Last Updated on October 9, 2020 by Nancie
Hummingbird nectar is incredibly easy to make. If you can stir sugar and water together, you can make your own sugar water nectar to keep your hummers happy.
One of the great things about spring here on the east coast is the return of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds. They are on their way (or may even be here, depending on where you live!) So now is a good time to clean your feeder (or get one if you don’t have one.) Then whip up a batch of sugar water nectar. Put up your feeder and watch for these beautiful little birds. They’ll be hungry after their long trip so make them welcome!
Buy or Make Hummingbird Nectar?
You can purchase “hummingbird nectar” in stores that sell bird supplies, but it really isn’t necessary. It is just sugar and water. It is so incredibly easy to make that I can’t really see the point of buying it.
If you do purchase it, don’t buy the kind with red dye mixed in. The dye is thought to be harmful to hummingbirds. While this has apparently not been clearly proven, the dye is completely unnecessary, so why take a chance on their health? All they need is the sugar solution without any other additives.
Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
What Kind of Sugar?
The recipe is simple and all you need is sugar and water. When choosing sugar, go for cane sugar and not other types you might have, like brown sugar or powdered sugar, etc. Also never use honey (which goes bad really fast) or artificial sweeteners (which won’t work for the birds.)
Some sources say hummingbirds prefer cane sugar over beet sugar, although beet sugar can be used. I’ve only ever used the cane sugar so I can’t personally comment on beet sugar.
Why Boiling Water?
Simply mix one part cane sugar to four parts boiling water. Let it cool before filling the feeder. Store any extra in the refrigerator for up to two weeks if you want to do a larger batch at a time. The boiling is meant to keep the mixture from going bad as quickly.
Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology All About Birds site says that if you mix it up every day or two, then you don’t have to boil it. If you mix up a big batch and refrigerate it, they say you should boil it.
How I Make Hummingbird Nectar
I zap two cups of water in a glass two-cup measure in my microwave on high for four minutes to get the water bubbling. Then I take it out and immediately add a quarter cup of sugar. (It can bubble up a bit when you add the sugar, so I try not to fill the measuring cup up to the brim.)
I stir it with a fork while it is still hot until the sugar dissolves. Then I let it sit on the counter until it cools. (You could of course alternatively boil water on the stove and stir in the sugar.)
How Much Nectar to Make?
How much you need depends on how many hummers visit you and your feeder’s capacity. Keep in mind that, depending on the style of the feeder and how quickly the birds drink it, you may not need to fill the feeder completely full each time. I only fill my feeders partway to avoid waste. (Keep in mind that hummingbirds have long tongues.)
Two cups is plenty for partially filling the three feeders I use. Some people make a bigger batch and then keep it in the fridge for two weeks. But I don’t go through that much of it. I would rather just make a batch at a time and not have it take up space in the fridge.
How Often to Replace the Nectar?
It’s important not to let the sugar-water nectar ferment and go bad, as it can when it gets hot. In the spring, when temperatures are typically cooler (say in the 70s), you may only need to dump it, quickly clean the feeder and re-fill it once every four days or so.
As temperatures rise as you move into summer, you’ll need to do this every couple days (80s) or even daily if it is really hot (mid-90s and above.) If the liquid looks cloudy, regardless of how long it’s been up, change it.
Getting a Hummingbird Feeder
I have two different kinds of hummingbird feeders in my yard. Hummingbirds seem to enjoy both. Check out my Hummingbird Feeder Reviews and Care for an in-depth look at these feeders. (The links below go to Amazon if you are interested in getting them there.)
Also, last year when I talked about hummingbird feeders, a blog reader recommended the First Nature Hummingbird Feeders that she uses as being easy to clean and use.
Have you seen hummingbirds yet in your yard?
Also see my Hummingbird Feeder Tips post.
Learn More About Hummingbirds
Check out All About Birds’ page on Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. (They’ve got info on other hummers too.) And All About Bird’s blog article on feeding hummingbirds.
Also see Audubon’s Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds page.
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