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How do I make hummingbird food?

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar Recipe


  1. Combine one part white sugar and four parts water.
  2. Heat the solution for 1-2 minutes to help the sugar dissolve and slow fermentation.
  3. Allow the solution to cool completely before filling feeders.
  4. Clean your feeders thoroughly every 3-4 days.

Nectar Recipe Tips

  • If your tap water contains heavy chemicals, consider using bottled or purified water for purer nectar. You can also boil the water before adding the sugar to help purify it.
  • Do not use honey, brown sugar, molasses or artificial sugar substitutes for any hummingbird nectar recipe. Honey and molasses (brown sugar contains molasses products) are too heavy for hummingbirds to digest efficiently and can ferment more quickly, creating a mold that is fatal to hummingbirds. Sugar substitutes do not have the caloric energy that hummingbirds need for energy.
  • While boiling will help slow the fermentation of the nectar initially, the nectar in hummingbird feeders is contaminated as soon as it is sipped by a bird. Therefore, it is not necessary to boil the nectar once the sugar has been dissolved. If you use extra fine sugar no boiling may be needed.
  • The ratio of sugar and water can be slightly adjusted, but a solution that is too sweet will be difficult for the birds to digest and one that does not contain enough sugar will not be suitable to attract hummingbirds. The 4:1 water to sugar ratio most closely approximates the sucrose levels in natural nectar.
  • Hummingbird nectar must be completely cool before filling feeders. Hot nectar can warp or crack both glass and plastic hummingbird feeders and warm nectar will ferment more quickly.
  • Commercial hummingbird nectar products may advertise different flavors, vitamins and other additives that are supposed to attract additional birds. These additives are not necessary for hummingbirds’ health and a simple sugar solution will attract just as many birds as more expensive commercial products.
  • Unused hummingbird nectar can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. When making your own nectar, adjust the recipe quantity to only make enough for one week to eliminate waste.
  • Clean hummingbird feeders at least once a week and refill them with fresh nectar. In warm weather or when multiple birds are using the feeder, clean them more frequently.

Following this classic hummingbird nectar recipe is a great way to create hummingbird food that is far less expensive than commercial nectars or nectar mixes. With a few simple steps, you can fill your hummingbird feeders with attractively delicious sugar water all season long.

To Dye or Not to Dye

red-dyeThe use of red dye in hummingbird nectar recipes is not necessary. While hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, especially red, some red dyes can harm the birds. Many hummingbird feeders have red bases, feeding ports or other accents that will attract the birds without risking the use of unessential dyes. If you want to use red to attract more hummingbirds to your feeders, consider planting red flowers nearby, hanging red ribbons from the feeder or adding a red gazing ball near the feeder to help catch the birds’ attention.