How to Make Hummingbird Nectar

Attract Hummingbirds with Homemade Nectar

May 18, 2020
Red-Throated Hummingbird
Matt Cuda/Shutterstock

Who doesn’t love hummingbirds? Learn how to make homemade hummingbird food and attract hummingbirds to your garden.

How to Make 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 comes in 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!

Try to refrain from making more nectar than you need, as it won’t store for more than a couple days in the refrigerator. 

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

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A Word on Red Dye and Cleaning Feeders

PLEASE DON’T USE RED DYE IN YOUR NECTAR! Red coloring is not necessary and the chemicals can prove harmful to the birds. Plus, hummingbird feeders are typically red anyway, which makes dying the nectar itself 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 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, then don’t use pesticides to kill the insects. 

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 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 to the northeastern U.S. each spring.

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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, 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, in addition to their entertainment value, makes them a worthwhile asset to anyone’s yard. 

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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, 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 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.

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