How to Make Hummingbird Nectar using TWO ingredients!

Are you looking for a proven hummingbird nectar recipe? Do you have questions about how to make hummingbird food that is both safe and effective?


If so, you are not alone and join thousands (millions?) of other hummingbird enthusiasts across North America. My goal is to answer all of your nectar related questions in this post.


First, you are going to learn an easy hummingbird nectar recipe! Then you will read about the most commonly asked questions regarding the recipe and hummingbird food.


The Simple Hummingbird Nectar Recipe You Should Be Using

easy and simple nectar recipe to make hummingbird food


Ingredients and Materials:

  • 1 part white table sugar (The kind you use in your kitchen for baking!)
  • 4 parts warm water
    • Using warm water helps dissolve the sugar. I use the tap water that comes out of my sink.
  • Bowl or glass
  • Spoon



  • In your bowl or glass, combine the warm water and sugar.
  • Mix with the spoon until the sugar has dissolved.
  • You have hummingbird nectar! Fill your feeders and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

*For easy measuring, I typically use 1 cup of sugar (8 ounces) and 4 cups of warm water (32 ounces).*


The whole process should take less than 5 minutes, and that includes cleanup!


In my opinion, making homemade hummingbird food using the above nectar recipe provides the following benefits.

  1. Easy and simple.
  2. The most affordable way to feed hummingbirds. Much cheaper than buying pre-made nectar from the store!
  3. Mimics natural nectar found in flowers.
  4. Rewarding to watch hummingbirds eat your homemade nectar.


For proof that this recipe works, try watching this LIVE camera, which is located in the backyard of a hummingbird enthusiast from California.


As long as it’s daylight, you are almost guaranteed to see hummingbirds feeding. Incredibly, these feeders need to be refilled at least three times per day, and the owner has to regularly buy 50-pound bags of sugar!

8 Frequently Asked Questions About This Nectar Recipe and Hummingbird Food


1. This nectar recipe seems too easy. Do I really just use regular table sugar and water?


Yes! It really is that easy!


hummingbird nectar recipe and hummingbird food


Natural nectar found in flowers is mostly a sucrose solution. Luckily, white sugar is also made of sucrose, so when it’s mixed with the appropriate amount of water, it closely resembles natural nectar that hummingbirds find in nature.


Don’t try to get fancy and use brown sugar or an artificial sweetener in your recipe. Neither of these will work nor will be good for hummingbirds! Please stick to plain old white sugar.


2. To boil or not to boil?


Whether you should boil the water in your hummingbird nectar recipe is a debated topic.


Hummingbird enthusiasts that recommend boiling the water claim that boiling removes any impurities (bacteria, fungus) in the water and helps the nectar last longer.


Personally, I do not boil the water when I make my hummingbird food.


I use hot water that comes out of my sink. The only reason I use hot water instead of cold is to help the sugar dissolve more quickly.


My family and I have been drinking the water from the sink for years. If it’s safe enough for my 3-year-old daughter to drink, then I feel comfortable using the same water for my hummingbird nectar.


Also, nature is not a clean place and is full of bacteria. As soon as the first hummingbird sticks their bill and tongue in your feeder, they have introduced bacteria into the nectar, which negates the point of boiling the water.


But no harm can be done by boiling the water. If it makes you feel better, then please keep doing it! 🙂


3. I heard hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. Should I add red dye to the nectar?


The first statement is correct. Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. They have evolved to know that many of the best sources of nectar are red flowers, so anything that is red naturally piques their interest to see if its something that contains nectar they can eat.


But please don’t add red dye to your hummingbird food!


no red dye in hummingbird food


Some studies have claimed that red dye can have health consequences for hummingbirds.


But here’s why I don’t add dye to my nectar.


It doesn’t help! Hummingbirds do not care if the nectar is red or clear. So why take the chance that the added dye could be harmful?


The argument for adding dye to your nectar recipe is that it will attract more hummingbirds because they love the color red.


While it’s true that hummingbirds are attracted to red, 99% of hummingbird feeders already contain a red top or base or some other bright color, so the color of the nectar becomes irrelevant.

