Feeders are a really nice gesture for your local hummingbirds — these vessels filled with sugar water can help them get through the times of year when there aren’t as many flowers around. However, since feeders are a huge draw for these tiny birds, it’s extremely important to keep them clean and safe.
Hummingbirds eat by lapping up liquid food at lightning speed using flexible tongues that are so long they retract in a coil that rests in their skulls around their eyes. Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red because they associate red flowers with higher-nutrient nectar. Many sugar water feeders have red plastic pieces for the hummers to sip from, but this isn’t a requirement and, as we will see, red food coloring, long thought to attract hummingbirds, is a definite no-no.
Unfortunately, hummingbird feeders are great places for bacteria and fungi to grow. Of course, microbial communities are everywhere — sugar water hummingbird feeders attract the same kinds of bacteria that you’d find in flowers, in addition to a few more varieties. A 2019 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B found the microbial communities in sugar water included very few species that could cause disease in hummingbirds.
But a small fraction of them have been associated with a disease calledcandidiasis, a deadly fungal infection that causes a hummingbird’s tongue to swell, making it impossible for the bird to eat.
To prevent the possibility of spreading this disease through your hummingbird feeders, it’s necessary to clean your feeders regularly with a nontoxic cleaning product like weak vinegar, away from areas where human food is prepared. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, and more frequently in hot summer weather. Most feeders can be completely disassembled so that they can be thoroughly cleaned inside and out. Avoid using any kind of soap or detergent, as these can leave a harmful residue.
News Source: https://animals.howstuffworks.com/birds/hummingbird-food-recipe.htm