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
By Elaine S. from Near Cedar Rapids, IA
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.
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.
Is it OK to substitute stevia for sugar in hummingbird nectar?
By Amber from southern Ontario, Canada
Hello, Yes, Red food coloring is harmful to the hummers. I worked for an avian Veterinarian and they said it would kill them.
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
It's like everyone saying 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. Thanks, 'Cookie"
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.
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.
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.
I would like to make my own mix for my hummingbird feeder. I used to know and have forgotten. Any ideas of sugar and water mixture?
barbo37 from Fairview, MI
Mix the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it cool before filling your feeder. Once hummers start coming, decrease the solution to about 1 cup sugar to 8 cups water. Hummingbirds can sometimes suffer a fatal liver disorder if they get too much sugar.
Remember to replace the nectar in your hummingbird feeder every 3 days or so - every other day if temperatures are above 60 degrees. Wash the feeder with soap and scalding hot water, then rinse well before refilling. Old nectar and/or a dirty feeder can host hummingbird bacteria. (05/26/2006)
I'm am not sure what is true as I have read different things regarding the safety of food coloring and hummingbirds.
I just wanted to pass that on to you. (05/31/2006)
By Beth Jenkins
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. I labeled a pitcher to keep in the refrigerator with "homemade hummingbird food". This is so much cheaper than the purchased kind.
Bring 4 cups water to a boil and stir in 1 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve. When cool, pour into the pitcher and refrigerate until needed. As I refill the feeders, I make another batch for the next time. You do not need to add food coloring. In fact, I understand it is not good for the little hummingbirds.
By Jodi from Gary, TX
Please do not use red dye.
Aimee, Master Herbalist student (07/09/2007)
By Marigold Mama
Other things to avoid using in feeders include artificial sweeteners and non-nutritive sweeteners such as saccharin (Sweet'N Low), aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda), and stevia. Though hummingbirds might drink feeder solutions containing these sugar substitutes, they will be starved of the calories they need to sustain their metabolism.
So I would suggest sticking to plain white sugar, or better yet plant a hummingbird friendly garden. If your friend wants the hummers near a window how about a hanging basket full of fuchsias? (05/01/2008)
Do not use food coloring. Even if the jury is still out about the effect on the birds, it does absolutely nothing to make them want to use the feeder or the food you make. Why risk it? Boiling the water is not optional. It either needs done or it doesn't depending on your supply. It is unneeded to dissolve the small concentration of sugar. But if there is danger of pathogens or mold it must be done. Know your water and know your sugar. Boiling flashes off chlorine, which may or may not be harmful, but many other chemicals can be concentrated by boiling. This danger is real for you as well as the birds you like to watch. As a rule well water should be safe. (07/17/2008)
By Ray the hummer watcher
By Michel Emond
And I'm telling you after 10 minutes of the clear nectar being in there I saw my first hummer. I was so excited I couldn't breathe. When it left I called in to tell my husband and I could barely speak. I have made my own ever since.
Check out this site and bookmark it; a live close up hummingbird nest. I think this is last clutch of the season. I have watched her for 2 years. This nest is in California.
With regards to the hummingbird feeders they say no red dye, do they mean red food coloring?
By Kimberly from Tenmile, OR
From Corrie on the Olympic Peninsula, WA (05/18/2010)
What happens if you put too much sugar in the water to make the nectar? Can it harm the birds?
By Phyl from MD
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. (08/23/2010)