Hummingbird Food

What's the Scoop on Hummingbird Food Nectar?

We will discuss here how to:

> Mix your own Hummingbird food.

> How to keep your feeder from dripping?

> The pros and cons of ready-made store bought syrup.

> Is it harmful for Hummers to drink homemade nectar instead of natural sources?

Hummingbird food is a very simple syrup solution.

You can mix your own recipe for an energy drink suitable to attract hummingbirds to your backyard for great bird watching.

There are ready to mix solutions available for purchase too, which only require the addition of water.

Some Hummer food mixtures have various additives like natural food colouring and other nutritional additions, which in some experts’ opinion are not necessary and maybe harmful.


hummingbird food

Please see my recommendations & ratings for feeders on this page here.

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe: 
A simple, easy, quick method

Use 1 part sugar to 4 parts water mixture. (example: 1cup white sugar + 4 cups water) 

  1. You may boil the water, but it is not necessary. But if you do, measure after as some of the water will be lost in boiling.
  1. Add the sugar and stir until all the granules are dissolved.
  1. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before filling clean feeders.
  1. Refrigerate any leftover solution.

You can make your syrup solution a little sweeter in the spring until your Hummers are hooked! Then you can slowly make it less sweet as the summer progresses and they won't even notice!

In the autumn as migration time approaches flowers have withered so you can make your syrup a little stronger again to provide extra energy for them to store up for the long trip.



Boiling will kill any bacteria or mold spores which may be present. It will also reduce any chlorine or fluorine that is in the water.

It isn't absolutely necessary to boil the water, especially if you change your syrup everyday or every second day.

But, mold will be re-introduced into the sugar solution from the Hummingbird's beaks, so starting out with a clean feeder is important. It is also necessary to keep up a regular regimen of cleaning and refilling often with fresh syrup.

Fact, Hummingbird food made with water & sugar very closely resembles flower nectar in its makeup.





hummingbird food in a glass feederFemale Ruby Throated Hummingbird


2 Tips To Prevent Hummingbird Food From Leaking:

1. If you boil the sugar/water mixture before filling your feeder then allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before filling the feeder. This is very important especially for a feeder with plastic threads. If you don't cool the syrup first, the heat will cause the threads of the feeder to expand. The space now created in the loose fitting threads will allow your hummingbird food to leak out.

Here is another very helpful tip to preventing leakage.

2. As you tighten the syrup holder (while it is inverted of course!) to the base of the feeder, do not over tighten. As soon as you feel it catch, stop! Our natural instinct is to “tighten-it-up” in the hope of preventing a leak. But if it is too tight then the threads become stipped and leaking occurs. 

You will be amazed at how well both these tips work to stop the most aggravating problem of the syrup mixture leaking.

All part of good Hummingbird feeder maintenance!



Are There Substitutes For Sugar In Hummingbird Food?

Is Honey a Good Substitute to Use in Hummingbird Nectar?

Honey has sometimes been recommended as a substitute for sugar in a syrup recipe. But honey is not a natural food for hummingbirds.

It spoils much faster than sugar water.

And most importantly honey contains bacteria that causes a fungal disease on the tongue of the Hummingbird and is always fatal!


What About Red Dye, Sweeteners & Other Additives?

Other things to avoid are artificial sweeteners, protein supplements and red food colouring.

There is no energy in artificial sweeteners and protein supplements are not necessary as the birds will satisfy their need for protein by eating bugs. 

Red food colouring is not a food source and can cause harm to the Hummers small bodies.


How Does Homemade Syrup Compare to Natural Sources?

Hummingbirds will not choose your Hummingbird feeder to the exclusion of natural sources even though your feeder is very convenient.



Alfred G. Martin wrote in his book

Hand-taming Wild Birds at the Feeder” :

“I have been feeding sugar to hummingbirds for fifty years and have kept them under close observation. I have never seen one leave a feeder without going directly to flowers to feed on nectar and insects. There seems to be no ill effects from sugar.”




What Strengths can Hummingbird Nectar be Mixed?

Flower nectar is a sucrose sugar much like the white sugar we purchase at the grocery store. The mixture recommended (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) closely matches the strength found in flower nectar in the mid-range of sugar strength found in flowers.

Wildflowers have a wide range of nectar sweetness strength with some up to 50:50 sugar content and others with a much weaker sugar content. The Hummers of course are getting a mix of sweetness strength as they flit from flower to flower.

Hummingbirds consume almost half their weight in sugar each day from natural and human provided sources.

These tiny birds have a very high metabolic rate. Hummingbirds are extremely active all day in their non stop quest for food so they burn energy quickly.

As a result the sugar they consume through syrup feeders will not harm them.

If you mix the Hummingbird food correctly there will be no ill effects to the little Hummers.

Mixing a stronger solution of nectar for your feeders during high energy use times will be very helpful to Hummers. At spring arrival and just before fall migration will help Hummingbirds have the energy they need.


Hope you found this information helpful.

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Be ready for the next Hummingbird season!

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There is a lot to know about Feeding Hummingbirds, find more below & in sidebar.

  • Hummingbird Plants Produce flowers which are suited for Hummingbird beaks with elongated, bell shaped flowers and if they are wild flowers and not hybrids produce lots of nectar.
  • Cleaning Hummingbird Feeders The little Hummingbird is a feisty and fussy diner! If a good maintenance regimen is followed, bird watching in your backyard will be more rewarding.


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