You can attract beautiful hummingbirds to your garden every year with this hummingbird food recipe and some glass feeders.
One of the simplest ways to get in touch with nature is to attract hummingbirds to your garden by providing them with nectar, an abundance of red flowers, and suitable habitat. Not only do kids love them, but I’m sure you’ve heard adults squeal with joy too when they’re around!
You’ll have hummingbirds returning to your garden each spring if you provide them with nectar and flowers that suit their habitat requirements.
In the past, people used to simply boil water, add white sugar and red food coloring, and then pour the syrup into a plastic hummingbird feeder.
However, things are different now. Today’s sugar is tainted with pesticides and herbicides and is also genetically modified.
Plus, in the presence of sunlight, the plastic feeders release BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical. While red food dye can cause cancer.
When we put out our hummingbird feeders, no one intends for the birds to be harmed in any way. Then what exactly are we supposed to feed them? This article shares the perfect hummingbird food recipe along with tips to help you feed these little birds effortlessly.
Tips for Making Hummingbird Food at Home
The hummers will prefer homemade nectar to store-bought any day.
Additives like flavorings, vitamins, and other supplements touted by commercial products aren’t necessary for hummingbirds’ health, but they are touted as a means of attracting more birds.
If you want to attract hummingbirds, all you need is a sugar solution instead of expensive commercial products. But what’s important is to understand the ratio of sugar to water, as well as other useful tips to make sure the hummingbird food is healthy for those little birds.
Here are some tips to get started:
- According to National Audubon Society and Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center it is best to use regular refined white cane sugar.
- Filtered water should be used instead of chlorinated or fluoridated tap water.
- No need to boil the water beforehand, as hummingbirds’ bills already introduce bacteria.
- Replace plastic feeders with glass ones.
- Use a red bottle or red feeder instead of the red food coloring.
- When the weather is hot, change the water every two or three days to stop mold and fermentation.
How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden
Here are a few tips to help you attract more hummingbirds to your garden:
- Grow red flowers such as bee balm, hollyhock, columbine, and fuchsia.
- Plant tubular flowers such as lupine, petunia, and salvia.
- Provide nesting sites by planting conifers in close proximity to the feeders.
- Provide nectar in a number of feeders located throughout the garden.
The Easiest Hummingbird Food Recipe
There are only two ingredients in this simple homemade hummingbird nectar recipe. It’s easy to make as needed and doesn’t need any special tools.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 4 cups of filtered water
Step 1: Rinse Hummingbird Feeder
It is not necessary to boil or sterilize the water or hummingbird feeders. Before filling the hummingbird feeder, wash it to reduce bacterial contamination. Rinse thoroughly to get rid of all soap traces.
You don’t have to rinse with bleach water. Bleach on the inside of a hummingbird feeder is hard to get off and can hurt the birds.
Step 2: Combine Sugar and Water
Stir the sugar and water in a glass bowl or mason jar until the sugar crystals have dissolved.
Step 3: Heat the Mixture (Optional)
Heat the mixture slowly for one to two minutes to help the sugar dissolve and slow fermentation. This is optional as you don’t need to boil the water and this step is only if the sugar granules don’t dissolve fully in the water while mixing it.
Alternatively, you can use hot water in step 2 to help dissolve the sugar easily.
Step 4: Pour into Hummingbird Feeders
Allow the mixture to come to room temperature and then fill clean hummingbird feeders with the mixture. Store any leftovers for up to one week in the refrigerator.
In terms of sucrose content, this blend is similar to natural nectar, but it will spoil in about a week. Feeders need to be cleaned and refilled every week, especially in the summer.
As the hummingbird feeders become empty, refill them. Install at least two hummingbird feeders to provide a feeding area for all hummingbirds. If you need to make hummingbird food in bulk, then it’s important to note that this recipe calls for 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.
Due to their territorial nature, one hummingbird may dominate a feeder, preventing other hummingbirds from feeding. Since one bird can’t guard two feeders, other birds can also drink.
What to Avoid When Making Hummingbird Food
For any hummingbird nectar recipe, do not use honey, brown sugar, molasses, or artificial sugar substitutes.
Hummingbirds have trouble digesting honey and molasses, which can lead to harmful mold growth as it ferments more quickly. Similarly, non-organic sugar should also not be used since it includes glyphosate, herbicides, and pesticides
Sugar substitutes do not provide any nutritional benefit to hummingbirds and do not contain the calories that hummingbirds require for energy.
- In short, avoid the following;
- Raw honey
- Brown sugar
- Genetically modified sugar
- Non-organic sugar
- Artificial sweeteners
- Food coloring and dyes
- Commercial hummingbird nectar powders
Can I Use Red Dye in My Homemade Hummingbird Food Recipe?
If you use red-colored feeders, you won’t have to worry about the dangers of the red dye that’s found in commercial hummingbird nectar.
There is some debate over whether or not to use red food coloring in hummingbird nectar recipes.
Hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors, particularly red, but in the 1970s, some red dyes were found to be toxic and were consequently banned from use in food products. Despite this, red is still a popular color.
The red dyes that are used in food coloring and commercial hummingbird nectar are considered to be safe for consumption by both humans and animals; however, the color itself is not required to attract hummingbirds.
It is possible to attract birds to your hummingbird feeder without resorting to the use of unnecessary dyes by selecting a feeder with a red base, feeding port, or decorative accent.
Planting red flowers, hanging red ribbons, or placing a red gazing ball near a feeder are all better options than subjecting the tiny birds to harmful chemicals if you want to attract more hummingbirds to your feeders.
If you want to feed hummingbirds on a budget, making your own nectar using the easy recipe mentioned in this article is a great option.
How Long Can I Store Hummingbird Food in the Fridge?
You can keep unused hummingbird nectar in the fridge for up to a week before it starts to go bad. Make only what you can use within a week to avoid wasting food, and give the birds the most nutritious nectar possible.
How Often Do I Add Fresh Hummingbird Nectar to the Feeder?
Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned and refilled with fresh nectar at least once a week. Cleaning feeders more frequently, ideally every time they are refilled, is necessary in warm weather and when multiple birds are using the feeders.
Other Articles from Planet Natural:
Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa's work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.