With their bright colors and fluttering wings, it’s no surprise that millions of people around the world love hummingbirds.
There’s nothing hummingbirds love more than nectar.
Unlike other types of bird food, like seeds and nuts, you can make your own nectar for these colorful birds to enjoy.
This master list will show you the coveted hummingbird food recipe and answer ALL of your questions about nectar.
(if you’re feeling lazy, you can try these coloring, dye, preservative and additive-free premade options)
If you’re still determined to make your own, salute!
We promise the recipe is simple and one of the easiest things to make in your kitchen. However, there are many questions about making the perfect recipe and using the right water, sugar, and other ingredients. Also you need to utilize the right bird feeder for your nectar, that can keep it safe and stead for the birds to feed on.
Don’t worry, we’ll be specific here and answer all your questions.
Soon you’ll be making hummingbird food like a master.
What is the Hummingbird Food Recipe?
All it takes is five minutes and some affordable ingredients to make your own nectar. You’ll need warm water, table sugar, a bowl for mixing, and a spoon. That’s it. For consistency’s sake, the common hummingbird food recipe sugar water ratio is four cups water (32oz) and one cup of sugar (8oz), but you can use as much or as little as you’d like.
Combine the four parts water with one-part table sugar in the bowl. Make sure the water is warm so the sugar easily dissolves. Keep stirring until everything is dissolved and wait for it to cool. You’ve just made your first batch of nectar.
What’s the Difference Between Pre-Made and Homemade Nectar?
You might be wondering if the pre-made stuff is better than what you’re making at home. While the pre-made products often have more ingredients, these are usually preservatives to keep it shelf-stable and have improved longevity. In most cases, both methods produce nearly identical results. It comes down to whether you’d rather spend time or money.
Can I Use Powdered Sugar to Make Hummingbird Nectar?
It is possible to use powdered sugar however you must make sure that its not packed full of additives, preservatives and if it’s nectar based, avoid dyes and coloring. Here’s an example of one we like, it utilizes natural plant-based sugars which are totally natural and in line with what hummingbirds usually feed on.
Special Recipes for Hummingbird Food
This section will cover making some changes to the table sugar and water recipe mentioned above.
We’ll discuss some interesting ingredients you can use and how to change the recipe for the seasons.
How to Make Hummingbird Food With:
- Corn Syrup: This is basically the same as making with table sugar. The proportions are the same, 4 parts water to 1-part corn syrup. While warm water might be enough, you’ll likely need to boil the ingredients to properly mix them. This method may save you some money.
- Maple Syrup: Birders have found that hummingbirds naturally visit maple trees and gladly partake of their sap. Mix 4 parts water with 1-part maple syrup. Boiling will likely be required for the syrup to fully dissolve. This method will likely be more expensive than table sugar, but it may make your birds happier than normal.
- Kool Aid: Unfortunately, you shouldn’t make nectar with Kool-Aid (unless you intend on drinking it yourself). The chemicals and additives are potentially dangerous to birds.
- Other Sugars: We’ve mentioned table sugar frequently here and you might be wondering if other sugars are fine (raw, turbinado, brown, etc.). Most other sugars have iron that might hurt birds, so it’s best to avoid them. If you can find another sugar that’s just sucrose, then mix it like the regular nectar recipe.
How Much Nectar Should I Make?
Estimating can be a little tricky, but there’s some simple math to help you find a starting point. Every hummingbird is different, but most consume about 0.46oz of food per day. You then have to determine how many birds are visiting your feeder per day.
This is where the math gets a little murky, but stick with us.
In general, count how many birds you see at one time and multiply by 6. This might seem inaccurate, but it works well. Then, multiply this number by 0.46 and you’ll see how many ounces are consumed per day.
So for example, I see 4 birds on average on a given day. 4×6=24, then, 24×0.46 (their daily consumption) = 11.04, so I’ll probably prepare between 10-12 ounces, don’t be too strict with the result.
Do I Really Only Use Table Sugar?
Many people think this should be more complex, that there should be more steps and ingredients. But no, it truly is this simple. Table sugar is sucrose. The nectar found in flowers is a basic combination of sucrose and water. In fact, white sugar is often the best for this food source.
Be sure to read on as we’ll discuss other viable sugar options later in this master list.
Can I Use Honey Instead of Sugar?
Honey’s sweet, so it should be OK, right? Not exactly. Honey will quickly ferment when combined with water, inviting all sorts of bacteria and fungi to the party. That’s great if you’re looking to make booze, but not good for hummingbirds. They can get very sick and even die from bad nectar.
On top of that, you’ve probably noticed that they never seek out beehives or feed on honey naturally. Avoid honey and stick with table sugar (which mimics real nectar).
Can I Use Tap Water?
Tap water is perfectly fine for this recipe. You can use other waters if you’d like, but they’re more expensive and don’t have any benefits. While it’s a matter of preference, it’s best to use tap water to keep costs down.
Can I Make Hummingbird Food Recipe Without Boiling Water?
