watching_birds-photo Watching, Attracting and Feeding Birds in New York
with Sam Crowe

Sugar water for Hummingbirds and Orioles

Hummingbirds are popular with almost everyone.  Feeders are inexpensive.  Nectar can be purchased in a pre-mixed solution or you can make your own very easily.

Feed hummingbirds with a mixture of sugar and water.  Food coloring is not required or even desirable.  The feeders should have red (typically) or orange feeding ports to attract the hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
Mix 1/4 cup of sugar with each cup of water.  Bring the water to a boil, then remove the mixture from the heat.  Stir the mixture to ensure the sugar dissolves completely.  Cool before serving.

ruby-throated hummingbird in flight

Using the right mix of sugar water will help you attract species like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

You may make up a several days supply of sugar water in advance.  On hot summer days sugar water can start to ferment. If you live in a hotter part of the country you may not want to fill the feeder completely.  Add only enough fresh sugar water to the feeder that can be consumed in 2-3 days. The time frame will vary depending on how hot it is and how much direct sunlight is on the feeder.


Oriole feeders are often orange in color, instead of red.  The same mix can be used for feeding orioles and other nectar feeders.

Do not use molasses or honey in your hummingbird feeders.

We invite you to come back often.  The home page is updated every week.

Cats Indoors Please

Outdoor cats are a major threat to birds and other small animals.

Cat lovers often have a problem with the Cats Indoors program. However, cats are a major threat to birds and other small critters living in our yards.  Here is what the research shows about domestic cats. The information is from the American Bird Conservancy.

"Domestic cats are recognized as a threat to global biodiversity. Cats have contributed to the extinction of 33 species across the world and continue to adversely impact a wide variety of species, including those that are threatened or endangered. The ecological dangers are so critical that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) now lists domestic cats as one of the world’s worst non-native invasive species.

In the U.S., free-roaming domestic cats kill an estimated 1.4-3.7 billion birds and 6.9-20.7 billion mammals. The sheer quantity of cat-caused mortality is staggering. For perspective, consider that 1.4 billion is equivalent to the entire human population of China, the most populous country in the world. As the number of cats continues to grow and owners continue to allow their pets to roam, harmful impacts will surely increase."

Research also indicates that indoor cats live longer, healthy lives than outdoor cats or cats that move in and out of the home.

Here is additional information from the Tufts University Web site.

If a cat is frequently your yard, you can try the following.

  •  Ask the owner to keep the cat from your yard. Visit the Cats Indoors web site of the American Bird Conservancy for literature and information. 
  •  Use the garden hose to spray water on the cat.
  •  Fill a metal can with cans, making a very loud rattle. Shake the can each time you see the cat.

Birding Quick Hits

A Barn Owl can swallow a large rat whole.  After digesting its meal, the owl coughs up a pellet containing the rat's bones and fur.  Owl pellets are used by researchers to study what animals an owl has been eating.

Learn about the Great Horned Owl.
great horned owl

Frequently Asked Questions

Are There Different Types of Feathers?

A bird has more than one type of feather.  The different feathers have different uses.

When a new feather, still completely encased in its sheath, grows above the follicle, it is termed a pinfeather.

Contour feathers:
Contour feathers are the often larger feathers that give a bird its overall shape and appearance. They include wing and tail feathers as well as body feathers. Contour feathers help keep the bird warm in winter, cool in the summer and provide protection against the elements.

Contour feathers often play a special role in the appearance and behavior of the bird. The crests of cardinals and Blue Jays are made up of modified contour feathers. Ruby-crowned Kinglets flash a red patch on the crown of their head when they are disturbed.

Remiges are flight feathers found on the wings of a bird. Remiges create the general size and shape of the wing.

Remiges are asymmetrical, with the center shaft of the feather running closer to one side. This shape allows each flight feather to act as an individual airfoil, increasing the amount of lift across the wing. The flexibility of the remiges on the wingtips of large soaring birds also allows for the spreading of those feathers, which helps to reduce the creation of wingtip vortices, thereby reducing drag.

Filoplumes are small, hairlike feathers usually widely scattered over a birds body. Most have a slender shaft without barbs. There may be a tiny tuft of delicate barbs and barbules at the tip. 

Bird identification

Learning to identify the birds you see is a fun and rewarding experience.  If you are a novice at identifying birds we have several options for you. 

50 common New York birdsNifty Fifty Guides:  Our Nifty Fifty Guide to the Birds of New York is available on-line and in print.   It contains 25 common backyard birds and 25 additional common birds found in New York.  Purchase the print version.

The online version is shown below. Click on a corner to turn the page. has multiple resources for identifying a bird you have seen as well as information on improving your identification skills.   You can also send us an image on the web site and we will try to identify it for you.