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The Best Ever Hummingbird Food Recipe

Thomas is interested in all types of animals and pets, from reptiles to sugar gliders.

Learn how to make homemade hummingbird food (it's easy!), and see some fascinating facts about these tiny birds.

Learn how to make homemade hummingbird food (it's easy!), and see some fascinating facts about these tiny birds.

Homemade Hummingbird Food for Your Feeder

Hummingbirds love to feed on sugar water from artificial feeders. You can safely make your own hummingbird food from white sugar and water. A lot of the pre-made, store-bought hummingbird food contains red food dye and preservatives that may actually be harmful to your hummingbird friends. So the best option is to make your own homemade food.

Hummingbird Food Recipe: Sugar Water

This liquid food is incredibly easy to make. Your bird visitors will thank you!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 8 cups of water

Instructions

  1. Mix the 2 cups of white sugar with the 8 cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir so that the sugar dissolves.
  2. After it has boiled and all of the sugar has dissolved, allow the mixture to fully cool before you fill your feeder with it.
  3. Keep any leftover food in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

You can scale this recipe up or down to make a larger or smaller batch—just maintain the ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.

Should I Add Red Dye?

No. There is no need to add red dye to the food. Adding food coloring can even be harmful to the birds. While there haven't been scientific studies on the long-term effects of red food dye on hummingbirds, experts warn against using it. Most hummingbird feeders already feature the color red, and that alone will attract the birds. The food does not need to be red.

Can I Use Brown Sugar, Powdered Sugar, or Honey?

No. Please don't use other forms of sugar or honey because these contain substances that can be harmful to the hummingbirds. Brown sugar and raw sugars contain iron, which is a toxin for hummingbirds. Powdered sugar contains cornstarch and will cause the food to ferment.

Honey is not good to use in feeders because mixing it with water creates ideal conditions for microorganisms like bacteria and fungi to grow. Those could make your birds very sick.

Tips and Tricks for Hummingbird Feeders

  • Buy a red feeder. It's best to purchase a red feeder or one that has prominent red features, like red caps, perches, feeding sites, etc. Hummingbirds' eyes are sensitive to the color red because red flowers typically represent good food sources for them.
  • Hang the feeder high. Put your feeders up high enough that the birds won't have to worry about cats hunting them.
  • Try to hang the feeder near a window. This tip is for your own benefit! If you hang the feeder right in front of a window, you can enjoy watching the birds come. Stand there quietly, and you can watch the birds zipping about and eating your homemade sugar water.
  • Keep the feeder filled and clean. When you hang up hummingbird feeders, know that you are assuming a certain degree of responsibility. You need to keep the feeder or feeders filled with sugar water, especially during the spring, summer, and fall. You need to check the feeder for drowned insects; if you find them, wash out the feeder and replace the sugar water.
  • Space feeders 6 feet apart. If you have multiple feeders, make sure to keep them at least 6 feet apart. This creates separate feeding areas for the hummingbirds. These little birds can be very territorial and will chase other hummingbirds away from what they consider to be "their" feeder, so well-spaced feeding areas will help prevent fights.

What Other Animals Feed From Hummingbird Feeders?

You will also see other birds, mammals, and insects visiting your hummingbird feeder. Orioles, woodpeckers, and squirrels will sometimes feed from your feeder. If you live in the southwestern U.S., some species of bats may even pay it a visit! Wasps, bees, and ants will find your feeder eventually. All of these creatures love sugar water.

Dealing With Pests at the Feeder

If your feeder is visited by wasps and ants, be sure that you wash the feeder out on a regular basis and move it around the yard to keep the ants away. Small bugs and ants will often get into the feeder and drown; whenever you see that this has happened, remember to wash out the feeder and replace the food.

Can I Use Cinnamon to Deter Ants?

If your feeder is on a pole or hung from a tree branch, you can try sprinkling cinnamon all around the base of the pole or tree. The strong smell of the cinnamon may deter the ants from climbing up to your feeder. Note that cinnamon does not kill ants, but it may repel them.

Both honeybees and hummingbirds are attracted to nectar-rich flowers.

Both honeybees and hummingbirds are attracted to nectar-rich flowers.

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Read More From Dengarden

How to Create a Hummingbird Garden

First, you need to pick a good location for your hummingbird garden. If at all possible, you will want to place it near a window so you can observe the birds feeding on the flowers from inside the house.

Keep in mind that you need an area that is well-drained, and the garden needs to get 6–8 hours of direct sunlight a day. When you're deciding on the size of the garden, remember that you can always start with a small garden and add to it in the years to come, if you wish.

Choose Plants That Attract Hummingbirds

Here are some good options for enticing hummingbirds to your garden:

  • Bee Balm
  • Fuchsia and Lantana
  • Hollyhock
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Trumpet Vine
  • Japanese Honeysuckle (Plant it in a container to keep it from spreading.)
  • Cardinal Vine
  • Silk Tree (Plant it in a container to keep it from spreading.)

Please remember to check whether these plants are considered invasive in your region. For example, butterfly bush is considered invasive in many U.S. states.

Combine Flowering Plants With Feeders

You can plant a combination of these flowering plants in your garden. While the flowers are blooming, you should have a large population of hummingbirds visiting your yard. As a side benefit, you'll likely see a huge population of butterflies, too!

