We all love watching birds in the garden. It is easy to attract sunbirds you may have seen in your area. These tiny birds with long curved beaks visit flowers and drink the few drops of nectar at the base of the petals. If you want to feed them it is best to follow the recommendations of bird experts. They say it is fine to feed them as much sugar-water as they will come and drink. Special feeding mixtures can also be used. At a later stage the birds go away to nest and then eat insects and grubs.
Having a feeding station in the garden gives all round pleasure to the birds and their spectators. Photographers especially will appreciate this opportunity. If the feeder is far away then a good zoom lens makes all the difference. These days most of us have mobile phones or i-pads and other nifty devices that can also capture these images to share with the rest of the world.
Start with an empty water bottle and a CD spindle case
Saw off the top of the lid of the bottle. It does not matter if you take off some of the top of the bottle thread. The higher up the better, as long as there is sufficient grip on the thread of the lid so the CD spindle is secure. If the neck of the bottle protrudes too much it will be almost touching the bottom of the CD spindle case after you screw on the clear plastic cover. I found out the hard way that this prevents the water from entering the lower chamber! A gap of at least 6 mm gives a good supply of liquid from the bottle.
Make a hole to fit the bottle through the spindle
If you have an electric drill make small holes all around the peg of the CD spindle. This makes it easier to cut out the middle piece withe a sharp knife. If you have no fancy equipment then heat up a wire skewer with a candle to punch out a ring of little holes. This is difficult and dangerous and should not be attempted by a small child. Fit the neck of the bottle minus the cap into the hole. It should fit snugly but does not have to be airtight.
Screw on the bottle top make 3 holes
Now make 3 or 4 holes for the feeding ports. Make them at least 6 mm in diameter so you can still glue in the petals. Use the heated skewer to make the first hole and widen it out with a kitchen knife. For the dudes with an electric drill this is so easy; all the more so if you plan to go into production with these delightful sunbird feeders.
Add the red petals
Use silk flowers for your petals for the most realistic effect. Cut off large petals in a fan shape and roll around to make a funnel. Add a little glue and dress up the feeding holes. This really gets the birds excited. They love red the most, according to bird experts. Other materials such as plastic or foam can be used to make flowers but I found silk flowers worked the best.
Now make the perches
I made 3 holes, so I used 3 skewers for the perches. Twigs are also nice to use but their sizes and shapes are unpredictable and often the bird will struggle to find a way to sit within reach of the drinking hole. Experiment a bit. If you have a glue gun it is easy to attach the twigs and sticks. Otherwise you need to strap them on securely with a few strands of thin wire. Make sure it is sturdy enough because your feathered friends will spend a lot of time jumping on them, as you will soon see. Two birds usually feed together and swap over a few times, trying to get the most from every "flower."
Finally attach a hanger
Tie a piece of string around the base of the bottle. Plastic bottles usually have a groove or two near the base and this will stop the string from slipping. Thin electrical wire is nice to use and so I chose a bright red piece. Attach a strap to the first circle of string so it can hang on a hook or a twig on the tree.
Add vaseline to the string if you have ants coming in
If garden ants creep along the hanger and down to the sugar water you can keep them out by spreading a little vaseline or petroleum jelly along the hanger. The ants will either turn around or give up or get stuck to it. The amusing thing is that I saw the sunbirds pecking off the ants and then looking for more on the branches of the tree. As they say, we should add a little protein to every meal! If you need to know more about how to handle ant problems then you can look at the Info Barrel article I wrote about ants. You do not have to poison them. Especially if sunbirds and innocent creatures also eat them. We are all part of a food chain, after all!