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Making your own hummingbird food is easy and much cheaper than buying the concentrate. Plus you can make it without the red dye, as it is generally unnecessary for attracting hummingbirds to your feeder.
After attending several lectures by the Hummingbird Bird expert in Christoval, TX (that feeds 3 1/2 gallons of food per day), I have learned some helpful information regarding feeding hummers. The mixture is 3 parts water to 1 part sugar. There is no need to boil the water, just use hot water, mix and stir. Add a tiny drop of red food coloring (so you can see when it is empty).
Do not remove feeders in fall, as the passing through hummers are looking for food. They will leave when they are ready and should. In hot weather, the food spoils quickly.
By jbennett from San Angelo, TX
This is a guide about canning homemade hummingbird food. One way to have homemade hummingbird nectar on hand whenever you need it, is to make large batches and can it.
I have always used one part sugar to four parts water and it works for me. Clean out your feeder every time you change the food and you will eventually get hummingbirds.
This mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for about 1 week.
This is a guide about feeding hummingbirds. These beautiful birds enjoy a liquid feeder. Most red flowers will invite hummers to your garden.
Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.
Is it OK to substitute stevia for sugar in hummingbird nectar?
By Amber from southern Ontario, Canada
I would not do that! The sugar provides calories for energy, and stevia is popular with humans as it is so low calorie. Also, it may not be metabolized safely by the hummers. Stick with ordinary table sugar.
No! Stevia is a sweetener for couch potatoes who can't resist sweets; it has almost no calorie value for hummingbirds, who work and need energy. Even greener stevia is close to calorie-free.
And yes, avoid the 'safe' food colors. Color the feeder.
How much sugar do I add to 2ltrs of water to feed my hummingbirds?
Ditto on the above - 1 cup (white) sugar to 4 cups water. I don't even boil the water - just stir til the sugar dissolves. I keep any extra in the fridge and let sit a bit before I put it out to take the chill out of it - Although nowadays the hummers would probably appreciate a bit of a chill. Good luck!
There are two suggested ratios given: 1 part sugar to 3 parts water, or 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Since you're using 2 liters (or "Litres") of water, then you would either add: 1/2 (.5) liter of sugar (for the 1:4 ratio) *or* 2/3rds (.666) liter of sugar (for the 1:3 ratio.)
Apparently no one else realized you were on Metric, but the math should have translated just the same.
Some friends are using a mixture (of what I call harmful) of 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water. This does really attract the birds, but I know that it must be very harmful for the birds. Am I correct?
By Joan from Signal Mtn., TN
4 cups water to 1 cup sugar is correct.
No need to add red food coloring. Some "birders" say that if it isn't good for humans,why should we give it to birds? I agree. The bird feeders usually have a red base anyway.
We have 4 feeders 3 in our yard and one just outside the wall to the Path Garden. We have 3-4 butterfly bushes and a couple of cape honeysuckle bushes near by. This week a young father and his child said he counted 9 hummers at the garden feeder.
We also have a couple of orioles that sneak a drink from them. Just be sure to check for mold during the week. GG Vi
It's like everyone saying 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Thanks, 'Cookie"
When making hummingbird nectar at home, my solution turns golden before it comes to a boil. Is it being burned? I used medium-high heat and it takes forever to come to a boil (electric ceramic stovetop). Any suggestions?
By Mary D.
Thanks for the homemade Humming Bird Recipe. It sure beats buying it. Can you put red food coloring in it to make it look like the store bought kind? : )
Correction: Humming Bird Nectar Recipe. Boy,I got a Good Laugh at myself when I realized what I wrote & posted the 1st time. No I don't eat humming birds! LOL.
Is using red food coloring in homemade nectar harmful to the hummingbirds?
I agree, and love my hummers! They don't need the red dye. Usually they come to my home in the middle of April for early birds I start putting my feeders out by the first week in April, no red dye but I do add a large red bow to my shepherd's hook for symbolic reasons I think like the song "tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree" ) I sing to my hummers (hehe) it's been one whole year and I do miss thee (hehe)
I read once in Birds n Bloom that the same hummers will come back to your yard every year, anyone else read that? Also I read that hummers can fly 500 miles without stopping, wow, now that's a strong little flyer! :)
@ Chloelizabeths comment: I was thinking the other day about making my mix a little stronger too. I'll try yours after all your only adding a 1/2 cup more and if they didn't like it you can be sure they won't drink it and yours are so thank you that's what I will do with my next batch. I love my hummers and soon will be missing them!
