Hummingbirds are adorable and fascinating little creatures. We hung a feeder off of our deck a few years ago and have enjoyed their company during spring and summer every year. Making your own hummingbird food is super easy and inexpensive. All you need is sugar and water in the correct ratio. Your neighborhood hummingbirds will love your homemade food and so will your wallet.
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How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Feeder
If you’re wondering why hummingbirds aren’t drinking from your feeder there may be a few reasons that they are staying away. Here are some tips to attract hummingbirds to your feeder so that they can enjoy your homemade hummingbird food.
Keep the feeder clean
Not only will hummingbirds not want to feed from a dirty feeder, a dirty feeder can also be harmful to their health.
Change the nectar often
In cooler weather you may only have to change the nectar once a week but in warmer weather it will need to be changed every 3 to 5 days. If the nectar is starting to look cloudy or if it’s visibly full of bugs, change it right away.
Keep insects away
Ants and bees are attracted to sugar water and can overtake your feeder in no time. Bees tend to be less of a problem because most feeders are designed to keep bees out. However, that isn’t the case for ants. They can easily crawl into the tiny openings of the feeder ports and quickly contaminate the nectar. If you notice ants in your feeder one easy solution is to add an ant moat to your feeder which acts as a deterrent to keep ants away.
Hang the feeder in the best location
While I keep my feeder in the sun, it’s really best to locate your feeder in the shade. The nectar will ferment quicker when in the heat and sun which causes bacteria and mold to grow. If you’ve noticed that your nectar is cloudy, you should replace the nectar and clean your feeder.
If you’re doing all of things listed above but you still aren’t seeing any hummingbirds, it may just be that it’s the wrong time of year or you put your feeder out to late and the hummingbirds have moved on to a new location.
When to expect hummingbirds
Many hummingbirds will spend winter in Central America and then migrate north to breed in the Spring. In the United states you can see migrating hummingbirds as early as February depending on how far south you live. This year my husband started tracking the hummingbird migration on hummingbirdcentral.com. It was pretty accurate for us so this can be a great tool to plan for your hummingbird friends.
We were also lucky enough to spot a hummingbird nest on a branch in our front yard that was only about 8′ off the ground. The eggs were so tiny (only about the size of a jellybean). Here is a picture of the two babies just before they fledged. Where we live (Cincinnati Ohio), we have Ruby-Throated hummingbirds. Aren’t they adorable?
How to Make Homemade Hummingbird Food
Homemade Hummingbird Food Ingredients
- Clean water
- Pure white cane sugar
Ratio of Sugar and Water for Homemade Hummingbird Food
Mix 4 parts water to 1 part white cane sugar.
It’s important to get the ratio right when making your own hummingbird nectar. If you use too little sugar you won’t provide enough calories for the hummingbirds. Even more concerning, if you use too much sugar, the nectar can be damaging to their kidneys and liver.
Heat the sugar water
In a small pot on the stove, heat the sugar water until the sugar fully dissolves.
Cool and store accordingly
Let the nectar cool entirely before filling the hummingbird feeder. If you make a large batch, you can place it in a container in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks. I use a plastic jar with a pour spout that makes it super easy to refill my feeder after I’ve cleaned it.
Recipe for Homemade Hummingbird Food
Homemade Hummingbird Food
- 4 cups Water
- 1 cup Pure white cane sugar
In a small pan, mix 4 cups of water with 1 cup of sugar.
Bring the sugar water to a light boil and stir to fully dissolve the sugar.
Allow sugar water to cool completely before filling feeder or storing in refrigerator.
Common Questions About Feeding Hummingbirds
Do I need to boil sugar water for hummingbirds?
Not really but it is recommended that you do. You need the water to be hot enough to dissolve the sugar so it isn’t necessary that it be boiling to do that. However, boiling the water will remove impurities in the water and sterilize it which makes it safer for the hummingbirds. For that reason alone, I’ll always boil mine.
How long can you store homemade hummingbird food?
You can store homemade hummingbird food in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. If the solution becomes cloudy or you see mold growing it needs to be replaced.
Why should you avoid using red food coloring when making hummingbird food?
There is no need to add red dye. Some sources say that the red dye is bad for the hummingbirds so for that reason alone, even if it isn’t scientifically proven, I’d recommend not using the red dye. I was worried at first that the hummingbirds wouldn’t be attracted to my feeder if I had clear nectar in it but that wasn’t the case at all. Since the feeder itself is bright it does a great job of attracting them. We actually have four hummingbirds fighting over this feeder almost all day.
Can you use tap water to make hummingbird food?
Yes, in most cases, tap water can be used to make hummingbird food. That said, if your tap water contains heavy chemicals you may want to consider using purified water.
Can you use sweeteners other than plain white granulated sugar to make hummingbird food?
No, do not use anything other than plain white granulated sugar. Using anything other than plain white granulated sugar is dangerous and potentially fatal to the hummingbirds.
10 Fun Facts About Hummingbirds
I’m totally fascinated with hummingbirds. Here are 10 super interesting facts about these adorable little creatures.
- Hummingbirds are the smallest migrating birds. The average weight of a hummingbird is only 3 grams which is less than a nickel!
- They are the only birds that can fly backwards.
- Hummingbirds consume half of their weight in sugar per day.
- Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly 500 miles nonstop across the gulf of Mexico during spring and fall migration.
- A hummingbird’s heart beats at more than 1,200 beats per minute!
- Hummingbird eggs are the smallest in the world. Many compare them to a small jellybean or coffee bean.
- A hummingbird’s tongue is so long that when retracted it coils up inside its head around its skull and eyes.
- Hummingbird nests are about an inch in diameter and the female hummingbird builds them by weaving together twigs, plant fibers and spider silk. The nests are soft and flexible which allow the sides to stretch as the baby hummingbirds grow in size.
- Hummingbirds have tiny little feet but they can’t walk. They use their feet to perch and scoot from side to side.
- There have been over 360 hummingbird species discovered although we only get to see about 15 of them in the United States.
You may also be interested in my tutorial to make a DIY bird feeder hanger for your deck.