How to Make Hummingbird Food from Sugar and Water
by Jane Lake
Bee balm, hollyhock, hibiscus, trumpet honeysuckle, clematis, impatiens, phlox, purple coneflower, roses, cosmos and fuchsias are some of the common flowers that will attract hummingbirds to your garden. But hanging a hummingbird feeder where you can easily see it is probably the best way to observe the hummingbirds in action.
There’s no need to buy expensive nectar – feed the hummingbirds by making your own syrup from the recipe shown here.
1 part sugar/4 parts water
Boil the water first, then measure and add sugar, at the rate of 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.
Let cool and store excess in refrigerator until ready to use.
Do not add food coloring, honey (which ferments), or artificial sweetener, which has no nutritional value.
You should clean your feeder at least once a week; more often if the water gets cloudy.
According to the National Audubon Society, cleaning should be done by rinsing with one part white vinegar to four parts water. If the feeder is dirty, try adding a few grains of dry rice to the vinegar solution to help scrub it clean. Follow the vinegar wash by rinsing three times with clear, warm water before refilling with sugar solution.
If mold develops, you will need to soak the feeder in a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) until the mold is gone. A small bottle brush can be handy to scrub crevices. Once the feeder is clean again, rinse it thoroughly, multiple times, to remove all traces of bleach.
How to Make Hummingbird Food – Video
For visual instructions, watch a one-minute video on making homemade nectar.
KEEP IT COOL
~~ One interesting tip: freeze leftover nectar in ice cube trays; just melt the cubes then bring the nectar up to room temperature to use.
~~ During a heat wave, try popping a few nectar ice cubes directly into your usual feeder; like you, the hummers will appreciate a refreshing cool drink on a hot summer day.
HOW TO MAKE AN ANT MOAT
If ants are a problem at your feeder, make a homemade ant moat to keep them away.
You’ll need a spray can cap, wire, and silicone caulking or hot glue. Simply drill or pierce a tiny hole in the middle of the cap, just large enough for the wire. Bend a hook on both ends of the wire and caulk around the hole to seal.
Hang the moat, filled with water, right over the feeder; this prevents ants from getting into your hummingbird food. Top up water as needed to keep the ants away.
PLACEMENT OF HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS
Since hummingbirds are territorial, you might consider hanging at least two feeders – one in the back yard and one in the front, thus accommodating as many hummingbirds as you can. Hanging the feeders in a shady spot discourages fermentation and nectar spoilage.
MAKE YOUR OWN HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS
Recycled Hummingbird Feeder
Don’t buy a feeder – serve your homemade nectar in a feeder made from recycled plastic food tubs and plastic bottles.
Recycle narrow-necked glass bottles to make your own hummingbird feeders with handy feeder tubes. Sold in a pack of 12, these make great recycling and nature projects for scouts, classrooms or youth groups. The creative possibilities are endless. I’ve seen some pretty wine bottles, hand painted with flowers, then recycled into feeders using these tubes.
Heart-warming story of the author’s adoption of Squeak, a hummingbird rescued from killer frost.
What You Do
- Mix your hummingbird feeder nectar.Dissolve one part white sugar in four parts hot water. Boil the water if you plan to store the nectar in the refrigerator. Never use honey, which ferments easily, or artificial sweeteners, which have no food value for birds. Red food coloring is not recommended as it may be harmful to birds. Many hummingbird feeders are already red, the hummingbird’s favorite color.
- Pour the nectar into the feeder.Let the solution cool to room temperature before putting it in your feeder. You can store homemade nectar for up to a week in the refrigerator.
- Empty and rinse your feeder every two to three days.It’s important to keep your feeder clean, especially in warm weather, to prevent bacteria growing in the feeder and making the hummingbird sick.
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Best hummingbird food you can buy
When I was looking for the best hummingbird food on Amazon I came upon these 5 products. They work good at attracting hummingbirds and they don’t have any unhealthy ingredients.
Songbird Essentials Clear Hummingbird Nectar
Songbird Essentials Hummingbird Nectar – check current price on Amazon
This easy mix is made with 100% finely ground sucrose. You only have to mix it with water and that is it. You put that nectar in the feeder, and the birds will come.
EZ Nectar – check current price on Amazon
This hummingbird nectar is sealed aseptically so it needs no preservatives. But once you open it, you’ll need to keep it in the refrigerator to keep it from spoiling. According to the seller, it can last for 2 weeks after it has been opened (it must be in the refrigerator). This nectar uses filtered water.
Hummer’s Galore – check current price on Amazon
I like this one because it is conveniently packed so you can make nectar in small batches. It comes in 4 packs with 4 ounce of nectar which you mix with 16 ounces of water to make the final product.
Sweet-Nectar Premium Hummingbird Food
Sweet-Nectar Premium Hummingbird Food – check current price on Amazon
This one has electrolytes added in it. It is infused with wildflower waters and made with pure cane sugar which will work great to attract birds. Hot packed bottle makes preservatives unnecessary, but you will need to keep it in the refrigerator after opening.
Audubon Hummingbird Concentrate Food
Audubon Hummingbird Food – check current price on Amazon
This one is also individually packed so it is more convenient. Each package makes 15 ounces of nectar.
Things to know about feeding hummingbirds to nectar
- Avoid putting the feeder in the direct sunlight because the nectar will spoil faster.
- Clean the old nectar from the feeder before putting the new one.
- Do not add any ingredients other than what is written in the instructions (water).
- Put a piece of fruit near the feeder because the hummingbirds love fruit flies.
How often do you need to change hummingbird nectar?
The nectar should be changed often to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. If it is really hot outside, the bacteria will grow faster so it is best to replace it every 2 days. In the colder weather, you can change it every 4 days.
Hummingbird food FAQs
What is hummingbird’s favorite flower to sip the nectar from?
Hummingbird’s main food is nectar that they get from the flowers. Some of the hummingbird’s favorite flowers to get the nectar from are:
- bee balm
- red columbine
- Catawba rhododendron
- Cardinal vine
The nectar gives them required energy while also providing the water. They get enough of water from the nectar alone.
What do hummingbirds eat other than nectar?
While the nectar provides them with the energy, they need other types of food too, to get all the other nutrients not present in the nectar.
Most importantly, they also need insects which will provide them with the protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
The insects that hummingbirds most commonly eat are:
- fruit flies
Hummingbirds also eat mosquitos so they can save you from annoying itches!
Other things they eat:
Do hummingbirds eat worms?
Mealworms are too big for the hummingbirds. These birds prefer small insects such as the ones I listed above.
What do baby hummingbirds eat?
Mom hummingbirds feed their babies with tiny insects and spiders as well as nectar and pollen. Momma bird squirts the food in the mouth of her young.
What do hummingbirds eat in the winter?
During the cold winter days, when there are not as many flowers blossoming, the hummingbirds feed with the usual insects, sap from the trees and the nectar from the flowers that withstand the winter.
Do you get hummingbirds to your yard or garden?
Let me know in the comments!