Homemade Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

Attracting Hummingbirds and other Birds

Some Favorite Hummingbird Photos

No need to buy the powdered Hummingbird Nectar mix from the store for this rewarding hobby. Instead, make your with this simple hummingbird nectar recipe. You only need water and white sugar – super simple and easy to make.

Use the following proportion:
1 part regular white sugar to 4 parts water.
Example: 1 cup sugar, 4 cups water

1. Boil the water. Debatable*
2. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
3. Let cool.
4. Refrigerate in a designated hummingbird feeder pitcher.

That’s it. Nothing more:
There is no need to add anything extra to the mixture, i.e. coloring – that means NO Red Food Coloring,  No Honey, etc. These things are NOT necessary andcould be harmful. Honey will quickly ferment becoming poisonous to the birds.

How to Make the Hummingbird Mixture:

Using a microwave works too. Put the water in a microwave safe container and heat to boiling point. Carefully remove and add sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. I fill my clean feeders and set them aside to cool and let the rest cool a bit before storing in the fridge.

Note: There is some debate on whether the water needs to be brought to a boil to make the nectar safe or not. In the past I have always heated my water to hot, but not boiling and mixed from that point. Anyway, one commenter below says it does not need to be boiled as it is the birds tongues which put bacteria into the water. However, another commenter says it does need to be boiled to get the chlorine out of the water and bacteria off the sugar.

My understanding is the water is boiled to make the sugar dissolve easier. It also slows down the fermenting process of the sugar water.. however, you should be changing your nectar solution every few days anyway so fermented nectar should not be an issue.

What I have been doing this year is using water I store in gallon jugs (I use for my plants and my fish – the water comes from the tap, but as it is sits for a couple days the chlorine is evaporated out. I use this to make my hummingbird nectar (and oriole and butterfly) without heating and definitely not to boiling. As a matter of fact, I got one of the butterfly pavilions – it says to make nectar using water and sugar… nothing about heating the water.

Wondering about the concerns of fermented nectar, check out Sheri’s post Vampire Hummingbird Expert & Myth Remix or read more information regarding the proper nectar recipe for hummingbird feeders.





Back to the Nectar Recipe and Directions:

Storing hummingbird nectar: I store all varieties of my wild bird (Orioles, Hummingbirds, Butterflies, etc) “juice” up to two weeks in the fridge, but generally need to make it more often than that.

Tip: I use a Rubbermaid container or a clean milk carton, clearly marked, to store my hummingbird juice in the refrigerator. Another idea I recently read is to freeze the extra. I may try this by putting it in a freezer bag and freezing flat. Once it is frozen, it would break up easily to place into the feeder.

August 2006 077

Discard: If the juice in the feeder(s) becomes cloudy, or mucky, empty, clean and refill.

Cleaning: Make sure bird feeders are cleaned every few days to a week to prevent any ickies. Cleaning with a solution of vinegar and hot water is good.

Location and Feeders: More than one feeder, placed strategically around the yard, will encourage more hummingbirds to visit at a time. They are territorial birds, so place feeders out of the line of sight of each other.
note: however, I have had more than one at a feeder at time with no ill-will directed towards each other. Experiment a bit.

Enjoy your visitors!

Want to attract Orioles? Here’s our Homemade Oriole Nectar Recipe – and a few other Oriole feeding ideas.




Photo Mosaic created by BigHugeLabs using photos from these flickr users: 1. Hummingbirds, 2. Ruby Throated Hummingbird, 3. Ruby Throated Hummingbird, 4. Hummingbirds

27 comments:

  1. No need to boil the water. It’s not the “bacteria” in the water that causes the solution to spoil–it’s the bacteria on the hummingbird’s tongues! Besides, even if the water is “sterilized”, the sugar is not, the feeder is not, the air is not, your hands are not, etc.
    I used to boil the water too and was SO pleased to learn (from Smithsonian and other reputable establishments) that it’s completely unnecessary. Now I am much more enthusiastic about monitoring the feeder.
    Nice blog!

  2. According to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Institute, it IS necessary to boil the hummingbird nectar in order to kill the chlorine in the water and the bacteria in the sugar.

  3. Boiling isn’t necessary, but it dissolves the sugar faster and can help slow spoilage if you use cheap store-brand sugar, which still falls within FDA guidelines but may have higher concentrations of contaminants than name-brand sugar. I microwave my solution until it’s bubbled for a couple of minutes in hopes of killing most of the stray spores that might be in the sugar. (If the solution doesn’t bubble, it may have superheated, in which case any jostling of the container could produce an extremely dangerous eruption of boiling liquid. If in doubt, leave it alone until it’s cooled.)

    Whether you boil or not, spores of yeasts and molds, the most common and troublesome feeder contaminants, will be carried in on the birds’ bills/tongues and by air currents. Your best defenses against premature spoilage are regular and thorough feeder cleaning, good-quality sugar, and clean utensils and containers.

    About chlorine: Its only proven health hazards in the low concentrations used for water treatment are for fish and people on dialysis, in which cases it enters the bloodstream directly. Besides, boiling doesn’t remove the more stable chloramines used by many water utilities, only dissolved gaseous chlorine (and even that takes a while). I’ve been told by a chemist and fellow hummingbird enthusiast that the tiny amount of chlorine in tap water reacts with the sugar and is neutralized instantly, but of course it’s still there in a different chemical form (though not necessarily an unhealthy one). If you’re really worried about chlorine, try an activated carbon filter that attaches directly to your faucet (Brita is a popular brand) and change the filters regularly.