I agree with those who say no red or any color dye. Hummers can see the clear solution. I disagree about the amount of sugar to water ratio. Hummers also need protein they get by catching small flying insects (gnats, etc.). If too much sugar is in the solution, they may not feel the need to catch the nutrients/protein since they have empty calories.
I read this in Birder's Magazine. The recommended ratio is 1/3 cup sugar to 1 cup water. Too much sugar can also lead to other problems. You can go to Wikipedia or a birders web site to confirm this.
On the nectar you buy in the store, the package directions say 3 parts water to 1 part water. What are they meaning? 3 cups water to 1 cup of nectar? Please help me clarify this. I'm not sure what that means? Can anyone help asap?
I have always used 4 parts water to 1 part sugar (white only). Also it's not necessary to use any food coloring as the feeder will attract the hummers as well as any flowers nearby.
Whenever you see the words 'part to parts, it means measures, for example as you wrote, three cups to one cup (or 3 parts to 1 part). As another reply noted, it's often written as 1:1, 1:3, 3:1, etc.
Another way to think of it is that if you use 1 part and the measure you've chosen to use is a full cup, you need to follow the directions for your other parts as being cups also.
The measure can be anything, tea or tablespoons, litres, gallons, quarter cup, half cup, full cup, and so on.
For example, when I make up a vinegar and water solution to clean kitchen in bathroom I use a one to one parts ratio (1:1) and I decide the size or volume of my measure according to the amount of cleaning solution I want to make up.
If I'm filling a spray bottle, I use a half cup of vinegar to a half cup of water; if I'm mixing up a larger amount I adjust upwards in measurement-one full cup to one full cup for a small basin, pints and sometimes even gallons to fill a bucket.
The important thing to remember is that the word 'part' and 'parts' means nothing more than measures.
My hummingbird nectar (4 parts water to one part sugar) gets moldy after about one week. Am I doing something wrong or is this normal and what can I do to prevent it?
Necter should be changed every 3-4 days, sometimes more frequently in the heat/humidity of the summer.
Moldy Hummer feeders and nectar are a real problem and can cause harm to the hummers. Clean feeders with fresh nectar should be hung more frequently. I live in Georgia and we have a lot of heat and humidity ---- both causes for mold. My "rule of thumb" is that when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees, change the feeders and nectar every 3 to 4 days. If your feeder is in direct sun, change it every 2 to 3 days or a little more often. Nectar can be stored in the refrigerator for several days making re-filling more convenient.
It's always good to have a spare feeder/feeders. This will make it easy to have a clean feeder at all times. Once you take down a used feeder, wash it and be ready for the next refill. Happy Humming :)
Is is OK to substitute brown sugar for white sugar in nectar?
By Bridgitte J
Brown sugar contains molasses, whereas white sugar doesn't. I would stick with white sugar only.
Agree with MCW. I have herd of other people asking about substituting white cane sugar in hummingbird feeders and many people say don't do it. Someone asked about using sugar substitutes like Sweet and Low. Others have asked about using honey. The answer is always the same... stick to normal sugar and water at a 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water ratio.
Does diluted pancake syrup make ok hummingbird food?
NO! Use only a mixture of sugar and water as given above.
An easy way to make hummingbird food: 1 cup water, 1/4 sugar, in a glass measuring cup. Microwave to a boil, and boil until sugar is dissoved. Cool. The ratio is 4 to 1. If this is the first time you've fed hummingbirds at that location, add some red coloring to the mix. Once they become used to looking for the feeder, you won't need to color it anymore.
Why does my hummingbird food turn cloudy during the cool down time. I've been making it for years with the same sugar and bottled spring water. They don't like city water even after we boiled it. Now it is turning cloudy even before it's cooled. What do I need to change?
By Dan T.
The sugar may not be completely dissolved or there may be air bubbles in the water. Let it cool and then see if it turns clear.
