Homemade Hummingbird Food: Step By Step Home Nectar Recipe Guide

hummingbird on a perch of a colorful hummingbird feeder
You can make hummingbird food at home by mixing 1 part white sugar with 4 parts boiling water. Sugar water is essential for hummingbirds because it is nutritious and is an easily digestible source of calories and energy for birds. It is also a good coolant in hot weather.

Hummingbirds are often attracted to the backyard feeders that birders put out with ‘just the right’ nectar recipe. It is usually made to replicate the taste of the nectar using natural sucrose content found in other nectar-producing flowers.

Too much sugar does not necessarily mean that birds will love the nectar more. Instead, the sugar will ferment more quickly during winter and on cold nights and clog the feeding ports as the sugar crystallizes.

Classic Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

In simple terms, hummingbird nectar is a part sugar and water solution made with the right proportions to attract hummingbirds and give the hummers an easily digestible food source. These step-by-step guides will help you to easily create a healthy and safe nectar supply for hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Food Recipe

The two main ingredients this hummingbird recipe are granulated white sugar and water. Here is a simple homemade hummingbird nectar recipe. Just follow this step by step DIY guide to making your own at home:

  1. In this DIY method, you must first measure and combine the sugar and water.
  2. The right proportion for hummingbird nectar is 1:4.
    • Measure one part of regular granulated table sugar and four cups of water. 
  3. Combine and mix the two ingredients into a saucepan.
  4. Heat the sugar and water mixture.
  5. Allow to cool.

Slowly heat the solution for at least one minute or two. Doing so will allow fermentation and help all the sugar dissolve. You should then boil the water before adding the sugar to help purify it.

You should also ensure to double-check the liquid amount after extensive boiling so that the volume of the water in the mixture is not reduced. Less water will increase the sugar concentration. This will make the nectar crystallize more when the temperature is cold outside.

Let the mixture cool

Allow the nectar solution to cool to room temperature before filling feeders. Once this is done, fill them up and place them outside for the birds to enjoy.

Hot nectar can crack or warp the glass or plastic found in most hummingbird feeders, causing it to leak. Warm nectar also has a higher chance of fermentation and contamination.

hummingbird feeder with several hummingbirds perched on it

Important Points to Consider While Making Hummingbird food

Consider the Water Source

Do not use direct tap water heavy in chemicals, odors, or strong tastes. For pure nectar, consider using purified or bottled or even distilled water.     

Only Use Plain White Granulated Sugar

Do not use honey, cane sugar, artificial sugar, brown sugar, or molasses as sugar substitutes in the hummingbird nectar recipe. Honey and brown sugar contains molasses, a substance too heavy for hummingbirds to digest.

Feeding hummingbirds with such products can quickly ferment, and molasses often create fatal molds. Also, sugar substitutes do not have the appropriate measures of calories that hummingbirds need to get energy, and they offer no nutritional value for the birds.


Boiling will help to slow the fermentation of the nectar in hummingbird feeders. It prevents contamination of the solution once the birds plunge their beaks to sip the nectar. 

Get the Sweet Spot Right

Nectar water that is too sugary will be difficult for the birds to digest. A 4:1 ratio equals the correct sugar levels in the natural nectar of hummingbirds’ favorite flowers.

Commercial Products Aren’t a Necessity

Commercial hummingbird nectar products like additional flavors, vitamins, and other additives are only a sales gimmick, not for the benefit of attracting hummingbirds.

Also, hummingbirds only need sugar and water solutions. This is why you do not need additional food coloring or commercial artificial sweeteners when using the homemade hummingbird nectar recipe.

Hummingbird Nectar Storage

Any unused hummingbird nectar can safely be stored in the refrigerator for a week before it begins to spoil. When making your own, only stir a batch that is enough quantity to avoid waste. This will help you save some money and ensure that the birds only get the freshest nectar they can enjoy.

Fresh Nectar Should Be Poured at Least Weekly

Clean hummingbird feeders at least weekly before refilling them with fresh nectar. You should also empty feeders that are used by the birds more frequently.

When to Buy Commercial Hummingbird Nectar

Homemade nectar is often simple and easy to make. However, if one does not have enough time to make it, they can purchase the powdered or liquid nectar concentrates already pre-measured to make nectar.

hummingbird food

To Dye or Not to Dye

Although using red food coloring has been controversial, safe food colorings for hummingbirds are now available. Nonetheless, if you want to use this option, the red food color will attract the hummers birds more. However, choosing a hummingbird feeder with a red base, feeding ports, or decorative accents will attract hummingbird birds even without the unessential dyes.

Another alternative is to plant red flowers near the feeders, hang red ribbons, or add a red object near the feeder to help draw in the birds. This is instead of risking and exposing them to unnecessary chemicals. The classic hummingbird nectar recipe is a less expensive alternative than using pre-made commercial powdered or liquid nectar mixes.

You should also ensure the feeder is clean by rinsing the bird feeder with very hot water and a bottle brush. Avoiding using soap since it can change the flavor of the nectar. For a deeper cleaning of your hummingbird feeder, soak it in vinegar, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide to disinfect it. Combine just 1 part vinegar and two parts water and let the feeder soak in the solution for 1-2 hours.

How to Fill Your Hummingbird Feeders

Some of the best hummingbird feeders online include tray feeders, decorative feeders, window feeders, and other unique feeders. A larger feeder does not necessarily bring a lot of birds, but it can hold more nectar. Using several smaller feeders can be a better option as the nectar can be finished faster and will allow frequent nectar changes. 

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer that loves her backyard birdfeeders. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee, watching cardinals, blue jays, finches, and chickadees munch away at her backyard offerings. Her fascination with birds began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma's house watching and identifying birds. She has since carried her love of songbirds into adulthood and ensures no bird in her yard goes hungry!

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