How To: Make Hummingbird Food (2023)

Invite hummingbirds into your backyard by offering them a feeder filled with the sugar nectar they love. It’s easy, quick, and economical to make your own hummingbird food.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Like tiny flying jewels, hummingbirds are a treat to observe zipping, perching, or sipping in your garden. There are around 300 species of hummingbirds, but only a handful venture north of South America and when they do, it’s typically during the summertime. The ruby-throated hummingbird is one of the very few that travels to the eastern half of North America, while in the west, you might see rufous, Costa’s, Allen’s, or black-chinned hummingbirds. Anna’s hummingbird is one of the few species that doesn’t regularly migrate and remains year-round in North America, mostly along the Pacific coast.

Although hummingbirds do eat tiny insects and spiders, and also feast on sap and pollen, it’s nectar that makes up the bulk of their diet. Their incredibly fast metabolism is the highest of any animal on earth: A hummingbird’s heart can beat an astounding 1,200 times per minute, their wings can flap over 50 times per second (which is what creates the buzzing or humming sound that gives these birds their common name), they reach speeds of 25 to 30 mph in flight, and their long tongues can dip in and out of a flower or feeder 18 times per second. To maintain their enormous need for energy, the average hummingbird consumes between 1.5 and 8 times its body weight each day in sugar. To match that, you’d need to consume roughly 150,000 calories each day.

The most effective way to draw these nectar-hungry birds to your yard is by planting the flowers they naturally seek out, which are typically tubular-shaped blooms in bright red, pink, purple, or orange. Some hummingbird favorites include lantana, bee balm, foxglove, salvias, lupine, flowering tobacco, petunias, and zinnias. If you don’t have a garden or you just want to admire your feathered visitors up close, consider installing a hummingbird feeder filled with the high-calorie, sugary nectar these birds need to survive.

(Video) FAST EASY Hummingbird Recipe Nectar feeding Hundreds of Birds Hummingbirds Feed in Feeders All Year

Luckily, there’s no need to buy premade hummingbird food. It’s very easy and inexpensive to mix up a batch yourself, particularly if you have a lot of visitors draining your feeders each day. Here’s a simple recipe and a step-by-step guide for how to make hummingbird food.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

If you live in the eastern half of the U.S., plan on hanging your hummingbird feeders in early May. In the west, aim for April. If you live on the West Coast and regularly spot Anna’s hummingbirds in your area, you can leave your feeders up all year. Elsewhere, take feeders down in late fall so migrating hummingbirds have a spot to refuel before making their journey south.

Advertisement

RELATED: 5 Quirky Ways to Build a Bird Feeder

Photo: istockphoto.com

(Video) BEST & EASIEST HUMMINGBIRD FEEDER RECIPE FOOD MIX.

STEP 1: Start with hot water.

You don’t have to boil water before using it to prepare hummingbird nectar. If the water is safe for you to drink without boiling it, it’s okay for the birds as well. However, if your tap water has a strong taste or odor, indicating added chemicals or other contaminants, it’s best to use bottled or purified water—but not distilled water.

Whatever type of water you use, warm it up by running the tap or heating the water in the microwave or teakettle until it’s hot enough to easily dissolve sugar.

STEP 2: Add the sugar.

Once you have your hot water, it’s time to add sugar. Use regular refined white sugar, not honey, artificial sweeteners, brown sugar, or other sugar products, all of which can be difficult for hummingbirds to digest. The correct ratio of sugar to water is 1:4, or ¼ cup of sugar to 1 cup of hot water. Increase or decrease the quantities as desired, but make sure you stick to the 1:4 ratio.

There is no need to add supplemental vitamins or red food coloring, either. The sugar doesn’t have to be red for hummingbirds to find it, and many wildlife and bird specialists feel that red coloring might be harmful to the hummer’s health.

Mix your nectar solution thoroughly until all sugar is completely dissolved, and let the nectar cool to room temperature.

(Video) DIY Ant Moat for Hummingbird Feeders

RELATED: 14 Approaches to a DIY Birdbath

STEP 3: Fill the feeder and choose the best location.

Use a funnel, if you need one, to pour the nectar into your hummingbird feeder. It’s best to do the pouring over the sink to catch any sugary drips. Wipe away any solution from the outside of the feeder before hanging it outdoors.

