Bird Watcher's General Store

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Don’t Dye Hummingbird Solution

Dear Bird Folks,

I went to buy hummingbird food the other day and all that I could find was “clear” food. I wanted red hummingbird food. The person at the store said that they don’t carry red food. Do you know why?

– Tony, Yarmouth


Yeah, Tony,

I know why, because you were shopping in a responsible store. Putting red dye in hummingbird food is bogus and I say “good for the store” for not selling it. Would you feed red dye to your baby? Would you drink a cup of it? I don’t know what it is with us and coloring food. Look what they do to poor pistachios. They dye the shells a gross red, make the ice cream green, yet pictachios are brown. Huh? No wonder we can’t drive and talk on the phone at the same time.

Red dye has long been suspected as being harmful to hummingbirds, but since hummingbirds are wild creatures and don’t have regular checkups, it is a hard thing to prove. Most hummingbird experts say red dye is a bad thing to use, most food manufacturers say it’s fine. Who do you believe? It is always hard to believe the one making the most money.

One shameless company even sells hummingbird food with the “taste and aroma of strawberry.” Hummingbirds have little or no sense of smell, and your Aunt Dodie with her skin-tight leopard pants, has more “taste” than hummingbirds do. All that strawberry crap is for attracting customers and could be doing hummers more harm than good.

But even if the red dye was fine for birds, it isn’t necessary. Plant nectar is colorless. The color that attracts hummers is in the flower or the feeder. And most feeders have plenty of red on them already. Also, the food in hummingbird feeders can become full of insects or become cloudy and gross. Red dye would hide all the grossness and you wouldn’t realize that your food had gone bad.

So, Tony, keep your food clean and clear and save the red dye for the important things in life, like pistachios, M&M’s and those cherries that you put in your Shirley Temple.