4. Does pre-made nectar bought in stores work better?




For example, here is a list of ingredients for Kaytee “Ready To Use” ElectroNectar, which is a popular pre-made nectar solution that I have purchased in the past.

hummingbird food and best nectar recipe

View/Buy on Amazon

The “Ready To Use” ElectroNectar has almost the same ratio of sucrose (white table sugar) to water that is recommended in the hummingbird recipe above.


The only reason to buy pre-made nectar is if you are too lazy to make your own!


For the record, it’s okay if you want to buy pre-made nectar. I am guilty of purchasing it every so often when I think I am too busy to stir sugar and water together.


Just make sure you don’t buy pre-made nectar because you think it’s superior to the hummingbird food you can make in your own home.


5. How long does homemade hummingbird food last? How often should I change my nectar feeders?


As a general rule, the hotter the weather, the quicker the nectar will ferment and spoil. How long your nectar stays fresh depends on both the weather, the humidity, and if your hummingbird feeder hangs in the shade or sun.


Below are some general guidelines to how long your nectar will last, but it’s impossible to predict because of the variables. No matter what, I wouldn’t let your nectar sit for more than a week outside, even if it is cool and in the shade. If the nectar starts looking cloudy or has anything gross floating around, it’s spoiled, and it’s time to change and clean your feeder!


  • Cool weather or in the shade: 4-7 days
  • Hot weather or in the sun: 2-3 days
  • Extra nectar kept in the refrigerator: up to 2 weeks


I can’t stress enough that there is no perfect formula when it comes to changing your nectar feeders, just general guidelines. My best advice is to pay attention to the weather and check your feeders every day to make sure the hummingbird food has not gone bad.


Don’t let your nectar spoil, rot, or become moldy! Old and gross food discourages the hummingbirds you worked hard to attract from visiting again. The hummers will quickly move on to other food sources, negating potentially months of hard work and patience. Once you have earned their trust, you will need to work hard to keep it!


Would you like your hummingbird nectar to last longer? Try using a product called Nectar Defender by Sapphire Labs. It’s an all-natural product that’s added to the nectar and helps prolong the time it takes to spoil.  View Price - Amazon

6. Can I use honey in the nectar recipe?


No. Adding honey to this nectar recipe will not help and can actually be dangerous to hummingbirds. This is because when honey mixes with water, it ferments rapidly, which spoils the nectar and creates an environment that lets bacteria and fungus thrive.

no honey in hummingbird nectar recipe

If hummingbirds feed on rotten nectar, it can lead to a deadly infection that makes their tongue swell. It makes their tongue so large that they have trouble even fitting it back into their bill. Unfortunately, this sickness almost always leads to a slow death.


And if your still not convinced, think about this fact:


Hummingbirds don’t eat honey naturally! Have you ever observed or heard about a hummingbird raiding a honey bee nest? Honeybees are not even native to North America, so at no point in history did hummingbirds evolve to eat honey or have access to the stuff except for the last few hundred years.


Just stick to the simple nectar recipe that calls for 1 part white sugar and 4 parts water. It’s human nature to try and improve everything, but this is an example where more intervention harms hummingbirds.

7. Is nectar the only food that hummingbirds eat?


I asked this question the first time I made nectar at home and realized that hummingbird nectar is basically a fancy name for sugar water! There had to be something of substance they also ate to supplement their diet?


Hummingbird Nectar Recipe and Food Guide


Upon more research, I learned that hummingbirds get their protein by feasting on small insects and arthropods (spiders).


So to attract as many hummingbirds as possible, I try not to use any insecticides in my yard. I want there to be plenty of bugs for them to eat.


Here is an easy tip to provide lots of fruit flies for hummingbirds to eat.


Take any bananas or other fruit that is ready to spoil, and place it outside in a spot that is easy to observe. The old fruit is naturally going to attract lots of fruit flies, which in turn should attract hummingbirds for an easy meal.


8. What if I make a more concentrated sugar solution? Wouldn’t hummingbirds like it better?


If you are like me, then you probably subscribe to the “if a little is good, then more is better” thought process.


You are probably thinking that if hummingbirds love a nectar solution that contains 1 part sugar to every 4 parts water, then they are going to go crazy over my recipe that doubles the amount of sugar!