Advertisement

The best spot to hang your feeder is a location that’s easy for you to see—you’ll want to enjoy your feathered visitors, after all—but not so exposed that the birds feel insecure. Ideally, the feeder should be no more than 10 to 15 feet away from a tree or large shrub that offers the hummingbirds a spot to perch while conserving energy or hiding from potential predators.

You want passing hummingbirds to be able to spot the feeder so don’t bury it in a heavily shaded spot, although some dappled afternoon shade is fine. To draw the most visitors, choose a location that isn’t too close to other bird feeders, is high enough so cats can’t leap up toward the hummers, and isn’t too close to glass doors or windows. Birds are easily confused by reflections from glass and are frequently injured or even killed flying into windows or doors.

It’s convenient to mix up a big batch of hummingbird nectar and store the extra in your refrigerator to use as needed. You can store hummingbird food for up to two weeks in the fridge, but if the nectar turns cloudy, develops a sour or off odor, or has obvious spots of mold, it needs to be tossed. Don’t fill your hummingbird feeders with food that’s gone bad.

Photo: istockphoto.com

(Video) HOW to Make HUMMINGBIRD FOOD Nectar, EASY DIY Brings 1000's of Hummingbirds w/Coffee Maker/Microwave

STEP 5: Clean the feeders regularly.

It’s a good idea to fill your hummingbird feeders with only as much food as the birds are likely to consume in a day or so, as the nectar quickly spoils and can even ferment when it’s warm. But even if the feeder isn’t empty, don’t go longer than two days in hot weather and five days when it’s cool before dumping out remaining nectar and cleaning the feeder thoroughly.

Advertisement

You should clean the feeder every time you refill it. Disassemble the feeder—usually the bottom will screw off—and wash all parts with warm water and a gentle dishwashing liquid. If necessary, a bottle brush makes it easy to reach all the way down inside the feeder. Pay special attention to the feeding ports, which often become crusty or moldy. If necessary, use a pipe cleaner or an old toothbrush to scrub away any debris.

Rinse all parts of the feeder thoroughly with clean water until no soap residue remains. Let the feeder air-dry or dry it with a clean towel before refilling it and hanging it back outdoors. Your feathered friends will thank you for protecting their health by keeping their feeder clean.

From the youngest of children to the oldest of adults, just about everyone gets a thrill watching the aerobatics, mid-air hovering, and rapid flight of a hummingbird. By following the steps outlined above, you can easily mix your own hummingbird food that will entice these tiny, beautiful birds into your backyard for an up close and personal view.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Bring Songbirds to Your Backyard

(Video) How to make Hummingbird Nectar

Advertisement

FAQs

What is the correct ratio of sugar to water for hummingbirds? ›

Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water (for example, 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water) until the sugar is dissolved. Do not add red dye. Fill your hummingbird feeders with the sugar water and place outside. Extra sugar water can be stored in a refrigerator.

What is the best solution to fill a hummingbird feeder? ›

The best (and least expensive) solution for your feeder is a 1:4 solution of refined white sugar to tap water. That's ¼ cup of sugar in 1 cup of water. Bring the solution to a boil, then let it cool before filling the feeder.

Why do you have to boil sugar water for hummingbirds? ›

Boiling removes impurities from the water, thus making it safer for hummingbirds. Boiling sterilizes the water and minimizes contamination so it will not ferment as quickly. Boiling makes it easier for sugar to dissolve so that nectar can be made more quickly.

Is a 3 to 1 ratio OK for hummingbirds? ›

A 3:1 hummingbird food recipe of 3 parts water to 1 part white sugar can be used especially during migration when a sweeter nectar solution will provide more calories to the hummingbirds at stopovers for fueling up during spring and fall migration.

Why won't hummingbirds drink from my feeder? ›

Hummingbirds are not coming to my feeder for 1 or more of the following 6 reasons: Unattractive hummingbird oasis, unable to locate the feeder, fermenting hummingbird nectar, bees on the feeder, seasonal migrants, presence of potential predators.

What happens if you put too much sugar in hummingbird food? ›

The classic hummingbird nectar recipe is easy to make and can be adjusted slightly, but using grossly incorrect sugar-to-water proportions be problematic. Overly weak nectar may not attract hummingbirds, and overly strong nectar can ferment more quickly and clog feeders more easily.

