Bird Watcher's General Store

Dripping Hummer Feeders - 05/20/05


Dear Bird Folks,


I bought a beautiful and expensive hummingbird feeder at a craft fair and I hate it, I really hate it. No matter what I do I can't keep the darn thing from dripping. I'm selling it in my neighbor's yard sale. Let somebody else deal with it. Do you have any suggestions that will help me make a wiser choice next time, so I don't end up with another feeder that I'll have to send to yard sale heaven.

-Lucy, Manchester, NH

Hate Lucy?

You "hate" your hummingbird feeder? Hate is a pretty strong word. It's not my place to tell you how to channel your emotions, but hate should be reserved for the real evil in this world, like the guy who designed the packaging that CDs come in. Have you ever tried to take the wrapper off a new CD? It can't be done. A Swiss vault is easier to open than one of those vile things. I'll make a deal with you. I'll help you choose a better hummingbird feeder if you focus your hate towards that CD guy. Deal?

Sorry about your problem with your craft fair feeder Lucy, but you are not alone. Way too many of those crafty type feeders are built for looks and not for function. The reason why we have so many poorly designed hummingbird feeders has to do with our obsession with squirrel-proofing. Yes, it's true. See if you can follow this odd trail of logic.

There once was a time when most regular birdseed feeders were attractive showpieces, often looking like little log cabins or a country store. Those feeders were typically made of aesthetically pleasing wood and we thought that they would last forever. Then some misguided fool, probably a friend of a baseball player, sold steroids to other mammals and overnight those cute wooden bird feeders were destroyed by new bigger and badder super squirrels. To save bird feeding as we know it manufacturers introduced a line of heavy duty feeders made of steel, wire, and old engine blocks. The new feeders lasted longer, but instead of being quaint looking cabins, they now had all the charm of a Humvee, only with better gas milage.

What does all of this have to do with hummingbird feeders you ask? Well, the craftspeople who were put out of work by the mass-produced ugly metal feeders, soon turned their attention to making hummingbird feeders. These feeder were a safe choice because usually, although not always, squirrels avoid drinking the sugar water in hummingbird feeders. Apparently they have an inherent fear of getting diabetes.

The craftspeople cranked out a whole line of beautifully made hummingbird feeders. The new feeders were shaped like flowers, colorful glass balls or hot air balloons and all had little glass tubes protruding from the bottom, to dispense the sugar water. These artsie feeders were an instant hit. People bought them and the birds loved them. Everybody was happy. Then something unexpected happened, the sun came out. The sun heated up the feeders, causing a change in cabin pressure, which resulted in the dreaded dripping.

It gets worse. In addition to leaking, most of those fancy feeders are all but impossible to clean. The long skinny glass tube, as well as the bubble food reservoir, have too many hard to reach places. Unclean feeders result in black mold forming on the feeder that could be harmful to those very tiny birds.

The best feeders are the ones that are easy to fill and clean and don't drip. I hate to say it (there's that hate word again), but once more the mass manufactures have come up with a better idea. The feeders that are a flat shallow dish with a red cover are my first choice. They are simple to fill, you don't need a funnel or a steady hand. Even heavy coffee drinkers can fill them without spilling. They are a snap to clean, no long glass tube or bottle brush needed. You just wipe them out with a sponge and you are good to go. And the best part is there are no leaks and they are cheap. That's the feeder you want Lucy.

I know it sounds un-American to dis craftspeople, since they are the ones who bring creativity and the independent thinking to a world overstuffed with mass produced imitations. But for right now at least, building a better hummingbird feeder is beyond their field of expertise. If a feeder is not leak proof, easy to clean and otherwise user friendly, it will end up in the closet or in the next yard sale, just like that stack of CDs I can't figure out how to open.


Artwork by Catherine Clark


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