Did you see that hummingbird? I swear he was there just a second ago! That’s how it goes with hummingbirds. Flapping their wings a staggering 75-200 beats per second and reaching speeds up to 35 miles per hour, they’re always on the go, popping in occasionally to fuel up on hummingbird food before they’re gone in the blink of an eye. Although their presence at the feeder is fleeting, it is frequent as they return to consume more than twice their body weight in nectar every day.
Although hummingbirds spend plenty of time drawing nectar from their favorite flowers with their long, darting tongues, they are drawn to hummingbird feeders as a consistent source of the sucrose they crave. Attracted to the color red, feeders with red bottles or decorated with crimson ribbons or beads will bring these fascinating birds to the yard. Once a maintained feeder has been discovered, they will return frequently for a quick hit.
Nectar occurring naturally in flowers may seem like it has special properties and the price tag for commercially available nectar for your feeder would back that up, but it turns out hummingbirds have simple tastes.
If you’re already rocking a hummingbird feeder or two in the yard, there’s a good chance you’ve already abandoned the expense of commercial nectar and are brewing your own for a fraction of the cost. For those getting started, here’s the secret ingredient that will drive hummingbirds wild and bring them back to feed again and again:
Plain white sugar.
Yep. That’s it. Although other sugars are found in some flowers, the magic ingredient that best attracts hummingbirds is sucrose. Cane sugar fits the bill perfectly, and dissolved in boiling water at a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, gives these welcome visitors exactly what they are looking for.
Don’t use artificial sweeteners. Don’t use honey, which can ferment and become toxic to hummingbirds. Don’t even be tempted to use red food coloring to add flair (some believe food coloring is harmful to hummingbirds). Here it is. No more. No less. No kidding.
Homemade Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup pure cane sugar
Bring water and sugar to boil until sugar has fully dissolved.
Allow to cool completely.
Change the nectar in the feeder and wipe the spout clean a couple of times a week to prevent mold from developing. Once they have found this primo feeding site, hummingbirds may return to feed dozens of times in a single day.
If you’ve yet to discover the magic that is a hummingbird in flight right outside your window, check out Michelle’s excellent article on how to make your own feeder using a leftover Tequila bottle. And get more ideas for creating a bird-friendly yard in the photo gallery below.