Attract Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds | How to Make Hummingbird Nectar

March 23, 2019
Red-Throated Hummingbird
Matt Cuda/Shutterstock

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Who doesn’t love hummingbirds! Learn all about the beautiful ruby-throated hummingbird, how to attract hummingbirds to your garden, and how to make hummingbird nectar.

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

In my neck of the woods 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 3 inches high with long slender bills almost half as long as their bodies, these tiny dynamos fly at great speeds, beating their little wings over 50 times per second. They possess the ability to hover and even fly backwards. It is hard to believe that something so small migrates all the way from Central America each spring.


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 to drink, there is usually a squawking, aerial dogfight until one is chased away. By keeping the two feeders out of sight of each other a lot of fights are avoided.

To fuel their activities they need lots of nectar and also a great deal of protein which they get from the aphids, gnats, mosquitoes, and other insects that they eat. Their benefit to the garden as pollinators and insectivores, added 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 1,000-2,000 flowers per day!

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. 


To turn your yard into a hummingbird’s paradise, consider adding the following plants: 

Coral bells, fuchsia, snapdragons, azaleasrhododendrons, lupines, honeysuckle, bee balm, trumpet vine, penstemon, cardinal flower, quince, columbine, daylilies, nasturtiums, phlox, salvia, cypress vine, cardinal climber, and petunias

Check out an even more extensive list of plants that attract hummingbirds.


How to Make Hummingbird Nectar

Help these hard workers get a post-workout meal—nectar.  Make your own nectar in just a few steps; it’s far less expensive and readily available. 

For nectar, use a 1:4 ratio of sugar to water.

  • 1/4 cup refined white sugar*
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Bowl
  • Spoon

* Do not use RAW sugar. Organic, natural, and raw sugars contain levels of iron that could be harmful. Do not use honey promote dangerous fungal growth. Plain white table sugar is sucrose, which, when mixed with water, very closely mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar.

A Word on Red Dye Myth

PLEASE DON’T USE RED DYE in your nectar. Red coloring is not necessary and the chemicals could prove to be harmful to the birds. So, why use it? 

Also, please keep your bird feeders clean so avoid mold that can harm these tiny flyers. To clean a bird feeder and remove mold, soak them in a simple 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of hot water. Try not to use dish soap for cleaning feeders. A general rule is: If you won’t drink it, don’t give it the hummers.

One additional important note about feeding hummingbirds. Over 80% of their diet consists of soft-bodied insects. So, if you want to attract lots of hummers to your yard than don’t use pesticides to kill the insects. 

Learn more about hummingbirds here!

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.