How To Make Hummingbird Food
Today, it’s all about how to make Hummingbird Food! In a few easy steps, you can bring those nectar-loving birds directly to your feeders. There is something so exciting to me when I see the first hummingbirds of the season start dropping by my house. I’ve had a few readers ask me if I make my own hummingbird food, so with spring coming, I thought I better update this post.
Oh, the joy they bring to my soul! They are so tiny and yet fly so fast! I strategically placed my two feeders where I can work on my computer and can look out the front window right at them.
Do you know how they swoop in and out like they are guarding their hummingbird food against other birds? In case you missed this post, What You Can Do to Attract Hummingbirds
A few years ago, my next-door neighbor mentioned she had a Hummingbird nest in a tree in her yard and wondered if I had ever seen one.
I said, “No I haven’t!” I quickly ran over there to see it. We had to really look closely because it was super tiny. If you didn’t know it was there you would never guess there was a nest in those little branches.
We didn’t touch it because we knew the mother bird may not return. It was awesome!
Two Hummingbirds Feeding
I love seeing these little birds feeding on my feeders. It brings me so much joy, I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.
How To Make Hummingbird Food
I made the hummingbird food recipe in printable form because every year I have to look it up and see the water-to-sugar ratio. Please don’t use distilled water. It’s suggested you use water right out of your tap unless you’re concerned or had your water tested to confirm a high chemical content. Usually, tap water is fine, but if you have filtered water that would provide an extra level of safety to the birds.
Tap water is okay, but I don’t trust the water system where I live. Even though Mark feels ok about it, I don’t cook or drink tap water in my home. Springwater or Reverse Osmosis water has been my choice to make the sugar water. This is typically called nectar, just giving you the heads up here.
- 1 cup granulated white cane sugar
- 4 cups water (tap water, unless it has too many chemicals)
1. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan or bowl.
2. If you want to speed up the sugar dissolving time, heat the water in the saucepan, otherwise, just stir well in the bowl.
3. Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.
4. You don't need to boil the sugar water unless you feel it has been exposed to bacteria or mold that may be present.
5. If heated, let it cool and fill your clean feeder.
6. Refrigerate any leftover sugar water.
How Often Do I Need To Change The Nectar?
This is where it gets tricky where I live. We have temperatures above 90 degrees every day during the summer months.
From what I’m reading I should change the feeders each day at that temperature. If you have cooler temps you can go 3-4 days if the temperature is in the 60s, but at least once a week. If really cool, you could possibly stretch it to two weeks.
No matter how often you change the nectar, be sure to clean out the feeder and rinse it with good clean water before filling it again. Remember, the beaks of the birds can carry microscopic germs and diseases that can infiltrate the feeder and the nectar, so if you’ve seen hummingbirds feed on yours, it just reinforces the idea to clean it often.
How Big Are Hummingbirds?
I quote Wikipedia: “Hummingbirds are birds native to the Americas and constitute the biological family Trochilidae. They are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) in length.
The smallest extant bird species is a hummingbird, the 5 cm (2.0 in) bee hummingbird weighing less than 2.0 g (0.07 oz).”
There is also a species called the giant hummingbird. Although much bigger than the bee species, it’s still very small compared to other birds you may see in your yard.
Can I Add Red Food Coloring?
This is still up for debate whether red food coloring is safe or not. I prefer not to add red food coloring to the solution. In years past some food coloring brands weren’t properly prepared to prevent contamination, so birds would often become sick. Now, the manufacturers do a better job.
Some folks think the red color is needed to attract the birds when actually the birds are attracted to the red base or parts in the feeder and don’t need red water. If concerned about attracting more birds, place the feeder near very colorful flowering plants, or plant them close to the feeder, whichever you prefer to do.
How Do I Know When Hummingbirds Will Return?
Some people aren’t aware that hummingbirds are migratory. That means they spend their winters in the tropics and summers as far north as Alaska. That means you’ll want to use your hummingbird feeder when they tend to be in your area.
Where I live, I put my feeders out about March 1st each year. I want them ready when they return. When they migrate through your area will depend on your latitude, altitude, and annual temperatures. Following are some guidelines:
- Gulf Coast and southern states = the typical migratory period are February thru November.
- Mid-latitudes / central states = the typical migratory period is April thru October.
- High-latitudes / northern states and Canada = typical migratory period is May thru September.
They are heading north after spending the winter in Central America or Mexico. Once the days get longer and warmer they will head north.
Will Hummingbirds Return To Our House?
Yes, they will, they have a fantastic memory. But, if the feeders are not out, they will leave and look for another place and may never return. They are loyal, but they can’t survive without nectar from your feeder or flowing.
Most hummingbirds will fly during the day and sleep at night. But it depends, some will fly at night.
How Do They Survive The Winter?
