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    How to Clean Hummingbird Feeders

    Authored by Jodi Helmer

    Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures: Their petite bodies, colorful feathers, fast-beating wings and long tongues make them among the most popular birds to watch so it’s no surprise that hummingbird feeders can be found everywhere from apartment balconies and suburban yards to rural homesteads.

    Hanging a hummingbird feeder and watching species like Anna’s hummingbird, black-chinned hummingbird and broad-tailed hummingbirds alighting on the feeder for a drink is a wonderful pastime—but it also requires a little effort. 

    Once you find the best location for your hummingbird feeder, it must be maintained. In addition to filling—and refilling—your hummingbird feeder to provide a steady source of nutrition for visiting hummingbirds, feeders must be taken down and cleaned on a regular basis. 
    Without regular cleaning, nectar can ferment and mold mildew and fungus can build up in hummingbird feeder, which can cause illness and even death. Given that several species of hummingbird are endangered, it’s important to protect them in any way you can.

    Regularly cleaning your hummingbird feeder is a simple and essential activity for keeping these adorable little pollinators safe and healthy.

    What you will need to clean hummingbird feeders:

    Before you can start cleaning your hummingbird feeder, gather the essential supplies. You’ll need:

    • Bottle brush
    • Micro brush, toothbrush, Q-tips or pipe cleaner
    • Mild (unscented) dish detergent or white vinegar
    • Microfiber cloth or paper towel
    • Large bucket

    Take the hummingbird feeder apart.

    Before you start cleaning your feeder, pour any leftover nectar down the drain. Once the feeder is empty, it’s time to start taking it apart. 

    There are many different styles of hummingbird feeders and each one is different so you’ll need to read the instructions for directions on how to disassemble your feeder. In general, taking a hummingbird feeder apart involves unscrewing the clear plastic (or glass) vessel from the base. Your hummingbird feeder may also have small pieces like feeder ports, bee guards, ant moats and other accessories that will need to be removed in order to be thoroughly cleaned.

    It's no secret that nectar is sticky. Sometimes, crystallized sugar can cause the pieces of the hummingbird feeder to stick together, making it difficult to disassemble for cleaning. 

    If you can’t get the pieces apart for cleaning, soak the entire hummingbird feeder in hot water for at least 15 minutes; the hot water will loosen the crystals and make the feeder easier to take apart. (Soaking your hummingbird feeder in warm water will also loosen sticky particles and make it easier to scrub).

    Scrub the feeder.

    Scrub all parts of the feeder, including the vessel, base, feeding ports and cap. You can use few drops of dish detergent and hot water or a solution of one part vinegar to two parts hot water to clean and disinfect the feeder. 

    Scrub each of the larger pieces with a bottle brush to remove all of the nectar residue, mold and fungus that have collected in the feeder. 

    A standard bottle brush is the perfect tool for cleaning the glass vessel and base but it’s too big to get into the tiny crevices in the feeding ports where nectar residue, fungus, mold and bacteria can hide. 

    For these smaller pieces, use a micro brush, Q-tip or even a pipe cleaner to remove dirt and debris and ensure that your hummingbird feeder is squeaky clean.

    You can also put your hummingbird feeder in the dishwasher.

    Rinse the feeder.

    Once you’ve meticulously scrubbed the feeder and feel certain that there is no more nectar residue, mold or bacteria, thoroughly rinse all the pieces of your hummingbird feeder with cool water to ensure no soapy residue remains. (If soap remains in the feeder, it’ll affect the taste of the nectar and might send hummingbirds looking elsewhere for their next meal.)

    Let it dry.

    Leave your hummingbird feeder in a dish rack or a sunny spot in the garden until all of the pieces are dry. Once the hummingbird feeder is dry, reassemble the feeder, fill it with sugar water and put it back in the garden.

    Maintain the cleanliness.

    You can’t clean a hummingbird feeder in the spring and leave it for the rest of the season.

    Cloudy sugar water and mold are clear signs that you are overdue to clean your hummingbird feeder—but don’t wait until you see signs that your feeders are dirty. Failing to regularly clean your hummingbird feeders can cause serious illnesses!

    As a general rule, your hummingbird feeder should be cleaned every three to five days but they are factors that could make more frequent cleanings necessary.

    Temperature: The hotter the climate, the more frequently your hummingbird feeder will need to be cleaned. The reason: Sugar water ferments faster in hot weather and cleanings every two to three days can help keep hummingbirds from getting sick on spoiled nectar.

    When nectar ferments, it has an off taste that could cause hummingbirds to fly off in search of other, cleaner feeders. Not only does cleaning your hummingbird feeders help protect hummingbird from illness and disease, it can also help keep your feeders a top spot for your favorite birds.

    Traffic: The more hummingbirds that visit the feeder, the more frequently it’ll need to be cleaned. Large populations of hummingbirds can spread disease at feeders. Salmonella, a bacteria that can cause a fatal disease, can be spread at crowded feeders and frequent cleanings can help reduce the risk.

    Cleaning your hummingbird feeder is an important to keep hummingbirds healthy and, with a little preparation, it’s a simple task that the hummingbirds visiting your feeder will appreciate all season long.