Homemade hummingbird nectar is cheap, simple, environmentally friendly, and healthy. It’s so easy to make that there is almost more effort involved in buying hummingbird nectar than in just making a batch at home. So let’s get started! You’ll need to gather a few things (a small pot, hummingbird feeder, sugar, and water.) One thing you won’t need is food coloring. It’s actually not good for hummingbirds and we will talk more about it later in this blog.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups water
- Prep time: 2 min
- Cook time: 10 min
- Ready in: 12 min
- Yields: Approx 2 cups of hummingbird food
- Measure out 1/2 cup of sugar and two cups of water. (Note: If you would like to make more and less food, the recipe is just one part sugar mixed with four parts water.) Add this to a small pot.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. While it’s cooking, stir to aid in dissolving the sugar.
- The mixture is done when all the sugar is dissolved. This can take about 10 minutes depending on the start temperature of the water and the quantity used. (If you’ve doubled the recipe, cook times will change.)
- Let the mixture cool to room temperature. You can put it in the refrigerator to speed up this process.
- Add the mixture to a clean hummingbird feeder. To clean the feeder, rinse it out with water and wipe off any dirt. Voilà! You’ve made your own hummingbird nectar. Hang up the feeder and watch your birds enjoy the tasty meal!
- You’ll want to replace the food in the feeder regularly to offer a fresh meal to your birds. Regularly rinse and refill your feeder.
Do not use sugar substitutes
Only use granulated sugar! Don’t use artificial sugar substitutes or natural substitutes like honey or molasses. Just plain, granulated sugar should be used. Hummingbirds are unable to properly digest honey and molasses (made from brown sugar.) The quick fermentation of these sweeteners can cause mold growth which is fatal to hummingbirds.
Sugar substitutes simply don’t offer any nutritional value to hummingbirds.
Buying Nectar: Hummingbirds and Food Coloring
If you’re short on time and can’t make your own hummingbird food, you can purchase it at any garden supply store (like Lowe’s or Menard’s.) However, please note that commercial hummingbird food often contains extra chemicals that can actually be harmful to your feathered friends. While the red food looks tasty, please do not buy any hummingbird food with added dye. Red food dye can actually cause kidney damage in hummingbirds.
Commercial hummingbird nectar has food dye added because these birds are attracted to the color red, but as long as you have a colorful bird feeder (most of them seem to have a red or yellow flower design), you’ll have no problem attracting hummingbirds.
Storing Extra Food & Fight Sugar Crystallization
If you’re worried about not having the time to make food on a regular basis, make a giant batch all at once. Sugar keeps for quite a while (it’s even used as a preservative!) You can store any extra food in an airtight container and make sure to wipe it clean so it doesn’t attract ants.
We suggest using old maple syrup containers. Not only is a syrup bottle made to hold sugary goodness, but repurposing a plastic bottle is definitely environmentally friendly. You’ll want to use a funnel to get the nectar into the container. This could help you avoid a potentially sticky mess. When you want to use it later, just squeeze it into the feeder!
Depending on the moisture content, the food may crystallize over time. If this happens, you can just add some water and pop in it the microwave. Just remember to let it cool before feeding. If you find that this happens a lot, just increase the amount of water you add next time you make a new batch of food.