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How to Make Hummingbird Food - An Easy Nectar Recipe

Backyard birding is a hobby of this household so the annual rite of hummingbirds gets us very excited.

note the hidden bird in the hanger

note the hidden bird in the hanger

Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar

Hummingbirds are one of the most coveted bird visitors for any backyard. The high level of energy that these birds exhibit as they flit back and forth around the yard is reflected in the high calorie requirements for hummingbird food.

Below is the standard hummingbird food recipe for your backyard feeder to entice these birds to visit your feeder and yard year after year. Also, a few suggestions on types of feeders and plants to attract these special birds.

Red feeder with clear food

Red feeder with clear food

An Easy Hummingbird Food Recipe

Two Simple Ingredients

Hummingbirds are probably one of the most popular birds that people try to attract to their yards. One of the simplest ways to attract them is to include in your landscaping the plants that they naturally feed on. Two of the most popular plants are honeysuckle and trumpet creepers. Unfortunately, these plants are usually placed where you cannot easily see them, so the next best solution is to mount a hummingbird feeder where you can see it, and that means you will need to fill it with hummingbird food.

The classic formula for hummingbird food is to make a solution of one part sugar to four parts water. Experts suggest that you use cane sugar (the white granulated type is fine.) One cup of water is 8 ounces and after boiling you may lose a bit to evaporation but this will be enough to start with because just like we don't like stale food, the hummingbirds prefer it fresh also! You could double or triple the amounts and store what you are not using in your refrigerator but only if you have very active hummingbird community. Otherwise, it's quite simple to make it fresh every week or two.

So that is: 1 cup of water to 1/4 cup of sugar dissolved, cooled and put into the feeder.

Make sure you boil the water for ease in the sugar dissolving but it also helps eliminate the chlorine and any other baddies in the water. Cool the solution and that's it, you are ready to feed the birds!

In the wintertime you may want to add more sugar to boost the energy content of the mix. This would, of course, be in regions that are warm enough to host hummingbirds in the winter.

Can I Use A Sugar Substitute and Food Coloring?

Be sure to use real sugar, artificial sweeteners are "low calorie" which means they have no nutritional value, and would do the birds no good. Don't use honey, as it has different sugars (not the sucrose naturally found in nectar) and it tends to ferment quicker as well.

Keeping It Natural

It is highly recommended that you do not add food coloring to your water. Natural nectar is odorless and clear, so there is no need to add food coloring to the mix. Many feeders come in colors (red is most popular) and that is enough color to attract the hummingbirds.

Cleaning Your Feeder

Cleaning the feeder between fillings is highly recommended to keep nasty crud from building up. Use warm water but do not use soap. If more than warm water is needed, use a natural cleaning solution.

Attracting Hummingbirds To Your Plants - Trumpet Vines are Ideal!

We have three trumpet vines in our yard and it is the first place I see the hummingbirds visit. They are a perfect pair of nature with the long "trumpeting" flower and the hummingbird's uniquely shaped beak. Can't go wrong with this!

Pomegranate trees (mine is more like a bush) also use hummingbirds as pollinators so consider putting one in your yard.

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In the spring, many people post on social media when they have their first hummingbird visit - it's a rite of spring!


Hummingbird Migration Dates

Hummingbirds can be seen in the US mostly from March 1 - September 1. These are not hard dates especially given the weather pattern. They migrate from east to west in "layers" like the frost zones, using the warmer weather as their guide. If you want to be ready for hummingbirds to visit you, know your arrival date!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Joanie Ruppel

What's Your Favorite Way to Attract Hummingbirds?

Lee Hansen from Vermont on June 23, 2014:

I plant some favorite hummingbird flowers -- monarda/bee balm -- and also hang my red feeder in early May so they can spot it when they first migrate here to Vermont. I filter our city tap water, then boil the water and dissolve the sugar to make my nectar.

Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on May 09, 2014:

@happynutritionist: I'm not sure the heating step is necessary, just think it helps blend the sugar more efficiently but, if you skip that step - it's good to know! Enjoy!

happynutritionist on May 09, 2014:

Funny I've never heated the water, just blend it into the water from the tap...we have well water. I have a steady stream of hummers now, so happy the season is here again.

TanoCalvenoa on May 17, 2013:

I try not to because we have cats.

jseven lm on June 08, 2012:

My brother-in-law likes to put out oranges and he has this huge birdhouse and then about ten hummingbird feeders. Love to watch them!

joannalynn lm on May 28, 2012:

I must have suitable hummingbird plants in my garden, because I see them all the time. I have not intentionally planted hummingbird plant species (the species with long corolla throats). However, I like to have a feeder near my back sun porch window so I can watch them. I've identified the species we have here, but I can't recall it right now. It is a common Rufus.

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