Directly outside the window of my kitchen eating area, I’ve hung a hummingbird feeder.
Directly above the feeder and connected with an S-hook, is a water-filled ant moat. Ant moats come in all shapes and sizes, and the one here is an upside-down umbrella-shaped vessel. The primary purpose of an ant moat is to prevent ants from making their way down the supporting rope or line from the eve of the house (or other line support) and onto the feeder.
At least where I live, without an ant moat, the ants will find the nectar and completely take over the feeder, thereby staving off the hummingbirds. But with an ant moat filled with water and hung between the supporting line and the hummingbird feeder, the ants can’t swim across the water in the moat to reach the nectar in the feeder. Once the moat is in place, the ants won’t even bother going down the line.
I’ve had this ant moat for about five years and I haven’t had a problem with ants since. Last year, a little hole rusted out, but I simply covered it with epoxy glue, and the ant moat is still doing its job. You can find ant moats online here and here.
What I didn’t realize when I bought this ingenious little invention was that other birds love to drink from the moat, especially chickadees and titmice, pictured here. I have two plates on my deck next to the feeder that serve as bird baths, but the chickadees and titmice seem to prefer to drink from the ant moat. You might ask, “What is a titmouse?” Late Late Show’s Craig Ferguson with his often dirty and wickedly funny sense of humor, used to ask too…(I miss you Craig!) Check out Audubon’s website for descriptions and calls for both titmice and chickadees.
Titmice are usually tufted, except when they’re molting, and yes, it’s late summer here and this is when they molt. That’s why the one pictured here has no tuft on his or her head.
From watching all the action, I’ve found that there’s a hierarchy around the hummingbird feeder, and at the top are the titmice.
The smaller chickadees are next in line, and they always have to wait for the titmice.
Last in line are the diminutive hummingbirds, who won’t come near the feeder until the titmice and chickadees are finished dunking and drinking from the ant moat.
I took all of the photos on this post inside, with my camera lens almost right up against the glass.
My lens isn’t quite fast enough to capture the quick-moving hummingbirds as well as I would like, but I hope you’ll get at least an idea of how magical they are up close.
I haven’t seen any lately, but earlier this summer, the brightly colored finches would actually bathe in the ant moat–it seemed awkward to me, but who am I to question?
When looking online, I found smaller ant moats, like this one, but if you want to attract birds other than just hummingbirds, then I recommend a bigger ant moat like the one pictured…that way, your ant moat works double duty!