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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.
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
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
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.
How much sugar do I add to 2ltrs of water to feed my hummingbirds?
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.
If you are using sugar, it could be that the sugar is being caramelized. I have a glass top stove, and mine using an on/off cycle to cook. The important question is; do the hummers like it? Have you tasted it yourself? If it tastes OK to you and hummers are drinking it, I wouldn't worry.
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
Is using red food coloring in homemade nectar harmful to the hummingbirds?
It can be; and it is not necessary. Save your food color, all you need is sugar and water! Four parts water to one part sugar.
Ditto Jilson. I make my mix stronger, 2 cups of water to 1 cup sugar. They like it better. This is the time of year when they will start to fatten for their long trip south. If you watch them at the feeder, you can see them gain weight. It starts as a lump near the tail and then fills in up their backs. There will come a day when they will come in to feed heavily, fly up in a circle and head south. Males leave first, then the females and then the young so keep your feeder up until well after you are sure they are all gone.
Yes, red dye can be harmful to the Hummers. It can cause mouth and throat cancer.
Yes, it is. They don't need it to attract them anyway. Your feeder has enough color to get their attention. Make your own solution without the red coloring.
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!
Does diluted pancake syrup make ok hummingbird food?
I would say no, only for the reason that it's full of preservatives and such. I do know that Hummingbird "food" is sold in the stores, WalMart and such.
Here is a recipe I found on-line, sounds a lot like the one my Grandmother used to use, but at that time they used the red food dye (it also helped us kids, we knew not to drink the bright red drink in the fridge!).
Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
1 part sugar/4 parts water
Boil the water first, then measure and add sugar, at the rate of 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.
Let cool and store excess in refrigerator until ready to use.
Do not add food coloring, honey (which ferments), or artificial sweetener, which has no nutritional value.
You will need to clean your feeder every few days, with hot water and a mild (10%) bleach solution to inhibit mold. Rinse thoroughly before refilling with water syrup.
Hope that helps.
Michawnpita is correct. This is the recipe that I have used for many years. I boil the water for it gets the chlorine out and any impurities. Do not add color for it is bad for them. Do a Google on hummingbirds and it will tell you. We love watching the sweet little birds. They are outside if our slidding glass door and we watch them while sitting at our dining room table.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
This is a guide about feeding hummingbirds. These beautiful birds enjoy a liquid feeder. Most red flowers will invite hummers to your garden.
ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.
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.