EASY Hummingbird Nectar Recipe (only TWO ingredients)
Are you looking for a proven hummingbird nectar recipe?
If so, you have come to the right place. I use the following recipe, along with millions of other enthusiasts, to attract lots of hummingbirds every summer. And make sure you keep reading (or CLICK HERE) to see answers to EIGHT commonly asked questions regarding homemade hummingbird food.
Here is the SIMPLE Hummingbird Nectar Recipe You Should Use:
- The whole process takes less than 5 minutes, and that includes cleanup!
Ingredients and Materials:
- White table sugar – The kind you use in your kitchen for baking
- Hot water -I use tap water from my sink. But if your local water supply is tainted with heavy metals, I recommend using filtered water.
- In a mixing bowl or glass, combine 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of hot water. The ratio for hummingbird nectar is 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, so if this recipe makes too much or not enough for your specific food needs, it’s easy to adjust accordingly.
- Mix the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved. Making sure the water is hot will help dissolve the sugar.
- You have hummingbird nectar! I would let the mixture cool to room temperature before filling your feeders. You can store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
To see this recipe in action, watch this LIVE hummingbird camera!
As long as it’s daylight, you are almost guaranteed to see hummingbirds feeding on nectar made from the above recipe. Incredibly, these feeders, located in California, need to be refilled at least three times per day, and the owner has to buy 50-pound bags of sugar regularly!
8 COMMON Questions About This Nectar Recipe
#1. Do I REALLY just use regular table sugar and water to make hummingbird nectar?
Yes! It is that easy! And here’s why:
Natural nectar found in flowers is mostly a sucrose solution. Luckily, white sugar is also made of sucrose, so when mixed with the appropriate amount of water, it closely resembles natural nectar in flowers.
Don’t try to get fancy and use honey, brown sugar, or an artificial sweetener in your recipe. These won’t work, nor will these ingredients be good for hummingbirds! Instead, please stick to plain old white sugar.
#2. Should I boil the water to make hummingbird nectar?
Whether you should boil the water when making your homemade nectar 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.
But nature is not a clean place and is full of bacteria. As soon as the first hummingbird sticks their tongue in the feeder, they have introduced bacteria, negating the point of boiling the water.
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.
But no harm can be done by boiling the water. If it makes you feel better, then please boil away! 🙂
#3. Should I add red dye to hummingbird nectar?
Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, so many people wonder if adding red dye to the nectar will help attract more hummers. It’s a great question and has a simple answer.
Don’t add red dye to your hummingbird food!
The effects of consuming red dye are unclear, and studies have shown potential health consequences for hummingbirds. And putting red dye in nectar is unnecessary to attract hummingbirds. Just make sure that the nectar feeder you purchase has a red top or base.
#4. Does pre-made hummingbird nectar work better than homemade hummingbird nectar?
For example, here is a list of ingredients for Kaytee’s “Ready To Use” ElectroNectar, a popular pre-made nectar solution that I have purchased in the past.
The “Ready To Use” ElectroNectar has almost the same ratio of sugar (Sucrose – 20%) to water (Moisture – 80%) that is recommended in the hummingbird recipe above.
For the record, it’s okay if you want to buy pre-made nectar. 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?
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 for 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!
- Cooler 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
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!
#6. Can I use honey in a hummingbird nectar recipe?
No. Adding honey to this nectar recipe will not help and can 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.
If hummingbirds feed on rotten nectar, it can lead to a deadly infection that makes their tongues swell. In fact, it makes their tongue so large that they have trouble fitting it back into their bill. Unfortunately, this sickness almost always leads to a slow death.
And if you’re still not convinced, think about this fact:
Hummingbirds don’t eat honey naturally!
Have you ever 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 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?
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 don’t 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 an easy spot to observe. The old fruit is naturally going to attract lots of fruit flies, which should attract hummingbirds for an easy meal.
#8. What if I make a more concentrated sugar solution for my hummingbird nectar?
You might be thinking that if hummingbirds love a nectar solution that contains 1 part sugar to every 4 parts water, they will go crazy over a recipe that doubles the amount of sugar!
Unfortunately, adding more sugar won’t help! If the nectar becomes too sweet or concentrated, it’s not going to resemble what hummingbirds find in flowers naturally and can become problematic for them 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!
The best way Iv found 2 handle such situations is 2 hang more than 1 feeder if possible. They can b quiet territorial. On a good note, u have multiple hummers ☺ so u just have 2 help them learn 2 live 2gthr peacefully. Good luck
A feeder can b placed on n near a window. Hummers will use them just the same. Window feeders can actually b purchased. They are made with lil suction cups or a suction cup n hook 2 hang the feeder.
