Hummingbird Nectar: How to Make Hummingbird Food | Feeding & Care Guide

We all know hummingbirds as small birds that can fly backward, forward, and even upside down. They can also hover at the same place for a long time. 

But do you know that these birds literally thrive on sugar, whose main natural source is the nectar from flowers? But you also feed the hummingbirds in your backyard with your homemade sugar solution- the hummingbird nectar. 

Here, we let you know everything about it for the well-being of your backyard and, of course, the hummingbirds! Read on! 

What Is The Recipe For Hummingbird Food ? ( Hummingbird Diet ):

Foremost let us get an insight into the hummingbird diet. Despite being small in size and weighing anything between 0.1 and 0.3 ounces, a hummingbird consumes about half of its body weight of food daily. 

Being highly energetic, they constantly need fuel. Given that, you find them feeding almost throughout the day.  

Hummingbirds feed on small insects, fruit flies, small bugs, etc., for their protein and minerals requirements. 

Furthermore, they feed on the nectar of flowers, honey, ripened fruit juices, tree sap, etc., to meet their sugar requirements since they primarily lead a sugar-centric life. 

All these have healthy, nutritious, and easily digestible natural sucrose that supplies the bird its energy and water to sustain their energetic life, high metabolism, and swift flights.  

Previously, it was believed that hummingbirds have tube-like channels in their tongue, and the nectar fluid is sucked by them via capillary action. 

However, new research suggests that hummingbirds’ tongues trap nectar by curling around it.   

What is a Hummingbird Nectar? 

We all know now that hummingbirds are perpetual eaters. They eat food from various sources. 

While eating from natural sources, hummingbirds have also started relying on humans, especially hummingbird enthusiasts, to supply them with the food source, i.e., the hummingbird nectar. 

It is nothing but a sugar solution that is placed in the hummingbird feeders in their backyards. 

How to Make Hummingbird Food – ( Hummingbird Nectar Food Recipe )  

Preparing hummingbird nectar is surprisingly easy. All you need to do is mix one part of sugar into four parts water and stir till the sugar dissolves completely. 

You can even warm it a little for easy dissolving but do not boil the water (boiling would lead to crystal formation that is harmful to the tiny birds). Cool it well before pouring it inside the hummingbird feeder. 

Always follow this precise measurement and recipe and do not add any additives or dye colors even though hummingbirds get attracted to red color

The given recipe is touted as the best hummingbird food recipe as it is perfect to meet the tiny flier’s requirement and is the closest resemblance to the natural nectar. 

The sugar that you take is plain everyday sugar with molasses removed. The water should ideally be spring water or filtered water though you can take tap water also. 

Related Read: Do Hummingbirds Get Diabetes From Too Much Sugar Water?

Commercial Hummingbird Nectar:

Sometimes due to time constraints or other challenges, it’s not possible to prepare hummingbird nectar at home. In that scenario, you can choose to buy commercial nectar. It primarily comes in two forms- liquid and powder.  

Generally, the liquid variety is ready-to-use, while you need to mix the powder and hummingbird nectar concentrated in water according to the proportion stated in its label. 

Its strongly recommended to always stick to the proportion mentioned to create nectar that is closest to the natural one. It would also remain beneficial for the little bird. 

While purchasing commercial nectar, you need to be cautious. Not all commercially available hummingbird nectar is safe. 

You need to steer clear of those that have flavorings, additives, or dyes mixed with them. They prove harmful to the hummingbird’s health. 

Related Read: Why Does My Hummingbird Water Get Cloudy?

Few Facts to Know About Hummingbird Nectar:  

Now that we know how to prepare hummingbird nectar let’s throw light on some expert nectar tips that would help you increase the hummingbird traffic in your backyard and also keep them happy and healthy.  

Boiling water to prepare the recipe  

Many get confused about boiling water while preparing the nectar. Generally, you need not boil the water. 

A few warm it to help dissolve the sugar faster and more efficiently. But you would need to boil water if you are preparing excess nectar and storing it for future use, or the water in your area has far more contamination than the accepted standard.  

Honey 

Many think it’s ok to use honey to prepare sweet nectar. However, honey causes fermentation and attracts infestation from bees, honey bees, wasps, etc. 

Moreover, they are likely to adversely impact the health of tiny birds. As far as possible, it is best to stick to regular granulated sugar to make the solution and say no to honey. 

Sugar substitutes   

Another point of confusion is the use of sugar substitutes. Unlike us, hummingbirds require high sugar content to meet their excess energy needs. Moreover, they are not prone to diseases like diabetes. 

Using sugar substitutes in the nectar will make it useless for these energetic birds. They might also show an adverse effect on the bird’s health. Hence, it’s best to avoid them.  

Use of red dye  

It’s a known fact that hummingbirds are attracted to red color. Given that many add red color to the prepared nectar. You also find the red dye mixed in many commercially prepared nectars. 

While there are no tests and research conducted that prove that red dye is harmful to the hummingbirds, there is no proof either about red dyes not being harmful to hummingbirds. 

Hence, it’s safer to steer clear of them and offer nectar consisting of plain water and sugar granules only. 

Chili oil or powder 

It is an ingredient that is often mixed by both commercial and DIY makers. 

You must also try to avoid it as it is not a part of their regular diet. In fact, its use might steer the hummingbirds away from your feeder. 

However, to date, no study has shown it to be harmful or useful to them. Nevertheless, it is best to avoid them.  

Cleanliness 

Regardless of the length of your precautions, the sugar solution is bound to go bad eventually. 

Hence, it’s best to clean the feeder completely and change the sugar solution periodically. This will keep unwanted visitors away and keep the health of the hummingbirds good as well. 

During the season, it’s best to keep an extra feeder as well. It keeps the feisty males less aggressive and not fighting for space. The surroundings remain clean as well.  

How to Use Hummingbird Nectar  

You must always put the hummingbird nectar in a feeder created especially for the hummingbirds. 

The feeder should ideally be of bright colors and amidst a bright flower bed. It would increase your chances of attracting the hummingbird.  

You also need to change the sugar water periodically, even if it is untouched, as it eventually goes bad. If the weather is very hot to reasonably hot, changing it every second or third day would suffice. 

However, in winter, you can keep the nectar in the feeder for a week before changing it. 

Additionally, if you are preparing large volumes of nectar at one go, you can store the excess in the freezer and use it when required.  

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe for Winter  

During winter, hummingbirds get into a state of ‘torpor’ to conserve energy. It is interesting to note that these birds can easily withstand the coldest of temperatures, but they primarily migrate to other places in search of food. 

However, your prepared nectar can prove to be their life savior and help them survive the tough weather conditions and even forgo migration.  

You might be tempted to increase the sugar content in the nectar to help meet the bird’s excessive energy demands. 

However, experts advise against changing the ratio of one part sugar and four parts water. The recipe of the nectar should not change, no matter how cold or hot the weather is.  

Tips For Feeding Hummingbird Nectar During Winters  

Hummingbird nectar tends to freeze during winters. Many increase their sugar content to minimize freezing, but it is detrimental to hummingbirds. 

Moreover, these birds can drink excessively cold and even freezing nectar effortlessly. But such a move can trigger serious health issues like hypothermia. It can even lead to the death of these energetic birds.  

Given that, it is imperative that we do not serve excessive cold nectar to these birds. 

Hence, we need to take some steps to ensure that the nectar remains warm and appropriate for the hummingbirds to feed upon.  

A few steps that you can take in this regard are: 

  • You can heat the feeder using a 125-watt infra-red light bulb. The bulb used should not be red but the white ones that should be placed a foot or two away from the feeder. You can attach a timer and adjust the light distance such that the temperature of the nectar remains ideal. The setup should be done properly and carefully to protect them from both moisture and short-circuit threats. 
  • Another way of heating the nectar is to wrap Christmas lights around the nectar holder of the feeder. Using red, yellow, and pink lights is ideal. However, you must ensure that the lights and cords are all in a safe condition and they are not excessive to overheat the nectar.  
  • Insulating the feeders with bubble wrap or covering them with a dark-colored baffle can also serve the purpose.  

