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How to Make Hummingbird Food? [Full Recipe]

Hummingbird food

Feeding hummingbirds is one of the joys of life. However, they won’t eat any old food and you have to be careful what you give them!

Hummingbirds need nectar; clean water with the right proportions of sugar. Want to know the best hummingbird nectar recipe? Read on to learn this and other tips for fantastic hummingbird feeding, right in your own backyard!


How To Make Hummingbird Food?

To make hummingbird food, you don’t need much. Although you can buy hummingbird nectar, the concoction really is one of the easiest of all DIY bird foods. You only need a couple of ingredients, containers for mixing water, a measuring cup, a spoon, and a little bit of time.

hummingbird enjoying some sugar water

A funnel also helps. At some point, you’ll also need soap and a brush to clean the nectar, making dishware and your hummingbird feeders.

Really, that’s all you need! There’s a good chance your kitchen is already stocked with these items along with the two main ingredients.

As for the recipe for the easiest and best hummingbird food, just read on!


The Recipe

To make hummingbird nectar, there are only two main ingredients: water, and refined sugar. Yes, that’s it! Some folks boil their water before using it to make nectar, but you can just use clean tap water.

The main recipe (and the one recommended by the Smithsonian National Zoo) is one part sugar to four parts water.

In other words, add one cup of sugar to a mixing container and then add four cups of water. Use a spoon to stir the mixture.

When all the sugar is dissolved, your hummingbird nectar is ready!


Where To Put The Hummingbird Feeder?

The best place for a hummingbird feeder is where both you and hummingbirds can see it. However, don’t put it too close to the house. If it’s near glass doors or windows, hummingbirds can fly into them and be seriously injured or die.

Instead, try to install the hummingbird feeder 15 of 20 feet from your house but within 15 or 20 feet of a tree or shrubbery. This way, when hummingbirds feel threatened, they can fly to cover.

Hummingbird food is quite easy to make

Ideally, we also want to install hummingbird feeders in semi-shaded spots. Although you can put it in full shade, that might make it a bit harder for hummingbirds to find it. If possible, do not put the feeder in full sunlight. This will heat up the nectar, ferment it, and make it go bad!

Learn more: 16 hummingbird species you can see in the U.S.

We also need to put the feeder high enough to discourage cats, and far enough from where they could pounce on it.

Choosing the right time to put hummingbird feeders out is crucial too. Depending on where you live, make sure when hummingbirds arrive. They might want some sweet nectar in April or early May, while in other states they might already arrive in March or by late May.


What To Keep In Mind?

When making hummingbird nectar, although the recipe is super easy, there are some other things to keep in mind.

To attract hummingbirds, some places sell nectar with red food coloring, and it can be tempting to add it to your DIY nectar. However, don’t do it! Red dye could be bad and for hummingbirds and it’s not needed.

Avoid adding honey, molasses brown sugar, or any other sweetener to your hummingbird nectar. To prevent potential health issues for the hummingbirds, keep it simple and stick to refined white sugar.

The other essential is keeping your feeders clean. No one likes to drink from a dirty container, hummingbirds included! Ideally, you should change and wash your hummingbird feeders every other day. Keeping your homemade nectar in the feeder for longer promotes bacteria and mold growth.

As long as you give them a thorough washing and rinsing, boiling isn’t necessary. That said, to be extra sure, we still like to wash our feeders with hot water at least once in a while. White vinegar or dish soap works well too, but rinse thoroughly.

To avoid messes, we fill our cleaned hummingbird feeders with a funnel, in a sink.

To keep ants away from the delicious sugar water, we recommend adding an ant moat to your feeder. Ants love this stuff just as much as hummingbirds!

On a final note, you can store extra sugar water in your refrigerator for a week. After that, or if the water grows mold, throw it out and make a new batch.

Consider making your garden hummingbird-friendly too! They love sugar water, but they love natural flower nectar even more! To attract more hummingbirds, plant some colorful and vibrant flowers in your garden (red flowers are a must-have).

Hummingbirds love tubular flowers, such as the cardinal flower. Bee balm, columbine, and honeysuckle.


Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you change the sugar water in the hummingbird feeder?

You should change the sugar water in the hummingbird feeder every other day.

What do hummingbirds love the most?

Hummingbirds love sugar water with a ratio of one cup sugar to four cups of water.

Can you use tap water?

Yes, as long as it’s clean, you can use tap water. If it smells funny or like chemicals, use distilled or bottled water.

What kind of sugar can you use?

You can use refined sugar for hummingbird feeders. Brown sugar and honey are not recommended.

Do hummingbirds need salt?

No, hummingbirds do not need salt. They get all the salt and nutrients they need from tiny insects and natural nectar.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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