When the temperatures get colder, they enter the torpor stage. This helps them preserve their energy for lower temperatures and change their diet to eat more insects when nectar flowers are not available.
Some put on heavy coats, and some hibernate (torpor).
Please hang the feeders at least five feet off the ground so a cat can’t attack them. Praying mantids like to sit on plants and devour the little birds. Who would have guessed this? Not me.
Watch out for frogs, they like to eat them too. Larger birds like Blue Jays and Hawks are a threat as well.
How Long Do Hummingbirds Live?
Their lifespan is usually 3-5 years.
How Do I Clean My Feeder?
This will depend on the type of container you have. I use a very small amount of dishwashing soap and rinse with warm to hot water. I’m always afraid that really hot water will break my containers.
Some feeders can be put in the dishwasher. I would read the directions on the one you decide to buy.
How Long Can I Store The Leftover Sugar Water?
To be safe two weeks in the refrigerator is the limit. I would date the bottle you store it in so you can remember when you made it. Before using the stored nectar check the container for any discoloring which may be a sign of mold. If you have any questions about the safety and quality of the nectar, throw it out.
Why Don’t The Hummingbirds Come To My Home?
Stay clear of pesticides and insecticides, they can poison the birds. For one thing, they eliminate the insect, one of the food sources the birds need to thrive. Please make sure the sugar water is fresh. As mentioned above, be sure to have some bright-colored flowering plants nearby too. Some good plants to help attract hummingbirds are bee balm, salvias, weigelas, cardinal, trumpet, and honeysuckle.
They tend to be shy birds, so place the feeder away from areas that get a lot of foot traffic or kids playing. Also, they prefer areas that are shadier, and the shady areas will allow the nectar to last a little longer too.
I’ve found my feeders do better if there are a few trees around. The hummingbirds like to perch in the trees to rest, and it also provides a location where they can keep an eye on the feeder. We don’t think of them as predatory birds, but they are territorial birds and they will fight to protect “their” feeder.
How do I Keep Pests Away from My Feeder?
If you live in an area that is prone to have a lot of insects, here are a few ideas to help keep them from your feeder and the precious nectar inside:
- Some feeders are better at protecting the nectar, like saucer feeders that keep the nectar away from the feeder “port.”
- Don’t use a feeder that has any yellow color to it, they tend to attract bees and wasps.
- Keep feeders hung clear of tree branches and rain gutters. Consider using a fish line to hang the feeder rather than hooking the feeder directly to the pole. It’s harder for the pests to climb the line.
- Most pests like sunlight, so again, put the feeder in a shady area.
- Keep the feeder away from garbage cans and other containers that might attract insects.
- Try some insect traps like ant traps to catch the pests before they can get to the feeder.
Do They Reuse Their Nests?
No, they don’t reuse their nests. In fact, most will barely make it through a single breeding season. They may recycle the sticks and cobwebs from the original nest.
They may even steal another nest and recycle it for their own use.
The Best Hummingbird Feeder
The reason I like this one is that it’s easier to clean and fill. My neighbor has this style and when mine no longer works, I will be purchasing these. I always bring in both feeders and clean them and refill them at the same time. Hummingbird Feeder 16 ounces
How To Make Hummingbird Food
I hope you print off the Hummingbird Food Recipe to use on another day. Let me know if you have birds visiting your neighborhood. If you have hummingbirds visiting your yard it’s a good sign that it is full of beautiful flowers that help to attract them. Note that if you have large glass windows near your feeder, consider covering them with mesh a few inches from the glass to help protect the birds from flying into the glass and possibly killing them.
Thanks for being prepared for the unexpected. Keep on prepping, you’ll be glad you did. May God bless this world. Linda
28 thoughts on “How To Make Hummingbird Food”
I use the same recipe you provided except I bring it to a boil using the microwave. Four cups of sugar solution boils in about 8 minutes. Every microwave is slightly different so at first it takes a little experimentation. The bit of steam produced allows a good wipe down inside the microwave too! I microwave instead of stove top because I have a tendency to forget the pot on the stove and then I end up with candy syrup. There is so much enjoyment in watching hummingbird antics!
Hi Ellen, I forgot to write you can microwave the syrup! I better go do that. I love the trick with the steam, I love a clean microwave! I just love watching those hummingbird antics too!!! Life is so good! Linda
Good article, everyone would enjoy the antics of hummingbirds around a feeder. One of my feeders is at edge of front porch and they love buzzing my lab when he gets close. Been using a feeder for over 20 years and keep a notebook of 1st day I see one on feeder in spring and last day I see one in fall all the dates fall within 3 days of each other year after year. Also note weather and temp. Easiest bird watching ther is and to me the most fun! Lucky you I have ever been able to track down a nest. Use same recipe as yours. I do wash the feeders with a tsp of bleach in a cup of water every other washing. Use dawn in water test of time cleaning everytime before refilling. Again thanks for the article, I call your articles like this your comfort food for the soul articles
Hi John, you are so cute!!! Your comment makes my day!! I need to write down the date and weather when they come and leave. I never thought about this!! Great tip!! The nest was so tiny, John, I mean tiny!!! It was awesome to see! Thanks for the tip on the bleach! I think my mom used to do that. Happy watching, life is so good! Linda
They do reuse their nest. I have a nest that they add to each year. It is about 5 years old. One winter it partly fell off the drip system hose she made it on. She just built a new one on top of it and last week she came back for another new birth. She is right out side my patio door, under my patio over.