Unfortunately, adding more sugar won’t help! If the nectar becomes too sweet or concentrated, then it’s not going to resemble what hummingbirds find in flowers and become hard to digest.


As tempting as it can be to add more sugar, stick to the tried and true hummingbird food recipe found above.


What other questions do you have about making hummingbird nectar?


Please ask below so we can all help each other.


Thanks for reading!



44 responses to “How to Make Hummingbird Nectar using TWO ingredients!”

  1. Linda says:

    If I use the nectar extender do I put it into the water and sugar I mix and put into the fridge? I’m not sure if I put it in when I mix a batch of nectar or only put it in the nectar when I’m ready to fill a feeder. I’ve read I can keep nectar in the fridge for two weeks. If I fill a feeder with two week old nectar (from fridge) how long can it stay in the feeder? Thanks!

  2. Perski says:

    I agree with previous comments, in school we did an experiment on using hot tap water. It leaches metals out of the piping which easily was detectable, even if it isn’t a lot, it is significantly more than cold water, and in the long run is not good for humans, so we were told don’t ever use hot tap water when cooking food, and I bet humming birds are way more sensitive than humans. Also public water has added chemicals that can be reduced by boiling the water.

  3. Debbie Jane Hess says:

    There’s never more than one bird at my feeder at a time. Its a constant war out there among those humming birds who gets to feed. I would enjoy it more if they could just eat together peacefully like I see in the above picture.

  4. Tom Regner says:

    More on boiling… I believe it has to do with the quality of your water supply. Our water tastes just okay when it is fresh out of the tap, but if I fill a water bottle and let it sit for a few days, it develops a foul odor. While my feeder needs to be refilled on average every other day (it can vary, sometimes up to three days), I don’t want to introduce any bacteria that the birds don’t find in their natural environment (I’m pretty sure they can’t operate my faucets). Those bacteria they bring to their table are likely not the same as those in our municipal environment source (deemed safe by the water district, but I bet they don’t test it after it’s sat around in a closed container for several days). Okay, I’ve said my peace. 🙂

  5. Tom Regner says:

    I use the same ratio (4 parts water to one part sugar) as you suggest, in a large Pyrex measuring cup. However, I use cold water, use a whisk to dissolve the sugar, then to ensure a sterile mixture, I bring it to a boil in the microwave for at least two minutes. I let it cool *completely* before putting it into another sealed glass container, which I keep outdoors so that when it comes time to refill the feeder, it is at ambient temperature, which they seem to prefer over nectar that is much warmer or cooler than surrounding air. I enjoy LOTS of hummingbirds. Some allow others to join them at the feeder, and some alpha males jealously guard the feeder when they’re around, chasing off all would-be sippers!

  6. Lynda says:

    I find by using the same sugar water that I use in my hummingbird feeder‘s and put it into wasp traps works quite good.

  7. Gwen says:

    NOW I need to know about oriole nectar… I have the oranges and the grape jelly but doesn’t the nectar need to have a flavor besides sugar? Or a color?

  8. Ruth Clyde says:

    I’m 72 and my eyesight is not the best, so that’s why I like the ring.

  9. Ruth Clyde says:

    I like to put the red ring from a milk jug (washed) into the feeder with the nectar. That way I can easily see the level of the liquid without having to go inspect it. When it gets lower, I know I need to get started making more!

  10. Dawn M Severson says:

    Hi Scott,
    How do i keep bees and yellow jackets off my feeders in the summer??

  11. Wendy Cladman says:

    I agree with you and I have always boiled and cooled the water before adding sugar. I find it disturbing that Scott would drink hot water from the tap and I certainly wouldn’t use it to feed any birds or animals. I suppose one could run an experiment by making the sugar solution with boiled and regular tap water, then letting it sit for a few days and see which gets contaminated sooner. 20% sugar is a great growth medium.

  12. DAN says:

    I would like to add a little color to my hummer food – not for the birds, but for me. I am 82 years old and my vision is not what it used to be. My feeders are crystal clear and even though they hand by my breakfast room and kitchen windows, I have difficulty telling when the feeders are getting low. Is there anything I can use to lightly color the sugar water?

