The birds really love this feeder. “Love,” though, is a gross understatement. They become violent, vicious, winged beasts fighting to access this feeder and fly right past other styles of feeders to get to it. But they tend to leak. Below is the solution to losing all your solution.
Some people have suggested latex gaskets or washers to stop the leaking on the 28 oz glass Blue Bunting hummingbird feeder from Walmart (see listing here), but I found those fixes unnecessary.
Update 2017: Paul suggests the following in a comment, and this may be the fool-proof, total fix:
“A 50 cent hardware store plumbing department 1 x 3/4 x 1/8 #15 o-ring placed on the neck of the bottle did the trick for me. No more leaks out of the snap together joint and you can tilt it pretty far before fluid comes out of a flower.”
In 2016 I switched all of my feeders over to a wide-mouth bottle that is easier to clean and has a circular perching ring around the entire bottle that seats more hummers. We sometimes see 22 to 25 Anna’s hummers sitting shoulder-to-shoulder taking turns on the nectar ports. It is the “First Nature 3055 32 oz feeder,” which is available at Amazon for about $10.10 each or a 2 pack for $18.36 at this time. You can search for it or here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003R2SKIC.
Now back to our original blog post:
I did some basic investigation with the base off and the feeder hanging over my kitchen sink, while a strong breeze whistled through the open window, as you can see in the image at left.
The primary problem seems to be that the threads on the bottle are large and are prone to misthreading, but without seeming misthreaded. This is much more likely if the feeder bottle, base, or nectar are hot or even just warm.
The second issue is that the red hanger included with the feeder may cause it to hang at an angle. Even a slight misalignment, making the feeder unlevel, will cause the feeder to overfill and eventually leak. Blowing winds may also cause the feeder to become unlevel, overfill, and leak.
1. Be extremely careful when screwing the bottle onto the base. It is very easy to misthread this feeder without noticing it and without the feeder appearing to be misthreaded. When misthreaded the vacuum seal is broken and the base overflows. If you see continuing bubbles after turning the feeder right side up and the base fills and leaking begins then take the feeder down, invert it again, and rethread it. When properly threaded you will only see bubbles inside the bottle when first turned upright, until the base fills, and then when the birds drink enough nectar that the base refills. Never use warm or hot nectar and never fill it until the feeder is completely cool! See #2, below.
2. Only ever use cold nectar when you fill the feeder and only ever fill the feeder when all parts of the feeder are cool. If you’ve just cleaned the feeder with hot water then run some cold water on it before filling. The threads on the feeder are large and easily misthreaded anyway. If the feeder is still warm from cleaning or the nectar is warm (or worse, hot) deformation of the plastic base and misthreading become even more likely. Always fill a cold feeder with cold nectar.
I use two items to clean my feeders. For the inside I use a metal stick with sponge strips attached, like the “Perky Pet 23T Bird Feeder Foam Cleaning Mop,” which has apparently and inexplicably been discontinued by the manufacturer. Boo! Be sure to crimp the metal tighter around the sponge bits). For the flowers, the nectar outlets, the base, and the exterior I use a typical two-part baby bottle and nipple brush combo, with a large scrubber on one end and a detachable small brush on the other end. I also remove and discard the little cage-like yellow insect guards because they get a buildup of dirt and nectar and really don’t keep insects out anyway.
3. Use only a metal “S” hook (not included with feeder) to suspend the feeder, so the feeder hangs level. If the feeder is not level the nectar can overflow on one side of the base. Do not use the red coated wire included inside the bottle to hang it up. The red wire can cause the feeder to hang at an angle, overfill, and leak nectar.
4. Hang the feeder where it will not be buffeted by wind. When wind blows on the feeder it can cause the feeder to become un-level, allowing the base opening on one side to be exposed, break the vacuum, overfill and cause leakage.
As you can see in the image at left, nectar normally only fills the base to a depth of about a 1/4 inch high. Unfortunately, if the feeder hangs at an angle or strong winds buffet the feeder about then the base opening is exposed, the vacuum seal gets broken, the base overfills, and it eventually, usually slowly, overflows. Conversely, if the bottle and base are misthreaded then the vacuum seal is broken and the base overfills and then nectar is constantly released into the base, usually causing fairly rapid loss of fluid.
*** The feeder may also become vacuum locked, so that no fluid descends into the base unit and the sweet little birdies cannot access their life-sustaining beverage. Sometimes this happens because the bottle is overly full, or because of internal construction misalignment, or atmospheric pressure is not cooperating with you, or because dirt from the hummer’s beaks has combined with the sticky nectar and blocked one or more ports. I never had this problem with my older Blue Bunting feeders. I bought two new feeders this year as spares (some of the flowers were cracking on my old units) and between a couple of mishaps I wound up using these. I don’t know whether it was something new they did to the build, or whether we’re just getting more pressure changes. If you can see grimy build-up on the ports then give them a good scrubbing. If the feeder is locked up due to atmospheric pressure or build, tilt it to one side until nectar spills out one of the ports. You may have to do this more than once to fix the problem.