I began the hummer season with boiled nectar, then switched to the hot water/sugar mixture. After the switch I haven’t seen very many hummers. I switched back to boiling Water/sugar nectara. Do hummers have a Preferance?
I purchased the Blown Glass Gnome Humming Bird feeder last year. I chose glass because it gets cleaner than plastic when cleaned. I know Hummers are attracted to the color red and was concerned it wouldn’t attract Hummers, but have had no issues doing so, As there appears to be enough red in the glass and the base to do so and I don’t add red food coloring to the nectar mixture.
Grateful Gnome Hummingbird Feeder for Outdoor Hanging Hand Blown Glass Large Blue Egg with Flowers 36 Fluid Ounces Kit Includes S-Hook, Ant Moat and Brush https://a.co/d/5ezkaUH
Thank you for the tip!
I’ve got them drinking mine all up. What to do to stop them?
Don’t use organic sugar. it is rich in iron, and hummingbirds have low tolerance for iron.
I have heard you should use only plain ol’ white sugar–NOT organic sugar. Then I read it’s perfectly OK to use organic. Who do we believe?
Agree it makes sense to use bottled or distilled water to keep the nectar fresh. I don’t want to think I made a little bird sick because of my carelessness.
I’ve had Orioles raid my Hummingbird feeder. It’s OK unless the Oriole is a bully that chases the Hummees away.
Water doesn’t need to be warm (or hot) . Cold (or room temp) water works fine. The sugar will dissolve if you stir/shake it sufficiently. Saves you the trouble of waiting for it to cool off.
Question: the email I got that pointed me to this article mentions hummingbirds AND orioles. No mention of orioles in the article. Is the same nectar used for orioles as for hummingbirds?
I have an oriole feeder in which I can put grape jelly and oranges (haven’t attracted any yet). I want to add a nectar feeder. Orioles are attracted to orange (color), not red (as far as I know). So I assume a hummingbird feeder shouldn’t be used for this purpose? Is it ok to include orange dye, and if so, does it help?
Yes, sorry, You can use the same nectar recipe for both types of birds.
Don’t use orange dye. You should buy a separate nectar feeder for orioles because the feeding ports are bigger to allow them to drink.
I use the four-to-one ratio throughout the hummingbird season, except in extreme weather. At the very beginning of the season when it’s still cold, or at the end, when they’re getting ready to migrate, I use slightly more sugar (they need a bit more energy when it’s cold, or to prep for migration), and in extreme heat I use slightly more water (they need more water in the heat, and if they drink enough nectar to satisfy their water needs, they’re likely getting more sugar than they need with the strict 4-1 ratio).
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!
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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?
Nope, just use 1 part table sugar and 4 parts water. That mimics the nectar found in flowers! Don’t add anything else.
I’m 72 and my eyesight is not the best, so that’s why I like the ring.
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!
How do i keep bees and yellow jackets off my feeders in the summer??
try these tips: https://birdwatchinghq.com/keep-bees-away-from-hummingbird-feeders/
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.
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?
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.
Can I use “Sugar in the raw”?
No, just use normal white table sugar.
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).
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
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
Does it attract mosquitoes and other insects?
Nectar can attract ants and bees, but they can be prevented with the right precautions!
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?
Can I put a feeder near a window or should it be in an open area?
I have a squirrel robbing my nectar. Can I add some hot sauce or pepper? Other birds don’t mind spicy feed
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?
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.
Are there other nutrients/supplements I can add to my diy nectar? Gigi
You “try” not to use any insecticides in your yard? Just don’t use them – it’s as simple as that, no trying involved.
Do you mean starts boiling?
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.
Can I use agave nectar??
Nope, just use table sugar!
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
I live in a zone 3 ~ WHEN is the best time to put our my hummingbird nectar? thank you !!
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.
Can you use sugars other than white for the nectar. e.g. coconut sugar or brown sugar
Hello Brent. No, only use white table sugar. Nothing else will work or is dangerous to hummingbirds.
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?
I don’t see any problems with water from a water softener Kathryn.
When is the best time in Spring to put hummingbird feeders out in Central Indiana & Northern Illinois?
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!
If I boiled the water down too much- is it bad syrup for the birds?
Hey Karen, yes that is bad for the birds. If you decide to boil water make sure to remove from heat as soon as it stops boiling.