Hummingbird food can go bad quickly. So it is important to change it often. Store bought foods can be expensive and contain dyes that are not good for birds. This page contains homemade hummingbird food recipes.
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.
No. What is this latest " let me feed some phony stuff to the hummers. I'd love to fool them"? Hummers need sugar water. Always have, always will. If they have flowers for nectar they prefer them. In the season when they cannot get enough nectar, we help them to survive with sugar water. Please be kind and feed what is needed.
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
Is it OK to home can hummingbird food? It would be in sterile jars and lids. Then it would be processed in a water bath for 10 minutes. Would this change the nectar in anyway? Thanks in advance for any help.
I think it would be fine. It would be just like canning fruit, except no fruit in the jars, just sugar syrup.
How much sugar do I add to 2ltrs of water to feed my hummingbirds?
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
For warm weather 4 parts water to 1 part sugar is proper mix...for those of us who get hummingbirds in cold weather winters...( Vancouver B.C. down to -10 Celsius on occasion) ... then 3 parts water to 1 part sugar is good. A more sugary mix than that is harmful to a hummingbirds kidneys. And once a hummingbird chooses your winter feeder you really are responsible for its survival by keeping the feeder ice free and back outside before first morning light. They need to feed every 15 or 20 minutes at least. Rotate your feeders every hour or two to keep from freezing.
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.
Making humming bird nectar is so easy. I cup of water to 1/4 cup of sugar. Just add the sugar to hot water and stir. Let it cool and put in feeder.
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. Some suggest boiling the water and then adding the sugar, but I find it is not necessary. I just use the hottest tap water and add the sugar and it works just as well.
By Elaine S. from Near Cedar Rapids, IA
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?
The typical recommendation for making hummingbird nectar, and one I use regularly is this.
For every quart of water (part,) you will need one cup (8 oz.) of water. The best way to make nectar is by boiling the water, turning the heat off and adding sugar. Stir the sugar so that it dissolves completely. If you want to make it up in bulk so that it will last longer, boil the mixture again after you add the sugar. Just heat it up again until it boils. Refrigerated nectar should be used in a week or less. Change feeders about every 3 to 4 days. if you have plastic feeders, don't use bleach to clean them. Don't put plastic feeders in the dishwasher. Vinegar and warm soapy (dish soap,) water will clean them adequately. A tiny brush will help you clean the feeder ports. Thoroughly clean the feeders before refilling them.
Is using red food coloring in homemade nectar harmful to the hummingbirds?
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.
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?
The sugar/water mixture should be heated until just BELOW boiling. You don't want syrup. I keep my mixture in a glass jar in the refrigerator and only put out enough for one day at a time. That way you don't run the risk of mold and bacteria. Be sure to NOT use soap to clean the feeder, only very hot water. You can add a bit of white vinegar, but be sure to rinse many times. I have always had a hard time convincing my friends to not use soap and they say they rinse it well, but there can still be a minute amount of residue that can harm the hummy.
Is is OK to substitute brown sugar for white sugar in nectar?
By Bridgitte J
Substitutions of any kind kill. Good white sugar and water only. I use 4 to 1. I have a few that winter over so I use 3 to 1 for winter months. I shine a light on the feeder to keep it from freezing. I adore my hummers. Would never substitute and kill them.
This mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for about 1 week.
A few drops of red food coloring will tint nectar to attract birds.
Source: My awesome friend Richard Wildermuth
Does diluted pancake syrup make ok hummingbird food?
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.
This is a guide about feeding hummingbirds. These beautiful birds enjoy a liquid feeder. Most red flowers will invite hummers to your garden.
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)
With regards to the hummingbird feeders they say no red dye, do they mean red food coloring?
By Kimberly from Tenmile, OR
Correct! You don't need anything more than sugar and water for the nectar. The feeder's red parts, or a red fake flower or even a piece of ribbon will catch their eye. Once they know the feeder is there, they will happily patronize your little "cafe" with clear nectar. (05/15/2010)
Our feeder came with instructions on making the nectar. 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water. No dye needed. Our feeder is red with little yellow flowers to feed from. Our first hummingbird showed up last week so now is the time to get the feeders out (at least in Tennessee). (05/15/2010)
We usually put one drop of red food color in the first feeder filling for the year. This year we tried something different. I noticed that the mandarin oranges come in a red netting. We used the netting to cover the feeder. We only have the hummers from March until August, but certainly enjoy them while they are here. We have an 8 hole feeder and have had 16 hummers feeding (2 per hole) and a cloud waiting their turn. We have a one quart feeder and fill it nearly every day.
From Corrie on the Olympic Peninsula, WA (05/18/2010)
If you are like we are, we have several hummingbird feeders around our yard. Yes, you can buy the hummingbird food, but this get costly and there is not much in the packages.