Is the Red Dye in Hummingbird Nectar Safe?

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I have always made my own sugar water for my hummingbird feeders. But a friend gave me a box of powder called "Instant Nectar" is says "the bright red tone is non-toxic and harmless to hummingbirds", but I have heard that the red is harmful, can any one tell me if this is true?


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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 107 Posts
June 11, 20180 found this helpful
Best Answer

Just as with many things in life, keeping it simple is best. Nectar in nature isn't red. A nectar made by adding 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of boiling water is all you need to attract and feed hummingbirds. Be sure to let the mixture cool before pouring it into feeders. Adding easy to grow plants such as lantana, coral bells, cypress vine and sage to your landscape can also attract hummingbirds.

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
June 11, 20181 found this helpful

This seems to be a very controversial issue and does not appear to have a definitive answer as no studies have long term answers.

  • Most actual "bird" people will just say "why take a chance" - make your own with no red dye.
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  • I could not find where any long term studies have actually been done with hummingbirds - but most were done with humans and most agree that is not good enough.
  • Some people have added other "red" products (like beet juice) but this is not recommended either.
  • Since you have made your own nectar in the past, I believe I would continue to do the same and toss the "Instant Nectar" - of course, this is my personal opinion.
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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 196 Feedbacks
June 11, 20180 found this helpful

I am all about safety first so I would avoid the red dye. I have friends who use red tinted feeders and clear liquids. They get a great bird show that way! Have fun with it!

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
June 11, 20180 found this helpful

If it is FDA approved I would not worry. If it is not, i would avoid it.

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June 14, 20180 found this helpful

Although certain red dyes have been approved by the FDA for human consumption there is still concern as to safety with hummingbirds. Also, most European countries have banned the red dyes even for human consumption.


  • Here is an excerpt from the Hummingbird society;
  • "Red Dye in Hummingbird Nectar
  • The greatest concern about whether or not red dye is harmful to hummingbirds comes not only from the possible dangers of the chemical itself but also from how the birds consume it. Because nectar is by far the largest component of a hummingbirds diet, a single birds consumption of dye through colored nectar can be extreme. No detailed studies have been done solely with hummingbirds and different red dyes or dye concentrations, however.
  • The birds physiology, metabolism, and nutritional needs are sufficiently different from humans that any conclusions stating the dye is safe for human consumption may not be valid for hummingbirds.
  • Many commercial hummingbird nectars, both powdered mixes and liquid concentrates, include red dye. Because hummingbirds are attracted to red, the dye is useful as a sales point for backyard birding consumers, and red nectar stands out on store shelves more effectively than clear bottles."
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Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 451 Feedbacks
June 14, 20180 found this helpful

I've been feeding hummingbirds for many years, and the red colored feeder itself will be enough to attract lots and lots hummingbirds.

The other problem with those "add water to the powders" for nectar, is, they may and usually do, contain chemicals to preserve it and keep it from clumping. That too is not something a hummingbird should eat.


They trust so much when we hang a feeder up for then they eat from it, so if you can make it as pure and fresh as you can for them, using *just plain sugar mixed with water*,
they'll thank you so much for it.

I personally don't boil the mixture, and "they say" to boil it, then cool it before putting the 'nectar into their feeders', but, that's said in case there's any bacteria lurking, as fungi spores or bacteria in a feeder will then grow practically overnight, because of the sugar food it's in.

I take my feeders down every couple of days and wash them out extremely well, then put only a little amount of juice in them now because of the high summer heat, as the nectar only lasts a couple of days in the heat before it gets cloudy.


So not filling them to the top works perfectly.

In the winter, the feeders will last about 4 days before I wash them out and refill because the temps outside are cooler.

Just keep the feeders clean where the "sugar water" maintains clarity every day, and you'll have a backyard full of hummingbirds before you know it. :)

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