Commercial Hummingbird Nectar: Is store bought hummingbird nectar safe?

is store bought hummingbird nectar safe
Most store-bought nectar isn't safe for hummingbirds. They contain many artificial additives, dyes, and preservatives which can harm the birds' health. Making your own nectar at home, by adding sugar to boiling water, is the best option. After it cools, pour it into a well cleaned feeder.

Wondering “is store-bought hummingbird nectar safe?” is the first step to keeping the hummingbirds in your garden safe and happy. Luckily, making your own nectar is easy.

DIY nectar is one of the best things to do if you want to attract more hummingbirds to your garden. Here’s what you need to know.

Is Store Bought Hummingbird Food Bad for Hummingbirds?

If you’re looking to feed hummingbirds with an additional nectar source, you can either purchase one or make your own. However, know that some birders stay away from the store-bought red hummingbird nectar.

They’re most worried about additives. Note, hummingbird feeders usually come with red color on flower ports, basin lids, and perches.

Regardless, some companies decided to include artificial dyes in their packages or sell pre-made red nectar. Unfortunately, many new birders have grown accustomed to the idea of feeding hummingbirds with red-colored nectar.

Are there preservatives in store bought nectar?

Unfortunately, many artificial nectars are controversial. They’re packed with preservatives, additives, and artificial sweeteners that could be harmful to hummingbirds.

For example, Red Dye No. 40 has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US but banned in some European countries due to various concerns. There are clear, dye-free nectors available, like that claim to have no harmful chemical additives. It is wise to d a little product research before you purchase, especially if you’re not familiar with the brand or its origin. A good example of these store bought dye-free nectors is the ready pour bags from Sweet-Nectar.

Plus, preservatives aren’t the only issue regarding red food coloring. If store-bought nectar contains large amounts of red color, the hummingbird can ingest too much of it and become ill.

This is why many experienced birdwatchers avoid store-bought nectars. Still, store-bought solutions are sometimes more convenient. Luckily, some hummingbird foods have added vitamins that help the birds produce harder egg shells.

Unfortunately, you can’t add these vitamins to your home mixture, so store-bought might sometimes be a better solution. Just ensure that all ingredients are safe for hummingbirds.

Two hummingbirds perched at feeder

Do Hummingbirds Prefer Homemade Nectar or Store Bought?

Remember, hummingbirds are wild birds; if they could choose, they’d go with natural nectar. Flower nectar is present wherever they are.

They can eat it even if a garden is not equipped with an artificial nectar mix. Some of their favorite flowers include:

  • Bee balms
  • Columbines
  • Daylilies
  • Lupines
  • Foxgloves
  • Impatiens
  • Petunias

Hummingbirds need to eat every 15 to 20 minutes, so every kind of food source is valuable to them. Still, if they had to choose between store-bought and homemade, they’d rather drink the homemade variety.

What Is the Safest Hummingbird Nectar?

Some hummingbird nectars in the market are somewhat safe for these birds. Still, if you want to be 100% on the safe side, you should make your own clear nectar for hummingbirds. You should avoid red dye.

What’s more, making your own hummingbird food will save you money. You can create as much as you like and store the rest in the fridge until you spend it. Making hummingbird nectar is easy, and you only need two ingredients—sugar and water.

Hummingbird flying near three feeders

How Can I Make My Own Hummingbird Nectar?

Most DIY hummingbird nectar recipes are super easy to make. All you need is table sugar—also called sucrose, cane sugar, or white sugar—and water.

  1. Mix a 1 sugar to 4 parts water ratio
    • (For example, 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups water)
  2. Boil water
  3. Mix the sugar with hot water
  4. Stir until it dissolves

Remember that tap water often contains undesirable components, so you’ll want to filter those. Also, types of sugar to avoid:

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Raw, unprocessed sugars
  • Honey,
  • Any other artificial sweeteners

Is Homemade Hummingbird Nectar Safe for Hummingbirds?

When made correctly, homemade hummingbird nectar is entirely safe for the birds. Still, there needs to be more studies related to how homemade nectar affects hummingbird nutrition. 

For now, it’s known that homemade solution doesn’t introduce any potentially harmful substances into hummingbirds’ diets. However, there are some things to pay attention to.

Since nectar contains sugar, it can easily ferment and cause harm to hummingbirds. You’ll want to avoid fermentation by regularly washing the feeders and replacing the nectar. Once every two days should be enough.

Additionally, water in feeders can get stale, just like in bird baths. The sugar solution can also develop mold. Both of these situations are harmful to the birds.

Keep an eye on your feeders and provide a healthy food source for hummingbirds. Check for feeders with wider mouths or saucer-shaped feeders, which are easier to clean.

Hummingbird perched at feeder

Store Bought Hummingbird Nectar Safety Overview

Bird feeding can be an exciting hobby. However, you must absolutely pay close attention to what you give hummingbirds. Any type of artificial coloring and sweeteners can negatively affect the hummingbird diet and cause health issues.

This is one of the main reasons birdwatchers advocated against store-bought hummingbird nectar. However, you can easily make one at home.

Use the sugar water recipe, avoid adding food colors and honey, and you’ll get a healthy snack for your hummingbirds. Remember to maintain the feeders, and the birds that visit you will stay healthy for a long time.


Mileva has a passion for writing and she loves to share her thoughts in all forms. Observing wildlife — birds and other untamed animals soothes her soul. This is why you’ll often find her staring at the closest forest, looking for inspiration for her next article.

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