How to Make Homemade Hummingbird Nectar

homemade hummingbird food

Draw hummingbirds to your door with a surprisingly simple recipe for homemade nectar.

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.

I have wild bird feeders that draw cardinals and blue jays, finch feeders, bluebird houses and even suet blocks in my yard, but few see the fast-paced action as when hummingbirds come to feed.

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 food

Hummingbirds have simple tastes. Dissolve sugar in water to create the perfect nectar for your hummingbird feeder.

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.

6 Responses

  1. Pat says:

    I was so glad you do not put red food coloring in the food for humming birds.It's not good for them;yes its true I learned that from a book on humming birds.But,I put more sugar in there food.We've been getting them over 5 year's.

  2. JD Birdie says:

    In the deep south,I usually have 25-35 hummers at least during summer,and change every other day,last summer I had to change them by lunchtime,they were empty,but it was very hot…we'd changed night before,but we have enough feeders to change that are clean,but we've had only 3 hummers this year so far and have 10 feeders out but still change all every 2 days,the birds can also get drunk if it ferments..I held feeders in hands and they came and drank,I was very still,they were like a shining ruby/emerald..we feed birds all year 'round,

  3. tammy says:

    some good advice on keeping it healthy – Sugar water is a very rich growth medium. Yeasts like to eat it causing fermentation which can harm hummingbirds. Mold and bacteria grow in it and can also harm the birds. That is why it is important to keep the feeder clean and the nectar fresh. You must change the nectar frequently to avoid these contaminants. In cooler temperatures we recommend changing it every seven days. If the temperatures are getting above 70 degrees, follow this chart:
    High temperatures Change nectar after
    71-75 6 days
    76-80 5 days
    81-84 4 days
    85-88 3 days
    89-92 2 days
    93+ change daily

  4. Rhonda says:

    I live in southeast LA. I keep my feeder out year long, even when it is freezing outside. I have seen 2 hummingbirds in the winter during freezes. Some hummers don't leave. So if you live in the southeast try leaving your feeder out all year.

  5. Faye says:

    My dad had 10 feeders he filled twice a day.He firmly believed in C&H cane sugar, lots during summer months. He put feeders out the 10th of may and removed the middle of October. He had months of pleasure watching hummers out of his window. My dad has since passed. I miss him and his hummers out at the farm.

  6. Will says:

    When purchasing a Humming Bird feeder, you might want to choose one without plastic.
    I purchased one which had a couple plastic flowers around the bottom. The whole thing was primarily hard plastic. It didn't last a week before a squirrel learned that he could have a sweet treat and chewed the flowers off, eventually just ruining the whole thing.
    Lesson learned….


About Mick Telkamp 


A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

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