Homemade Hummingbird Nectar

Maybe you’ve just got yourself a new hummingbird feeder or maybe it’s just time to refill a feeder you already have. Either way, if you’re looking to attract hummingbirds into your yard, you’re going to need to know how to make your own homemade hummingbird nectar. 

Sure, you can buy it premade from the store, but it's so simple to make and uses basic, everyday ingredients that you no doubt already have in your home. It’s also more economical to make your own homemade syrup or nectar to feed these pretty little birds.

While hummingbirds will eat a variety of things, the food they are most attracted to is nectar - these birds have a sweet tooth (or beak)! While they will normally satisfy this craving for sweet nectar by dipping their long, needle-like beaks into nectar-producing flowers, these pretty little birds are also happy to get some of the calories they need from our own homemade nectar.

Hummingbird nectar or syrup is just a combination of sugar and water, combined at the right ratio to make it very similar to the natural sucrose content of the nectar they would naturally consume from flowers.

homemade hummingbird flower nectar

While giving birds sugar and water might not seem like a healthy thing to do, it actually provides the hummingbirds with an easily digestible source of energy and calories.

What Is The Correct Ratio Of Sugar To Water For Your Hummingbird Feeder?


A quick internet search will probably have you believing that the ratio of sugar to water for your homemade hummingbird nectar should be 1:4 - or 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.
But, we would suggest, based on scientific research, that a ratio of 1:3 (1 part sugar to 3 parts water) is what the recipe should be.

As we’re trying to get the homemade nectar to mimic the nectar the birds would normally get from flowers, we need to be trying to make a solution that is as similar to 23.9% sucrose (the concentration of sucrose typically found in flower nectar) as we can get.

Using a ratio of 1:4, the resulting solution will be around 17.9% sucrose, while a ratio of 1:3 offers 22.5% sucrose concentration, which is a better approximation of the sucrose content they would normally get from the nectar in flowers.

Anyway, that’s all getting a bit too scientific and mathematical, if you’d like to read more about why we prefer a 1:3 ratio instead of the commonly recommended 1:4 ratio, check out this article here

How To Make Homemade Hummingbird Nectar


Now that we know the correct ratio of sugar to water (1:3), making the homemade nectar is a very simple process.

1.

Combine Sugar and Water

Combine one part plain, white granulated sugar and three parts water in a saucepan. For example, you could use 1 cup of sugar and mix it with three cups of water. If you don’t want to make that much, you could use ½ cup of sugar combined with 1 ½ cups of water.

ratio of sugar to water for hummingbird feeder

2.

Heat The Mixture

Slowly heat the solution over a low heat for one to two minutes. Stir the solution as it heats to help the sugar dissolve.

hummingbird formula ratio

3.

Let The Mixture Cool

Allow the solution to cool completely before filling feeders. And that’s it! We told you it was easy to make your own homemade hummingbird nectar!

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar Tips

We told you it was simple, and it is, but, here are some extra tips and tricks to keep in mind when making your own hummingbird nectar.

  • If you have hard water or your water has a strong taste or odor, you might need to consider using bottled water or at least boiling your water before making the nectar.
  • It’s very important that you only use plain, white sugar for this recipe. While you might think that honey would be a more “natural” food to feed the hummingbirds, honey (and molasses found in brown sugar) is too heavy for hummingbirds to digest properly.
  • Don’t think you would be doing these birds a favour by giving them artificial sweeteners, hummingbirds actually need the calories and energy provided by the sugar in the syrup.
  • Do I have to boil the mixture? Boiling the sugar and water when initially making the nectar can help to slow down the fermentation of the nectar, which, in turn, could make the nectar last longer before you need to change it. However, as soon as a hummingbird starts drinking the nectar, the nectar has been contaminated and can start to ferment. So, while boiling is quick and easy to do when making your hummingbird nectar, it is not essential. It may help to dissolve the sugar into the solution but, if you’re using a finely ground white sugar and give it a good stir, it might not be necessary to boil at all.
  • As discussed above, it’s important to get the ratio of sugar to water right. That being said, it seems like a lot of people use the 1:4 ratio rather than the 1:3 ratio that actually results in a sucrose concentration that is closest to that found in the nectar of flowers.
  • It seems obvious but, just to be sure, make sure your homemade nectar is completely cold before filling up your hummingbird feeders. If it’s still hot it could damage your feeder, but it also is more likely to ferment more quickly if you put it outside while still warm.
  • Change the hummingbird nectar at least once a week, more often in very hot weather.
  • Clean the feeder before filling back up with fresh nectar.
  • If you’ve made more nectar than you can fit into your feeder, you can store it in the fridge for up to one week.
  • There’s no need to add red food coloring to your nectar - the sugar and water syrup is all they need and your feeder is probably red anyway so it should still catch the hummingbirds’ attention. If you still feel as though more red would help attract more hummingbirds, you could attach some red ribbons to the feeder or plant more red flowers in the garden nearby, but please don’t add red food dye to your syrup - it’s not good for humans or birds!
  • There’s no need to purchase commercially available hummingbird nectar. These often contain preservatives and red dye, neither of which is necessary or good for the health of hummingbirds.

So, as you can see, making your own homemade hummingbird nectar is quick and easy and well worth the effort if you’d like to attract more of these adorable little birds into your garden. Creating the nectar is as simple as getting the ratio of sugar to water right (1:3), mix, heat, cool and serve! Your hummingbird friends will thank you!

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