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What happens if you put too much sugar in the water to make the nectar? Can it harm the birds?
By Phyl from MD
We did that once. The hummingbird passed out. We found him on the ground and put him in a safe place. Later he recovered and flew off. Too much sugar is not good for the little guys. (08/21/2010)
I have made it stronger than recommended many times, without any problems. Just don't use red food color, that is not needed. Also, don't leave the same sugar water in more than a few days, it starts to grow bacteria and molds/fungi that can be harmful to the birds. Be sure to wash your feeder before refilling, rinsing it very well. Also, the bulk of a hummingbird's diet is insects! The sugar water/nectar is enjoyed for energy, but they get nutrition from other sources. (08/21/2010)
You can add water appropriately to get a more balanced mix. The ratio should be 4 to 1, i.e. 4 cups water to 1 cup of sugar. And the water does not have to be hot to add more water, it would need to be reheated to add more sugar. (08/21/2010)
Recipes for hummingbird nectar call for a water to sugar ratio of 4:1. But some people who keep hummingbird feeders insist on making stronger concentrates either from the belief that more is better, or they mix a stronger solution only in late summer and autumn under a widespread, but misguided belief that this will "fatten 'em up" for their migration.
The unwavering rule is: "Never mix nectar stronger than the 4:1 ratio, or you may be doing injury to the hummingbirds." A friend who refused to believe her old practice was harmful finally changed her policy (of providing stronger autumn concentrates) when I wrote her the following commentary.
I doubt you're doing great harm since late-season hummers will be transient visitors and won't eat often of the unhealthy concentrate. You'd hurt them more giving them too concentrated a nectar when they are nesting, as they'd be using nearby feeders too regularly during that time. But overly sugared nectar can be harmful at any time if too often encountered, and in no case does increasing the ratio strengthen them for their winter journey. Here's an overview of why it's bad for their health:
Sugar water may supplement hummingbird diet, but if they are so fond of sugar water that they neglect their natural diet of flower nectar and small insects, they will become deficient in scores of minuet, but essential nutrients. Too much sugar might actually hamper their search for the more appropriate natural nectars. Ideally sugar-water feeders are not the only things the hummers find in a garden which will be full of trumpet-shaped spring and summer flowers, or for summer and autumn such things as sage-blossoms, especially in reds, either planted in the garden or set about in pots. Providing potted plants in autumn bloom would be much more of an energy-boost than more concentrated sugarwater for their autumn/winter journey. A big abelia will be in full flower through all of autumn, a favorite for hummingbirds that are still hanging about.
Some hummers actually reject over-sugared artificial nectars, and good thing they do since it is unhealthy for them. But others will favor feeders with the most sugar in the water and they may come from greater distances from their nests to feed, overlooking more healthful flower-sources along the way, knowing where they can get the bigger, but mineral-deficient sugar load. These hummers become sickly and neglect their nests and are away from their nests too long at a stretch.
Those hummingbirds fed too much sugar can develop calcium deficiencies, muscular weakness, and bone malformations similar to rickets. Their eggs are apt to be soft-shelled and will not hatch. Some hummingbirds appear to show signs of illness resembling drunkenness when feeders contain too much sugar.
Over sugaring their nectar also encourages rapid bacterial growth in the feeders and will attract bees, wasps, and bee-flies.
Too much water is less harmful than too much sugar, though both can be harmful, as too little sugar could cause some hummers to not get their daily caloric requirement.
I have always had more hummingbirds at my feeders than everyone else until they switch to my ways. The very first feeder I hang out in early spring (before seeing any hummingbirds) I use a 1 to 4 part sugar/water (no food color). As soon as I see a couple of hummingbirds at the feeder I switch to a 1 to 5 part sugar/water. Hummingbirds return to the same feeders each year. If they drank from your feeder last year and you don't have it out in time you will see them buzzing around that same spot looking for the feeder. By not getting it out early in the spring you will lose some of your impatient little customers to other feeding sources. Putting it out early keeps the same ones coming back and also helps to add new hummingbirds each year. Also putting 2 feeders out helps. They tend to prefer zooming back and forth as opposed to staying at just one feeder. (10/22/2010)