Boiling is a debated topic among birders. Some say you should boil to kill any bacteria in the water while others say that nature is a dirty place and bacteria is natural.
While the debate still rages, the truth is that the hummingbird food recipe no boil or boil is functionally the same. Simply follow the directions above (4 parts water to 1 part sugar) and you’re good.
The only caution we would give is about boiling too long. This can reduce the water amount and might throw off the recipe a bit. Otherwise, both methods are functionally identical. So, how long to boil? Only as long as it takes to combine all the ingredients.
Can I Add Red Food Dye to Nectar?
This is a good question because hummingbirds love the color red. They’ve evolved to seek out red flowers because they have the best nectar. Many people want to exploit this to ensure they get more visitors to their feeders. However, there are two reasons to not use red dye.
Some studies have shown that food dye can have ingredients that are harmful to birds. The other reason is that it isn’t as helpful as you think. The feeder should already have a red base and accents. This is more than enough to attract visitors.
How Often Should I Change Hummingbird Food?
This largely depends on the season and how warm it is. All the sugar makes it prone to spoil and ferment quickly. If the feeder is in the shade or it’s still cool, then it should last 4-7 days. Expect closer to 2-3 days during warmer days. Lastly, change daily in extremely hot weather.
Look at the food and see if it’s cloudy or has anything floating inside it. These are telltale signs the nectar has spoiled.
You might also want to know how long does hummingbird food last in the fridge. On average, you can expect it to last about two weeks. Check for cloudiness before using in your feeders.
What Else do Hummingbirds Eat?
While they need nectar to keep up their energy, they require protein as well. This mostly comes from bugs and spiders with special attention paid to fruit flies. These are one of their favorite foods.
Nectar is still the best way to attract them, but you may want to change some things about your yard maintenance to keep them around. Stop using insecticides as this will ensure the birds have a snack after eating the nectar. Some people go a step further and leave fruit out to rot. This will attract both birds and bugs to flock to your yard.
Can I Make the Nectar Recipe Sweeter?
You might feel tempted to add more sugar and make the recipe sweeter. Go big or go home, right? If they love sugar, then won’t they love an even sweeter recipe? Except for one circumstance where this makes sense (check our section about winter recipes) there’s no reason to change the ratio.
First of all, there’s no guarantee that you’ll attract more of them. Secondly, it stops resembling natural nectar at this point, so you may actually see fewer birds.
How to Make Hummingbird Food in the Microwave?
Start off as before by combining your water and sugar in a bowl. The proportions are the same, 4 parts water to 1-part sugar. Place the mixture into a microwave and heat for about 1 or 2 minutes. Check and make sure the sugar is completely dissolved. If not, run for another 30 seconds.
How to Make Hummingbird Food Recipe Gallon?
If you have lots of colorful avian visitors, then you’ll want to make tons of food for them. Making a gallon isn’t difficult, but you’ll want to know exactly how much water and sugar to use. All it takes is 16 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar. All the other steps are the same. Boiling for one minute might be a good idea to quickly dissolve the sugar.
When to Put Hummingbird Food Out?
These birds migrate throughout the year to get the best flowers. Unfortunately, this migrating means we can’t give you a simple answer that applies to everyone. It depends on where you live. In general, you’ll see them close to spring or when it warms up.
Some people have hummingbirds all year. Those in the Caribbean, South America, south Texas, and central Florida areas see these birds all the time. However, the rest of the world only sees them for a few months before they migrate.
Those in the south (starting around north Florida and onward) should put the food out around mid-February to March. If you’re in the center of the country, then mid-March to April is the best time for you. Those who are more northward but not that close to Canada should put food out mid-April to May. Lastly, those at the very top should put food out mid-May to June.
Where do I Place Hummingbird Feeders?
You did all this work researching and making food, you should make sure the feeder is placed correctly to reap the fruits of your labor. Position the hummingbird feeder in a shaded area away from highly active areas. It’s best to place the feeder by trees where birds can perch and chase away any intruders.
Try to avoid areas with lots of sunlight. This might make it easier to see them, but it also makes the food spoil more quickly.
What Flowers Attract Hummingbirds?
Since they’ve evolved to seek out red, you can expect red, tubular flowers to be the most popular and attractive to these birds. That’s especially true if they produce more nectar than average flowers.
While there is a long list of plants that would match this description, we’ll give you the shortlist of which you should place around your yard.
Some of the best flowers include:
- Bee Balm
- Trumpet Honeysuckle
- Bleeding Hearts
Nectar Recipe for Winter
The recipe above of 4 parts water and 1-part sugar is best for spring and summer when the temperature is warm. Things may change as the temperature drops, so the recipe for winter and potentially fall might change.
Adding more sugar lowers the freezing point, ensuring it remains liquid. You’ll want to mix 3 parts water with 1-part sugar. It’s a small change with a big difference. Or, you can use a hummingbird feeder heater to keep the nectar flowing even in the worst conditions.