Feed the Hummers! How to Make Hummingbird Nectar

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Matt Cuda/Shutterstock

Attract Hummingbirds with Our Easy Homemade DIY Nectar Recipe

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We love hummingbirds! Hummingbird nectar is simple to make at home, though you’ll need to use the right ingredients and know the right recipe. Learn how to make homemade hummingbird food and attract hummingbirds to your garden!

How to Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar

Help these hard workers get a proper meal: nectar! Make your own “nectar” in just a few steps; it’s far less expensive than buying pre-made, and the ingredients are readily available. 

Hummingbird Food Recipe

To make hummingbird nectar, use a 1:4 ratio of sugar to water. You’ll need the following:

  • 1/4 cup refined white sugar*
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Heat-safe measuring cup or bowl
  • Spoon

After boiling the water (an electric kettle is handy here), pour the water into the measuring cup and mix in the sugar. Stir the mix occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves entirely. 

Allow the nectar to cool to room temperature or below, then fill your feeders. That’s it!

Avoid making more nectar than you need, as it won’t store for more than a couple of days in the refrigerator. 

*WARNING: Do not use “raw” sugar. Organic, natural, and raw sugars contain iron levels that could harm hummingbirds. Do not use honey, either, as it can promote dangerous fungal growth in the birds’ esophagus. ONLY use plain white table sugar (sucrose), which, when mixed with water, very closely mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar.


A Word on Red Dye and Cleaning Feeders

PLEASE DON’T USE RED DYE IN YOUR HUMMINGBIRD NECTARThe red coloring is unnecessary, and the chemicals can harm the birds. Plus, hummingbird feeders are typically red anyway, making dying the nectar unnecessary. 

Also, please keep your bird feeders clean to avoid mold that can harm these tiny flyers. To clean a bird feeder and remove mold, soak it in a simple solution of 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of hot water. After a few minutes of soaking, rinse it with water and let it dry. Try not to use dish soap to clean feeders. A general rule is: If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t give it the hummers.

Another important note about feeding hummingbirds: Over 80% of their diet comprises soft-bodied insects. So, if you want to attract many hummers to your yard, don’t use pesticides to kill the insects (as annoying as they may be).

Learn more about hummingbirds here!

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

In my neck of the woods (New Hampshire), we have only one type of hummer—the ruby-throated hummingbird.

Take a moment to listen to the call of the ruby-throated hummingbird.

They are fascinating little creatures. Barely three inches high with a long slender bills almost half as long as their bodies, these tiny dynamos fly at great speeds, beating their wings over 50 times per second. They possess the ability to hover and even fly backward. It is hard to believe that something so small migrates all the way from Central America to the northeastern U.S. each spring.

ruby throated hummingbird

Tips for Hummingbird Watching

Needless to say, one of my favorite summer activities is hummingbird watching. I have two feeders at opposite sides of the house since these little guys seem to be very territorial and don’t like to share. If one is at the feeder when another comes in for a drink, there is usually a squawking, aerial dogfight until one is chased away. By keeping the two feeders out of sight of each other, many fights are avoided.

To fuel their activities, they need lots of nectar and a great deal of protein, which they get from the aphids, gnats, mosquitoes, and other insects they eat. Their benefit to the garden as pollinators and insectivores, in addition to their entertainment value, makes them a worthwhile asset to anyone’s yard. 


Plants That Attract Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds consume half their body weight in bugs and nectar, feeding every 10 to 15 minutes and visiting 1,000 to 2,000 flowers daily!

Over the years, I have tried to fill my yard with plants that will attract them. They love flowers that are colored red and orange (I have had them check me out quite closely when wearing a red t-shirt), but I have seen them sipping nectar from plants of other colors, too. 

Generally speaking, they prefer to visit flowers that are tube-shaped, like bee balm or salvia. Their long beaks and tongues make reaching the nectar quite easy. 

Check out our list of plants that attract hummingbirds for more ideas.

Happy Humming!

Do you feed your hummingbirds? Share your tips for attracting them in the comments below!

About The Author

Robin Sweetser

Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. Read More from Robin Sweetser

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