    Two kinds of water that are definitely NOT recommended for hummingbird solution are purified water, which has been stripped of its minerals, and hot water out of the tap, which can contain unacceptable amounts of lead leached from the plumbing and/or fixtures (don’t use hot tap water for drinking or cooking, either).

    Sheri Williamsons last blog post..They don’t

  4. Try freezing your extra liquid in ice cube trays then store your frozen cubes in a zip lock freezer bag. You can put a few at a time in the microwave on defrost to melt them as you need them. Once they are almost half melted, take them out and let the remaining cubes melt on their own. The liquid temperature will be perfect to pour into your feeders.

  5. Are chloramines, that will soon be used to treat water in my area, dangerous for hummingbirds.
    I undersand that chloramines in water are dangerous for fish and dialysis patients because of the direct contact with the blood. Since the hummingbirds only drink the nectar, it appears that chroamines will not harm them???

    One site on Chloramines, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chloramine indicates:
    “Many animals are sensitive to chloramine and it must be removed from water given to many animals in zoos.”

  6. I find that boiling the water helps the nectar last longer. So if I’m not keeping close watch the nectar does not spoil as fast.

  7. I’ve heard that adding almond extract will help to keep bees away.Have you heard of this and how much extract to use if it does work?Thank you

  8. thank you for all the good info. when i was young my dad always had hummingbird feeders all over our yard and it was so neat just sitting and watching the birds, i want my daughter to enjoy them too. thanks again

  9. I’ve heard that adding Almond extract helps keep bees away.Is this true and how much to use if so?

  10. Nice easy recipe – love the easy ones. :) An interesting debate as well in regard to the chlorine – an easy test to see if you have the chloramine vs gaseous chlorine is to let the water sit in an open container over night. If it still smells like chlorine in the morning you have the harder to remove chloramine. I don’t know whether that will harm the hummingbirds or not but it isn’t good for humans so I don’t think hummingbirds would much like it either.

    1. The sugar mixture is the closest mixture you can make that there is to flower nector and the hummers love it . So to answer your question is yes they will return

  11. I recently purchased a very well known liquid nectar and was shocked to find

    they now add MID-SEASON ORANGE OIL to their product!! THE HUMMERS DO NOT LIKE IT AT ALL!! They fly away immediately after a small taste!!

    And the darn stuff is so strong that you have to use strong dishwashing soap and hot water to remove it and its smell from your feeders! I have contacted the company via email to tell them of this MISTAKE and asked them to not do it anymore!! lol Guess that will teach me to get lazy and use a store-bought liquid! Back to the old reliable 4:1 homemade mixture!

    1. Hi Brianna – I get that question a lot! I guess my instructions weren’t very clear.. so I moved it around some and highlighted that bit of information. But, in direct answer to your question – NO, don’t add anything else to it. It’s possible the red dye can be harmful to the birds and it’s absolutely *not* necessary. In fact, many people are allergic to different red dyes, so no need to add it to the birds food, if it adds nothing for them.

      If you are trying to pretty up the mixture in the feeder – maybe just invests in a pretty (or two) feeder that you enjoy looking at.. there are sooo many different feeders. No need to get the cheap-o plastic one if you don’t want to.. Check etsy.com for hummingbird feeders and I’ll bet you’ll find some really gorgeous ones… or elsewhere of course.

      The main thing is that we are feeding the birds what they need, and of course, that we enjoy watching them. So a pretty feeder where you’ll be watching may just fit the bill for the lack of colored nectar. :)

  12. I love my hummingbirds, but what can I do to keep ants and flies from getting into the feeder. I just put a feeder out yesterday and today it’s got all kinds of bugs in the water! HELP!!

    1. This won’t help with flying bugs, but to discourage ants, I put vaseline on the post that holds the feeder. I usually use a lot, putting it on about 2 inches or so of the post. This does help with ants.

      There are ways to make fly/bee catchers, or you could buy a commercial one (or maybe find a handmade one on etsy)..

      Good luck!!

  13. I would love to attract bees as they are being killed off by pesticides, etc. So no almond in my feeder syrup. I live in the desert and we’re in a 4yr drought, so red finches and sparrows are coming to my feeder as well as the hummers although I have birdbaths and water bowls. There are 2 hummingbirds that come regularly and they are very territorial. They have “aerial dogfights”. They come for top ups all day long. The nectar doesn’t last long so it doesn’t get icky and the surrounding air is too hot for mold to infect it. I have orioles coming too. I boil my nectar and keep the surplus in a thermos in the frig. I have to pour it in a jug to refill the feeder as it has a small aperture.

    1. Thanks for sharing Maria! I love the birds and had never really thought about attracting bees, but what a great idea. It’s so saddening (and scary) to see them dying off in such large amounts.

  14. Thank you, Madaise. Without bees and bats, plants and trees are not pollinated, and so less fruit and flowers. I’m allergic to them, but when my house has been re-stuccoed and the workmen are gone I am going to plant varieties that will encourage them. Butterflies too! Lots of plants that they love that are ornaments in a garden. Hummingbirds love cosmos; did you know that? I’ve seen them around nasturtiums, too.

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