The 2021 Hummingbird Food Guide (Easy Nectar Recipe + FAQ)
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
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
- 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.
- Easy and simple.
- The most affordable way to feed hummingbirds. Much cheaper than buying pre-made nectar from the store!
- Mimics natural nectar found in flowers.
- 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!
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!
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.
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.
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?
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!