What is the best homemade nectar for hummingbirds? ›

Classic Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
  • Combine Sugar and Water. Combine one part plain white granulated table sugar and four parts water. ...
  • Heat the Mixture. Slowly heat the solution for one to two minutes for slow fermentation and to help the sugar dissolve. ...
  • Let Cool. Allow the solution to cool completely before filling feeders.
Aug 14, 2022

What can I feed hummingbirds besides sugar water? ›

Provide Natural Food Sources

A hummingbird's diet is made up of a variety of food sources. Nectar-producing flowers are a rich and popular option, and colorful blooms will attract many birds. Other hummingbird foods include tree sap, fruit juices, pollen, and insects, including spiders.

How often should you change hummingbird sugar water? ›

Filling Hummingbird Feeders Only Once a Week

Plan to change out the nectar every three to four days. You may need to refill it daily in the peak heat of summer when birds need more hydration, and near the end of summer when hummingbirds are bulking up for migration.

Do hummingbirds prefer cold or warm nectar? ›

When feeding, hummingbirds prefer flowers whose nectar has been warmed naturally by the sun. This nectar usually has a slightly stronger scent, which will attract the birds and other pollinators. The other reason is that cold nectar can deplete their internal body temperature.

Is tap water OK for hummingbirds? ›

Do not use any other sugar— not turbinado, brown sugar, etc. —and never use honey or artificial sweeten- ers. Spring water is best, but most tap water is OK; don't use distilled water.

How often should you change hummingbird food? ›

You must change your feeder's nectar, even if it looks like it hasn't lost a drop, on a regular basis. During hot weather, change it every two days. In milder weather, once a week is fine.

Do hummingbirds like grape jelly? ›

To help attract hummingbirds to new feeders, tie a cluster of plastic red flowers over the feeder entrance. Lure orioles and tanagers up close by offering halved oranges on spikes or grape jelly in special feeders or small bowls.

Do hummingbirds prefer homemade nectar? ›

Homemade nectar is better for hummingbirds, and once you learn how to make it, you'll never rely on commercial mixes again.

Where do hummingbirds go at night? ›

Hummingbirds often find a twig that's sheltered from the wind to rest on for the night. Also, in winter, they can enter a deep sleep-like state known as torpor. This odd behavior usually happens on cold nights, but sometimes they go into a torpid state during the day.

How often should I change hummingbird sugar water? ›

Filling Hummingbird Feeders Only Once a Week

Plan to change out the nectar every three to four days. You may need to refill it daily in the peak heat of summer when birds need more hydration, and near the end of summer when hummingbirds are bulking up for migration.

How often do you need to change hummingbird nectar? ›

You must change your feeder's nectar, even if it looks like it hasn't lost a drop, on a regular basis. During hot weather, change it every two days. In milder weather, once a week is fine.

Is sugar water actually good for hummingbirds? ›

Hummingbirds need to drink sugar water. They can get it conveniently at your feeder, slowly at flowers, and not at all if a drought or a plant disease kills those flowers.

What can I feed hummingbirds besides sugar water? ›

Provide Natural Food Sources

A hummingbird's diet is made up of a variety of food sources. Nectar-producing flowers are a rich and popular option, and colorful blooms will attract many birds. Other hummingbird foods include tree sap, fruit juices, pollen, and insects, including spiders.

Videos

1. Top 10 Hummingbird Nectar Mistakes 🧧
(Sonny Fountain)
2. How to Make Hummingbird Food
(Slightly Rednecked)
3. How to Make HUMMINGBIRD FOOD
(ehullquist)
4. How to Make Hummingbird Nectar the Right Way: The Right Sugar and the Right Ratio
(Hummingbird Spot)
5. The Best Hummingbird Nectar Recipe has a History!
(Hummingbird Spot)
6. How To Make Hummingbird Nectar | Hummingbird Food Recipe | Hummingbird Video
(Art of Creation Homestead)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rev. Leonie Wyman

Last Updated: 02/11/2023

Views: 5715

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rev. Leonie Wyman

Birthday: 1993-07-01

Address: Suite 763 6272 Lang Bypass, New Xochitlport, VT 72704-3308

Phone: +22014484519944

Job: Banking Officer

Hobby: Sailing, Gaming, Basketball, Calligraphy, Mycology, Astronomy, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Rev. Leonie Wyman, I am a colorful, tasty, splendid, fair, witty, gorgeous, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.