  13. Frances Ayres says:

    We have found that organic sugar works best.
    We live in north western Washington state and our hummers stay around all winter. In spring we get 40-50 hummers a night and then later their babies come.

  14. Cheryl Renwick says:

    Can I use “Sugar in the raw”?

  15. Mary Frey says:

    I have read that if the water is too cold, it can actually “cold stun” the hummers, so I always let mine warm up a bit (naturally, NOT in the microwave).

  16. Nan Paschal says:

    I used to warm it up but my guys will drink it cold. I can’t tell that it lessens the number of birds fighting for the feeder

  17. Alfred McCall says:

    As far as being attracted to red, that is a true statement. but I have noticed more of an attraction to yellow. The first time was when I had a yellow cap on, the hummer hovered around my hat for almost a minute. The next time I saw one buzzing around my garage door. I went to check and there in the doorway was my bright yellow champion generator, he/she seemed to want to get nectar from it. And then another time I was doing yard work and had a gas can out and the spout is bright yellow. I took a couple of my feeders that have brown tops and spray painted them yellow they now drink from them more than the others

  18. Henry says:

    Does it attract mosquitoes and other insects?

  19. Beverly Welch says:

    When refrigerating the leftover nectar, do you bring it to room temperature when you need it to fill up the feeders again or can I just pour it into the feeders cold and hang them out?

  20. Lynn Coulter says:

    Can I put a feeder near a window or should it be in an open area?

  21. K says:

    I have a squirrel robbing my nectar. Can I add some hot sauce or pepper? Other birds don’t mind spicy feed

  22. Barbara Lund says:

    I’d like to make a gallon or more of the sugar water and freeze it so I have a lot on hand and just need to defrost it before “serving.” Is freezing then defrosting the water all right to do?

  23. Trish says:

    Well I’m thrilled to not have to boil the water. Yay. I have a well and have the water tested regularly so I know it’s very pure. If it’s good enough for me and mine it’s good enough for my feathered friends. Many more birds drinking and bathing in my fountains and bird baths.

  24. JA Gooding says:

    Are there other nutrients/supplements I can add to my diy nectar? Gigi

  25. M.E. Wilcox says:

    You “try” not to use any insecticides in your yard? Just don’t use them – it’s as simple as that, no trying involved.

  26. Mary says:

    Do you mean starts boiling?

  27. Diane says:

    Thank you for the article. I would be hesitant to use hot tap water to make nectar. Hot water can leach lead from solder and brass fixtures. It’s a small amount, to be sure, but the birds are so tiny I’d be worried about build-up in their systems, particularly if they get a lot of their nutrition from the feeder. It’s the same rationale for not using hot tap water for mixing baby formula. Newer plumbing won’t carry the same level of risk but why take a chance?

    Do you have any information on chlorinated water and its effect on the birds? It can take 20 minutes of boiling to remove chlorine-I’m inclined to use distilled water.

  28. giftinggab says:

    Can I use agave nectar??

  29. Giligain Island says:

    I have learned to make the sugar/water recipe weaker at the end of the season to stop insects from overtaking it. Instead of 8 oz of sugar try 7 oz, then if that doesn’t stop the insects from being still interested, then try 6 oz of sugar for the same 4 cups of cool water

  30. Denise says:

    I live in a zone 3 ~ WHEN is the best time to put our my hummingbird nectar? thank you !!

  31. Elaine says:

    NO! only use regular white sugar. Brown sugar has molasses added to it, which hummingbirds do not naturally eat, nor do they ever get to eat coconuts.

  32. Brent says:

    Can you use sugars other than white for the nectar. e.g. coconut sugar or brown sugar

  33. kathryn martin says:

    What should I do if I have a water softener? Should I boil the water or is the hot water still ok if off of a softener?

  34. Barb Kittle says:

    When is the best time in Spring to put hummingbird feeders out in Central Indiana & Northern Illinois?

    • Scott says:

      My guess would be soon. It doesn’t hurt to put them out as early as mid-April hoping to attract the first migrating hummingbirds!

  35. karen says:

    If I boiled the water down too much- is it bad syrup for the birds?

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