Posted by Nancy on 6/12/2013
Here is a question I received here at Tom's Bird Feeders: HELP!! I think that my hummingbirds are sick! I have been using hummingbird feeders to feed hummers for years and have never seen the bird's head covered with a yellow substance that looks like it could be a fungus before. I have seen birds for several weeks with this problem. I remember reading that feeding honey can foster mold, fungus and bacteria growth. I have a new neighbor that is now feeding the hummers. If they are using honey in their feeders could this be the problem? Could you give me some good information about this so that I can talk to them intelligently about this problem?
My Answer: You are right, honey is not to be used in hummingbird feeders and can it can foster mold and bacteria growth. The best mixture to make nectar is 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. However, I do not think that your hummingbirds are sick. Hummers have a very fast metabolic rate. This means if they became sick, they would die very quickly. They would not live for weeks. I would guess that someone in your neighborhood has planted a new type of flower that has large quantities of yellow pollen and perhaps a deep trumpet shape making the hummingbird reach deep into the flower to reach the nectar, thus covering their heads with pollen.
If you decide to approach your new neighbor, do so very tactfully. I might suggest a line something like "I see you are feeding hummingbirds. With the 1 part sugar to 4 part water formula to make nectar I go through a lot of sugar. Have you seen sugar on sale anywhere?" If your neighbor needs help you have a way to do so and not discourage new birders. It will also reassure you that the best is being done for the hummers.