Recently, reports have surfaced claiming hummingbird nectar prepared in a microwave is harmful to the health of the hummingbirds that consume it. Is this claim true?
The internet sites making this allegation provide little information to substantiate the allegation. One site alleges that when a sugar solution is heated in a microwave the chemical composition of the sugar molecule is altered. This, in turn, has a deleterious effect on sugar’s nutritional value to hummingbirds.
This belief may stem from the fact that it has been widely reported that food heated in a microwave can reduce the levels of such things as vitamin C, some antioxidants, and omega fatty acids.
I have checked a number of sources trying to run down the source of this allegation. To date, I have not been able to uncover a single study that substantiates the claim. In fact, as of this posting, even the prestigious Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology’s website does not warn hummingbird enthusiasts of any danger associated with boiling hummingbird nectar in a microwave.
Until this issue is resolved, if you are among the folks that use a microwave to prepare hummingbird food, you might want to use the microwave to heat the water you are going to use to make nectar. Then remove the water before adding the sugar to create the food. This eliminates any possibility that the food value of the nectar is compromised by the boiling process.
As you probably already know, you need to use extreme caution when adding the sugar to the boiling water. Water heated in a microwave to this temperature has a tendency to “explode” when touched with a foreign object. This extremely hot water can burn the preparer’s hands.
Whenever I am able to determine whether this claim is true or false, I will let you know.