Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

by | Environment

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What is the Correct Ratio of Sugar to Water for Hummingbirds?

The correct ratio of sugar to water for hummingbirds is generally considered one (1) part sugar to four (4) parts water. This means that, if you have a feeder that will hold five (5) cups of water, you should make your nectar with four (4) cups of water, leaving some room on the top, and dissolving one (1) cup of water into your nectar.

You can divide this into smaller and smaller portions. If you do not know the exact amount your hummingbird feeder will hold, a good trick is to get a measuring cup that you will use for all measurements. This can a tablespoon, a half cup, a cup, or something less conventional such as a drinking glass or bowl.

Simply fill your measurement tool of choice with sugar and add it to the pan. Next, fill the measuring tool with water and pour it into the pan a total of four times.

Can Hummingbird Nectar Be Too Sweet?

Yes! You can make hummingbird nectar too sweet. Making nectar that is too sweet could potentially harm their liver and kidneys as they process the sugars.

On the other hand, if the nectar is too weak, they will not get enough calories for the same volume of food. Always follow the recommended ratios of sugar to water.  

Can I Use Other Sugars in Hummingbird Nectar?

You should always try to use refined sugar in hummingbird feeders. This is the regular, pure white table sugar you can purchase at any grocery store. This sugar is pure sucrose, which mimics nectar when combined with water.

Never use powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, corn syrup, honey, or unprocessed or raw sugars. These often have other ingredients added to them which can be harmful to hummingbirds.

For example, confectioner’s sugar, or powdered sugar, contain cornstarch. Natural raw sugars contain higher levels of iron in the mixture which, while it is great for humans, can be toxic to the birds. Likewise, honey can promote fungal growth which is even more dangerous for the birds and makes the feeder much more difficult to clean.

If you need to substitute table sugar for another type of sugar, beet sugar is the only other recommended type of sugar to use.

Can I Use Tap Water in Hummingbird Nectar?

You can use tap water when making hummingbird nectar. There is nothing to suggest that this is detrimental, but if you are concerned about the quality of your tap water and wouldn’t drink it yourself, it is better to use filtered or spring water.

Spring water is always preferred over distilled water, which is an excellent thing to know when you are in the grocery store looking at the gallon jugs of water and wondering how there are so many varieties available. Spring water will contain trace minerals which will help boost the hummingbird’s nutritional levels, versus distilled which would not contain those important trace elements.

Looking for a Hummingbird Feeder?

Here are some feeders that we thought you might like:

Budget Option:

Glass 4-port, 4 oz Dishwasher Safe Hummingbird Feeder

Value Option:

Plastic 10-port, 32 oz Hummingbird Feeder

Stylish Option:

Glass 5-port, 36 oz Hummingbird Feeder with Hook

Recommended Option:

Glass 4-port, 30 oz Hummingbird Feeder with Ant Moat and Cleaning Brush

Do I Need to Boil Sugar Water for Hummingbirds?

You do not need to boil sugar water for hummingbirds. Heating the water gently will suffice. You can even make hummingbird nectar by shaking room-temperature water in a mason jar vigorously, but it does take longer.

The purpose of heating or boiling the water is to make it easier for the sugar to dissolve in the water. You will know when the hummingbird nectar is done when you are unable to see individual granules of sugar in the water.

Always, always, always allow your nectar to cool to room temperature before filling the nectar and hanging it back outside.

How Long Can I Store Hummingbird Nectar?

When you first make hummingbird nectar, you might find that you have made more than you can fit into a single feeder. Once your mixture has cooled, store it in an airtight container, such as a mason jar, and stick it in the fridge.

You can store this mixture for up to two weeks before it goes bad; and if you won’t be using it in another feeder, try it out as a simple syrup for drinks like cocktails and coffee!

Sometimes, hummingbird nectar can go bad before the week mark depending on where it was stored in the fridge – for example, the door of the refrigerator is always warmer than the interior – so if you see any mold or cloudiness in the sugar water, throw it away immediately and make a new batch.


Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

  • 4 parts water (spring or filtered)
  • 1 part sugar (refined white)
  1. Add ingredients to the pot and heat, stirring constantly,

  2. Water may or may not come to a boil before all sugar granules are dissolved. Once all sugar granules are dissolved, remove from heat.

  3. Cool the mixture to room temperature, then fill the feeders.

Photo by jim gade on Unsplash

Should I Add Red Dye to Hummingbird Nectar?

It is never recommended to add red dye to hummingbird nectar. The red dye is not necessary to attract hummingbirds, and it can potentially * prove to be harmful chemicals for the birds. The red dye in commercial nectar is more to attract humans than the birds.

* While there is no solid research to prove that there is any detrimental effect on the birds, there is no reason to risk it, especially since the dye does not add any benefit to the nectar either.

Adding dye can make it more difficult for you to tell when the nectar needs to be changed since the clarity of the water will be obscured.

How Often Should I Change the Sugar Water in my Hummingbird Feeder?

The water in your hummingbird feeder should be changed once a week in the colder months. In Summer, the feeder will need to be changed twice a week.

Ideally, if you can keep up with the maintenance, the hummingbird feeder should be changed and scrubbed thoroughly every other day. This helps prevent mold and bacterial growth which could be harmful to the birds.

As a side note, you should never “top off” the hummingbird feeder. Always empty and unused liquid and clean the feeder thoroughly before refilling. This will help prevent mold and bacterial growth.

How Do I Clean My Hummingbird Feeder?

Cleaning the feeder consistently also makes it more likely for the birds to visit the feeder, as they would often prefer to go without food for long periods than drink from a dirty feeder. (We’re sure the same would go for you if you were constantly served food on a dirty plate!)

While a good scrub will usually do the job, heavy-duty hummingbird feeders can often go in the dishwasher as well, provided they are not made of soft plastic.

Be sure to rinse the feeder thoroughly before refilling it to remove any cleaning solutions or soap.

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About Destynnie K. Berard
I am a lifelong naturalist who believes a good sense of humor is essential to staying happy. ★ After traveling for years, I settled in New England, falling in love with the diverse landscape the Northeast has to offer, and began pursuing conservation in earnest. ★ My career background is in enterprise marketing and communications, which provides me with a unique perspective of ecological relationships.


  1. econavi là gì

    Awesome article.

  2. Derek

    I’ve been buying that red syrup from stores, I had no clue it could just be made from sugar. I bake all the time, what a ‘ DUH ‘ moment this was for me!! Love how this came out.

  3. Deborah

    this was such a simple recipe! thank you!


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