Meagan Francis

Meagan Francis

Hummingbird lovers are undoubtedly familiar with the bright-red liquid food that typically fills the small birds’ feeders. But did you know you can make hummingbird food yourself? This super-simple cost-effective recipe will keep your backyard friends happily humming, and you can skip the trip to the store:

You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup regular white cane sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • Food coloring (optional)

Instructions:

  • Heat water to a boil
  • Turn off heat, add sugar
  • Stir until sugar is dissolved completely (liquid should be clear)

At this point, you have the option to add a few drops of red food coloring for a traditional-looking hummingbird cocktail. The jury is out on whether this is a good idea: some sources say that the food coloring is bad for birds, while other hummingbird enthusiasts have noted that birds will not approach their feeder unless the liquid is red. I would suggest trying the clear solution first to see how the birds like it.


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When the solution is done, let it cool, then fill your clean bird feeder! Store leftover solution in the refrigerator until it’s ready to use. The nectar will go bad fairly quickly, and be sure to clean out and refill your feeder every 3-5 days (possibly more often in very hot weather) so that bacteria doesn’t build up in the sugary solution.

It’s really as easy as that! Now get out there and enjoy watching your winged friends eat.

Also See: Hummingbird 101


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16 Comments About this Article

  • HGTVPaul
    Good article and nice comments from our HGTVGardens members. I'm going to give it a try. I have just the right spot for a feeder.

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Donna Cohen
    For Beverly Dehn - just be patient, and change the water whether they visit or not every 3 days at the most, as the water will spoil with sugar. If you have cats, dogs or kids, they are more likely to stay away. They also prefer to be in the open. We use a good, heavy duty pole to hang from. I've seen some visit window feeders, but they do want a good get away if there are any predator birds around. You may want to check these things to see if they are way they don't come. We are already up to a gallon a day and we aren't at peak season yet. And never had a dead bird!!

    Posted 1 year ago

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  • Birdluver
    Red dye is bad for humans. In the little fragile hummingbirds, it's is known to cause cancer and other tumors, shortening their already short lives. PLEASE DON'T use red dye!!! It serves no purpose. Add a red ribbon or even plastic or silk red flowers around the feeder. I have red on my feeders and that's enough to draw them.

    Posted 11 months ago

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  • Birdluver
    Also, I make my nectar with a 4:1 ratio - 4 parts water to 1 part sugar and boil it to dissolve the sugar crystals. Once it has cooled to room temperature, I fill up the feeders. What I don't use that day, I place in either a glass container or BHT-free container with a good lid and put it in the fridge. Make sure it's back to room temp before putting it out for the hummers. It lasts for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. If it's really hot out, change the nectar daily or twice a day if really hot. If the nectar starts to look cloudy, it's time to change it. Also make sure to clean the feeders with white vinegar and water. Soak, wipe out and rinse really well. Then you're good to go.

    Posted 11 months ago

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  • Marshir
    We have a golden retriever that hangs out under the feeder all day long and we have 5 hummingbirds that live at our feeder every day all summer long! We use 4:1 ratio as well. They dont mind our dog at all. Our neighbor uses red store bought nectar and they told use they dont see hummingbirds at their feeder. They have NO kids and NO dog.

    Posted 11 months ago

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  • David Ross
    Don't do it that way, use hot water 1 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar mix it well keep the feeder clean use no color and have lots of humming birds.

    Posted 10 months ago

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  • Marshir
    I'm not sure what you mean by "don't do it that way" and "use no color". I never said I used color of any kind. I never add color. All websites say to use 4:1 ratio which is what I do. All sugar crystals are dissolved before the feeder goes back outside. I have 5 hummingbirds all day long, everyday and they've come back year after year. I must be doing something right. They enjoy my yard and I enjoy watching them. You might have me mistaken for another comment.

    Posted 10 months ago

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  • Susan Mayer
    Hummingbirds hoover 2 feet over my sleeping cats all the time, so it is apparent there is NO rule for nature. They seem to have it all worked out. I think the little hummers are too fast for the kitties who are generally quite interested in birds.

    Posted 9 months ago

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  • Tom Bruhns
    WRT the ratio of sugar to water: it's probably a good thing to increase the sugar in winter, for those of us in Northern states at least. The common 4:1 rule isn't really hard-and-fast, I've learned. In nature, hummers find food over about an eight to one ratio of sugar concentrations from various flowers. There's an excellent article about this at http://www.hummingbirds.net/hainsworth.html.

    Posted 9 months ago

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  • Ray Owen
    how do you keep bees away? I clean every 3 days

    Posted 4 months ago

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