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From Missouri Conservationist: Jul 2008

Hummer quiz

I have been feeding hummingbirds for over 35 years. I was always told to boil one part sugar to four parts water.

Last year I was watching Animal Planet, and they were talking about hummers and said you didn’t have to boil the sugar/water. Then I read your May article on hummingbirds [Nature’s Helicopters, Page 14] and it states that you should boil the water/sugar. So, could someone please find out what is the correct answer to this problem? Do we boil the sugar/water or not?

Pam Ellstrom, via Internet

Editor’s note: According to author and resource scientist Andy Forbes, “What we do know is that boiling water helps slow the growth of mold in sugar water. Hummingbirds will not drink moldy water in most cases so there is not any reason to fear for their health, but quicker mold growth could make you have to change nectar in feeders more frequently.

“If the birds are emptying the feeders quickly, mold typically won’t have time to accumulate in the first place, so for high-use feeders, mold is usually not a concern, and boiling water is probably not vital. However, given that there are a wide range of hummingbird feeders out there, I personally always err on the side of caution in general, and recommend boiling water first. It also provides the benefit of making the sugar dissolve quicker. So, I guess the short answer is “no,” even though “yes” is not really the wrong answer either. Also, you should always clean the feeders with a diluted bleach solution periodically, as I mentioned in the article.”

Thank you so much for the wonderful article and beautiful pictures of our “nature’s helicopters” in the May issue. We enjoy the beauty of these delicate birds from our window here in Union.

Is the picture you have identified as an albino ruby-throated hummingbird an actual albino, or does it have the condition known as leucism? It looks like it has the normal eye color of a hummingbird rather than the red eye color of true albinism. Thank you again for the wonderful magazine and the information that you share regarding conservation in the state of Missouri.

Kelly & Judi Beck, Union

Editor’s note: There is some debate in the scientific community about what constitutes a leucistic bird versus a fully or partially albino bird. However, since the hummingbird depicted in our article has both pink eyes and pink feet (the pink eyes are more evident in other photos of this bird), lacking only a pink beak, our avian ecologist, Andy Forbes, feels confident in calling this bird a partial albino. Information on the debate concerning the differences between leucism and albinism can be found listed below.

New management

I am a member of my local FFA chapter and an avid outdoorsman. I thought Champion Stewards [May, Page 22] showed how important good land management is to wildlife management, how important the partnership is between agriculture and conservation, and also how bringing the two together can be mutually beneficial. Even better is how this competition reaches young people before they are fully engaged in agriculture or conservation jobs, teaching them important skills useful in either profession.

Morgan Martz, Plattsburg

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/Editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Ruby
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler