Get a simple homemade hummingbird food recipe and an easy to clean feeder, plus tips for safe feeding and attracting more hummers to your yard. Save time and money and keep your hummers health by avoiding the red food coloring and hard to clean feeders.
Homemade Hummingbird Food Recipe – Hummingbird Nectar
Maintain a 1:4 sugar to water ratio for your homemade hummingbird food.
- 1/4 cup white table sugar
- 1 cup water
Use clean, unchlorinated tap water or filtered water. Heat water to boiling. (Boiling the water will kill any bacteria.) Stir in sugar until dissolved.
Allow the hummingbird nectar to cool to room temp before placing in feeder. Refrigerate any unused portion of the hummingbird food for up to a week.
If using RO or other filtered (bacteria-free) water, boiling is not required, but heating will help the sugar dissolve.
You can watch the video below to see me make hummingbird nectar and get feeding tips.
Safe Feeding Tips to Keep Your Hummingbirds Healthy
Change your homemade hummingbird nectar at least every three days, especially in warm weather.
Avoid artificial color, artificial sweetener and raw sugar such as turbinado. Hummingbirds need the calories from sugar, and the mineral levels of the less refined sugars may be difficult for them to digest. Artificial red dyes and sweeteners are harmful to the birds.
Watch out for mold growth or fermentation, which can make the birds sick. Any off smell or off color or cloudiness is a bad sign. Clean the hummingbird feeder thoroughly and clean and refill more frequently – before the hummingbird food becomes cloudy. Use non-toxic dish soap or a vinegar water solution and rinse well.
Clean your feeders every time you fill your feeders. Take special care to scrub around each feeding port with a cotton swap, old toothbrush or pastry tube brush, or some combination of the three. The little nooks and crannies around the opening are the most like spots for debris buildup and mold growth. We use a pastry tube cleaning brush to clean in the holes, and clean around them with an old toothbrush.
The article “What Do Hummingbirds Eat?” by BirdWatcher's Digest also suggests that hummingbirds enjoy real maple syrup and tree sap, plus they eat many small bugs. Honey is not recommended because it may contain live bacteria.
The Best Hummingbird Feeder
One thing I've noticed about most hummingbird nectar feeders is that they are terribly hard to clean. Even a good bottle brush has a hard time getting into curves and tight corners. Many references advise using a bleach water rinse to kill any bacteria, but it's tough to guarantee the effectiveness of this and also to make sure the bleach is completely rinsed out.
After looking in vain for an easy to clean hummingbird feeder at the local hardware stores, I finally came across the Hummzinger Mini at a specialty wild bird shop.
This feeder is composed of a hanger and two pieces shaped roughly like hollow doughnut halves. The two halves clamp and unclamp like a plastic Easter egg, leaving the center of each wide open for easy cleaning. In the center of the reservoir, there's a separate reservoir that can be filled with water to deter ants.
You can see the Hummzinger hummingbird feeder in action in the awesome hummingbird video below.
While marketed as a hummingbird feeder, I have had orioles come and perch and use the feeder as well. They also have a Hummzinger Ultra, which holds 12 ounces, for those who have a larger hummingbird population. Their Humblossom holds only 4 ounces, which means less dumping old nectar if you only have a few hummingbirds to feed.
Enjoy these little beauties while you can. For those of us in the north, winter will be here again all too soon.
More Tips to Attract Hummingbirds
While this hummingbird nectar recipe is good, nothing beats natural nectar. Planting a variety of humming friendly flowers in your yard will help provide for these little beauties.
What make a flower “hummingbird friendly”? Look for tubular (trumpet shaped) flowers and abundant blossoms. Some favorites include:
- scarlet beebalm
- cardinal flowers
- pea and bean blossoms
Hummingbirds also like shrubs and trees for cover and nesting, and downy plant fiber like milkweed or thistle to line their nests. If you can spare some wildflower space, do it, and don't rush to clear spent blossoms.
Don't spray for mosquitoes! In addition to nectar, hummers feed on small insect such as mosquitoes. Killing all the bugs eliminates a food source – or leaves the birds eating poison. It's still safe to remove mosquito breeding grounds and use landscape plants that deter mosquitoes.
You may also find useful:
- Stop Birds Hitting Windows – 5 Tips to Keep Our Feather Friends Safe
- Natural Mosquito Repellents That Work
- Natural Allergy Relief – 15 Home Remedies for Seasonal Allergies
Originally posted in 2013, updated in 2019.