Simple Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

This easy and inexpensive hummingbird food recipe will have these beloved pollinators making return visits to your garden for your DIY hummingbird nectar.

January 25, 2022
Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird with Penstemon

Anna’s hummingbird visiting a native penstemon bloom.

Photo by: Used with permission. © 2016 Thomas Strich at HummingbirdPictures.net

Used with permission. © 2016 Thomas Strich at HummingbirdPictures.net

Hummingbird lovers are undoubtedly fond of the whizzing sound these beautiful small birds make as they zip around. But did you know you can make your own food for hummingbirds to bring even more to your backyard?

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This super simple, cost-effective nectar recipe will keep your backyard friends happily humming, and you can skip a trip to the store.

How to Make Hummingbird Food

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water — most tap water is fine, but spring water is best.

  • 1 cup regular white cane sugar; do not substitute honey or other sweeteners for sugar.

  • Note: Do not add red food coloring, it's unnecessary and possibly not healthy for hummers.

Directions

  1. Make water just hot enough to dissolve sugar, but not boiling.

  2. Turn off heat and add sugar to the water.

  3. Stir until sugar is dissolved completely (liquid should be clear).

  4. When the solution is done, let it cool, then fill your clean bird feeder.

The above directions are for making hummingbird food with a water-to-sugar ratio of 4 to 1. To make a batch of a different size, just make your syrup with 4 times as much water as sugar of whatever measurement you choose. Examples: For a larger batch, use 8 cups water to 2 cups sugar or, for a smaller batch, mix 2 cups water wtih 1/2 cup sugar.

Homemade Hummingbird Food FAQs

How long can I store hummingbird food in the fridge?

Store leftover solution in the refrigerator for up to 10 days until it's ready to use.

How often should I change the hummingbird food in my feeder?

The nectar will go bad fairly quickly, so be sure to clean out and refill your feeder every 3-5 days (possibly more often in very hot weather) to prevent bacteria from building up in the sugary solution.

Don't worry if ants collect on your feeders. Hummingbirds eat small insects, so ants might just be a great appetizer to a meal of hummingbird nectar.

Where to hang a hummingbird feeder?

The homemade hummingbird food will ferment quickly in the hot sun, so be sure to locate the feeder in a shady spot — one that doesn't hang in the direct sun all day.

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Place the feeder where you can easily observe hummingbirds from a distance, such as from the kitchen table. Another tip: Place the feeder near plants in your garden that attract hummingbirds.

Should I add red flood coloring to my DIY nectar?

Don't add red food coloring; it's not necessary when feeding ports in your feeder are red and there's some question about whether artificial food coloring is safe for hummingbirds.

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What kind of sugar should I use?

Use common refined white sugar. Don't use honey; hummingbirds can't digest it, and the honey can spoil into a fungus that's lethal to hummingbirds.

When should I hang my hummingbird feeder?

The best time of year to hang your hummingbird feeder is during the hummingbirds' migration north, when they are looking for nectar sources such as flowers. Timing for when to put out a hummingbird feeder will depend a bit on where you live (later in the northern U.S.), but aim to put feeders up by mid March. You can leave your feeders out until the start of October.

Which plants attract hummingbirds?

The 4-to-1 sugar-water solution doesn't offer the essential nutrients that hummingbirds derive from plant nectar. Be sure to include the flowers they love in your landscape to give them a healthy, balanced diet. Here are some examples:

Spring and early summer: bleeding heart, columbine (Aquilegia hybrids), coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea), fuchsia, lupine, petunias, phlox and sweet William.

Summer: lantana, penstemon (especially the red varieties), fuchsia, salvia, scarlet petunia, hollyhock (Alcea rosea), blazing star (Liatris), bee balm (Monarda didyma), gladiolas, daylily, nasturtium, zinnia

Late summer to fall: bee balm, butterfly bush (Buddleia), cardinal flower, dahlia, hollyhock, four-o-clock, zinnia, penstemon, salvia.

Shrubs: azaleas, coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus), butterfly-bush (Buddleia davidii), wild Indian plum, red elderberry, red flowering current, weigela (Weigela florida), honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), flowering quince, hawthorne (Crataegus spp.), horse chestnut, rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), currant (Ribes odoratum), gooseberry (Ribes speciosum).

Trees: flowering crabapple, tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Vines: cypress vine, scarlet morning glory, trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans `Flava'), clematis (Clematis x jackmanii and others), scarlet runner bean.

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