Regardless of the method you adopt, all precautions should be taken to make them safe for the birds and avoid any unpleasant accidents. The rest of the care, like cleanliness, change of nectar, etc., remains the same.  

Related Read: Can Birds Drink Milk | What Happens If A Bird Drinks Milk?

Frequently Asked Questions:

We hope that you enjoyed knowing the basics of preparing and feeding hummingbird nectar. 

Nevertheless, there are plenty of queries and myths surrounding hummingbird nectar. We finish this writeup by taking up a few of these queries to give you better clarity.  

Can hummingbird nectar be too sweet? Do hummingbirds like sugar water? 

Unlike other birds, the hummingbird has a taste receptor. However, it does not function the way ours does. 

It has a savory taste bud that has transformed to recognize sweetness in the nectar.  It is not technically a sweet receptor, and hence, too sweet nectar will not make the hummingbird like or dislike it. 

In fact, if the nectar is too sweet, it is likely to attract bees, ants, wasps, etc., and the feeder will get swamped by them. 

It will distract and frustrate the hummingbird enough to fly away from the feeder and probably, never return back. 

Moreover, extra sweet nectar will trigger fermentation and create perfect spots for bacterial growth. It will also repel the hummingbirds, and they will not fly down to the feeder anymore. 

Finally, extra sweet nectar is detrimental to the hummingbird’s health. While they need the sweetness of sugar as a carbohydrate source for high energy, excess of it can cause an imbalance in their body and deteriorate their health. 

It becomes difficult to digest for them and also adversely affects their liver and kidneys.  

Hence, while hummingbirds prefer concentrated nectar and do like sugar water, we need to ensure that it does not get excess.  

Do hummingbirds prefer homemade nectar? 

Technically, hummingbirds need nectar. It can be either prepared at home or purchased commercially. The idea is to give them the correct formula which matches the closest to nature. 

Many commercial mixes breach these ethics, and that’s why many bird watchers prefer to steer away from it. Simultaneously, there are commercially prepared ones available that do not use any red dyes, chilies, or harmful additives to make them more appealing.  

Hummingbirds cannot differentiate between homemade or commercially prepared nectar. They can also not differentiate between one that has authenticated or mixed ingredients. 

But because improperly prepared homemade nectar is bad for hummingbirds, many prefer homemade nectar for them.  

How long does hummingbird nectar last? How often should you change them? 

As already stated, sugar solution also goes bad. It spoils and ferments. Hummingbirds recognize bad nectar and will not consume it. If they find bad nectar, they will stop coming to the feeder. 

Generally, the nectar remains good for a day or two, depending on how hot the temperature is. It can last for a week during the cold months.  

The changing frequency should also coincide with it, i.e., change it after every day or two during summers and after a week during the winters.  

Can hummingbird nectar get too hot? 

Yes, the hummingbird nectar can also get too hot during extremely hot weather and when you have given too much heat to the nectar pitcher during the winters. 

In fact, the nectar can get hot in just a few hours and then start spoiling or fermenting.  

Like we consume hot tea or coffee, hummingbirds can also consume hot nectar even though they would prefer a cool drink. 

However, too hot nectar is bad for their health. Hence, you must always put the feeder in a cool and dry place to avoid overheating.  

Do hummingbirds get nectar from roses? 

No, hummingbirds do not get any nectar from roses, as they are non-tubular flowers. They just have sweet scents and might attract hummingbirds with their bright bloom. 

However, they do not satiate its hunger. The specialized needle-like bills of hummingbirds are designed to probe the tubular-shaped, deep-throated flowers to draw out the nectar. 

Roses lack this shape and hence do not attract hummingbirds.  

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