Our hummingbird nectar recipe—which helps to replenish these creatures as they quickly beat their wings—calls for two simple ingredients.
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Hummingbirds are spectacular to watch—especially if you know that they can hover like a helicopter, are the only birds that can fly backward, and are aptly named because of the sound created by their insanely fast-beating wings. In fact, some species' wings can flap roughly 50 times a second and as high as 200 times a second. The beautiful birds require special food to keep them in tip-top shape, which is where you come in. Due to their extremely high metabolism, they have to visit hundreds of flowers a day, but by making a hummingbird nectar recipe at home, you can help give these winged beauties the glucose energy they need to keep on humming.

hummingbird at feeder
Credit: Jeff R Clow / Getty Images

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

If you've been wondering how to make hummingbird nectar from home, you may be surprised to know that it's actually very easy—and only requires two ingredients. Once you've made the hummingbird food, Tod Winston, associate director of content, birding guide, and research associate at New York City Audubon, says to let it cool completely before putting it in your bird feeder; be sure to refrigerate any unused nectar.

Ingredients

  • Refined white sugar
  • Water

Steps

  1. Combine one part refined white sugar with four parts warm tap water in a pot.
  2. Bring the mixture to a full boil (which Winston says rids it of any potential microorganisms and reduces chlorine levels).
  3. Stir the ingredients until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Once the sugar dissolves, remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool completely.
  5. Once cooled, place the hummingbird nectar in your bird feeder.

Does the type of sugar matter?

The only sugar you should dissolve in water to make hummingbird nectar is refined white sugar. "The additional ingredients in unrefined sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar or confectioner's sugar, molasses, and other sweeteners may be harmful to hummingbirds or cause the nectar to spoil more quickly," Winston says. He also notes that you should never use honey, as it can promote dangerous fungal growth.

Should you add red dye to hummingbird nectar?

Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red because it reminds them of nectar rich flowers, but red food coloring isn't needed to attract hummingbirds. "It is unnecessary and could cause health problems for hummingbirds when consumed in large amounts," Winston says. Instead of red dye, Winston says to choose a feeder with a bright red color to attract hummingbirds.

Where should you hang your bird feeder?

When choosing a place to hang your bird feeder, consider the types of plants that hummingbirds are naturally attracted to—narrow and tubular varieties, like honeysuckle and daylily—which can accommodate their long bills. Winston says that they're also attracted to red and orange blooms. "Hanging your feeder above a bed of native, hummingbird-attracting plants is the best way to get hummingbirds' attention, and offer them a variety of feeding options," Winston says.

When should you hang your bird feeder?

When you put up your bird feeder for hummingbirds depends on where you live. "If you're lucky enough to live in warmer parts of the west coast, the southern United States, or Central and South America, you may have hummingbirds in your yard year-round," Winston says. "But in most of North America, hummingbirds migrate south for the winter." He says to hang your feeder about a week before hummingbirds arrive in your area, which in many areas is during spring in late April or early May. "You can keep your feeders up as long as the hummingbirds keep coming; feeders will not prevent the birds from migrating south," Winston says.

How often should you change hummingbird nectar?

Hummingbird nectar does go bad, eventually. "Mold and fungus will grow in the nectar in your feeder, and the nectar will spoil more quickly when exposed to sun and heat," Winston says. The food should be changed at least twice a week, but Winston says to keep an eye on it during that period as the nectar may spoil during warmer weather and in sunny locations. You should also clean the feeder out when you change the nectar. "Use a weak vinegar solution and hot water to clean your feeder," Winston says. "Detergents may leave harmful residues." Unused nectar can be kept in the refrigerator where it will keep for one to two weeks, but Winston says it should be thrown away if you notice any cloudiness or mold growth.

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