- The right placement of the feeder is paramount in keeping the nectar fresh. If your feeder is placed under direct sunlight, the nectar will start fermenting earlier. Therefore, try to place it under a sheltered area or purchase a feeder that comes with a shelter.
- Purchasing smaller feeders has helped many birders to avoid wasting nectar. When the feeder is small, it is likely that your birdies will finish all the nectar before it gets a chance to be spoilt.
- A thorough cleaning of the feeder is also crucial. If the feeder is not properly cleaned, the nectar placed inside it will be contaminated in no time.
To sum it up, if you’re willing to invite the hummers to your yard, providing them with fresh food is the quickest and most effective way to do it. Before you set up their feeders, you should learn all about making and preserving their nectar.
However, along with putting out feeders for the hummers, you should also consider planting flowering plants in your yard to offer them a natural food source as well.