Hi Mamapeck, I love hearing this, thank you! How fun that the nest is reused and you can watch her rebuild it! I LOVE this! Linda
Hi Linda. The day she or one of her babies return is my “spring happy day”, the start of spring. I patiently wait to see those baby beaks poking out. There’s a little loss when they all fly off, but I know spring will come back in a year and with it, hopefully my sweet hummingbird.
Hi Mamapeck, I love hearing this! Isn’t it funny what little things bring us so much joy! Those hummingbirds have no idea how much love they spread throughout the world!! Linda
Great tips and recipe. Thank you.
Hi Tiffany, I love watching Hummingbirds!! Linda
This recipe works great! I love seeing the hummingbirds in my feeder. Thanks for the recipe.
Hi Alli, I love Hummingbirds! They are so fun to watch! Linda
I love this recipe! It is sooo fun to watch the hummingbirds come and drink. They love it!❤️ I have tried many recipes. This is my go to! The hummingbirds love it!❤️ Thank you sooo much for sharing!
Hi Camille, oh thank you so much! It’s so fun to watch the hummingbirds!!! Linda
Things continue to decline that title might take on a new meaning as the menu changes
Hi Matt, now I have the giggles! You are so right! I love love love Hummingbirds! Linda
I use this recipe and have used it for years. I do boil mine. I don’t use food coloring. I read it wasn’t good for the birds. We also have some flowers that the hummers love. I bought a beaded humming bird for my dear MIL while on a cruise the month she died. She did get to see it, but not for too long. We both love hummers.
Hi Deborah, thank you for the stars, my sweet friend! Oh, I bet it’s beautiful!! The Hummingbirds haven’t started coming here yet, I can’t wait to see them! These little birds bring me so much joy. It’s fun to watch them “guarding” their feeder! Linda
I sent you pictures.
Hi Deborah, that’s beautiful!!!!! Linda
I have 2 feeders and I love watching them fight over their territory. I have one female that will sit on the top of one of my veggie planters on my deck and watch me work out there . If I don’t get their food out there early enough in the morning. I have a male that will buzz me until I get it done. They really watch you and it is so fun! Be sure to keep the feeders full in the Spring because the females will need it for themselves and the babies. I have a red male and a green one with their mates that always are here during the warm weather . The do like the tiny bugs, too. Good protein for them.
Hi Cheryl, it really is fun to watch them!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE your comment! Hummingbirds are so fun to watch!! Linda
We’ve been using this recipe for decades. We almost always have a hummingbird nest in one of our fruit trees. Year before last it was in the nectarine. Last year in the plum. If you’d like I can email you a photo.
When we lived in the mountains of Colorado we’d put out feeders and watch the resulting hummer wars, as the males always tried to drive any other male (and most females) away. Jane soon learned not to wear red.
Hi Ray, oh I would love a picture!!! Jane and wearing red, oh my gosh!!! Now I have the giggles!! Linda
I love your recipe but in the 22 years living where we live I have never seen a hummingbird. I will keep the recipe for the food in case I see a hummingbird and hopefully get more around the place.
Hi Jackie, thank you for the 5 stars, my sweet friend. I know they won’t come if they can’t find food. I have to put the food out before they come and they look in the same place year after year. Now, I wonder if it’s too hot where you live, we did see some in the desert where I lived. I’m not sure. Linda
A lot of my hummers never left. I have the same ones, Mr. Pickles, Miss Red Head, Big Bully, Small Guy, Fins, and the list goes on, lol…
The year before I had over 30 flying out of my kitchen window and waiting in line for the feeders. There would be 8 eating and another 16 waiting for them to finish and leave the restaurant. I have some very funny videos. It was so hot that summer for a couple days I had to set up a mister by the feeders so they could cool off and eat at the same time as they were actually panting they were so hot. I love these little birds!
Hi Shannon, oh my gosh, this is the best news I have ever heard about Hummingbirds! You are so lucky and so are the birds!! And you named them, I LOVE LOVE LOVE that!! Oh, I would never get any work done if I had that many Hummingbirds to watch!! LOL! They bring me so much joy! Great comment! Linda