You can place several feeders around your garden (remember to keep them about 6 feet apart) and attract hummingbirds when the flowers are not in bloom. With a little time and effort, you can create a hummingbird paradise.

This is a purple-throated hummingbird feeding from a flower.

This is a purple-throated hummingbird feeding from a flower.

Fun Facts About Hummingbirds

  • Hummingbirds drink nectar from flowers. They know which flowers have the nectar with the highest sugar content and prefer to feed from those. Hummingbirds are like bees in that both of them are able to use the sugar that is contained in the nectar.
  • They also eat bugs. Most people think that hummingbirds only drink nectar, but this isn't true. They also feed on spiders and bugs. This helps to fill their need for protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Nectar is a poor source of all of these things, so the birds can often be seen chasing down and catching bugs and spiders. They often snatch brightly colored spiders like the Carolina Writing Spider from their webs and eat them. In fact, I've sat and watched a hummingbird snatch a spider from its web!
  • They're territorial. As mentioned above, hummingbirds are quite territorial. If you put up an artificial feeder and watch it closely, you may notice one hummingbird hanging around the feeder all the time and chasing off any other birds that try to drink from the feeder.
  • They spend a lot of time resting. Many people think that these birds spend all day flying around, but that isn't true. They use up a lot of energy flying, so they spend a good portion of the day sitting somewhere and resting. The average hummingbird spends 10–15% of their time feeding and 75–80% sitting and digesting their food. This means they will spend more of their life perching than doing anything else.
Here's a hummingbird perching on a branch. They spend most of their time at rest!

Here's a hummingbird perching on a branch. They spend most of their time at rest!

  • Hummingbirds can barely walk. They have very weak feet, so they prefer to fly or just sit still.
  • Females do all the work of hatching chicks. Hummingbirds do not mate for life, and the male takes no part in sitting on the eggs or raising the babies. All of this is done by the female bird.
  • They have keen eyesight and hearing. Both their hearing and their vision are much better than human senses.
  • Hummingbirds eat a LOT. They eat several meals throughout the day. As hard as it may be to believe, these birds eat up to twelve times their body weight in nectar a day!
  • They're smart. They remember each flower they visit, and they know how long it will take the flower to refill with nectar so it can be fed from again. Also, hummingbirds often return to within a few hundred yards of where they were born year after year, which means it's likely that you'll see the same birds returning to your yard annually!
  • They only live in the Americas. Hummingbirds are found as far north as Alaska and as far south as Chile.
  • They don't sing. Hummingbirds are one of the few birds that do not sing. Instead, they make a chirping sound.

Amazing Hummingbird Stats

  • Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world. Most weigh between 2 and 20 grams. For reference, a penny weighs 2.5 grams!
  • The largest species of hummingbird is the Giant Hummingbird (18–24 grams). The smallest is the Bee Hummingbird (<2 grams).
  • A hummingbird's heart beats up to 1250 times a minute.
  • While they are at rest, a hummingbird will take about 250 breaths per minute.
  • There are 15 species of hummingbirds in the United States. In all areas of their habitat, there are over 300 species of hummingbirds.
  • Ecuador has more species of hummingbirds than any other country. Mexico has over 50 species of hummingbirds.
  • Canada has three species of hummingbirds, and Alaska has one species.
  • Hummingbirds can live for 10 years or longer, though most live for 3–5 years.
This is an aerial photograph of a hummingbird image that's part of the Nazca Lines in Peru.

This is an aerial photograph of a hummingbird image that's part of the Nazca Lines in Peru.

Aztec Beliefs About Hummingbirds

The ancient Aztecs wore hummingbird talismans that were made from their feathers (and sometimes from the whole bird). The Aztecs admired the hummingbird, which they considered to be hardworking and full of energy. They believed that hummingbirds were the messengers of their gods, so they considered seeing a hummingbird to be very good luck and a blessing from their gods.

This photo shows an albino hummingbird that did not develop any color in its feathers. They are rare, but there are almost always a few around.

This photo shows an albino hummingbird that did not develop any color in its feathers. They are rare, but there are almost always a few around.

Weird Myths and Misinformation About Hummingbirds

  • Hummingbirds do not migrate on the backs of geese. No one knows where this myth got started, but it's just a myth.
  • Hummingbirds do not gather together to migrate. They fly south and north by themselves. They migrate in response to a hormone change in their bodies that is triggered by the daylight hours getting shorter in the fall. Interestingly, male hummingbirds almost always return north about two weeks before the females, and this occurs in almost all hummingbird species.
  • No matter what you hear, hummingbirds will not get addicted to artificial feeders and sugar water. They will move on when they need to. No, you will not stop them from migrating if you keep feeding them. When they are ready to go, they will go!
There may be more hummingbirds visiting your yard than you think there are!

There may be more hummingbirds visiting your yard than you think there are!

Enjoy Meeting the Hummingbirds in Your Yard!

Hummingbirds are far more common than you might think, but you often don't see them unless you catch them feeding. By hanging up hummingbird feeders and planting a vibrant, nectar-rich flower garden, you can discover a whole world of beautiful birds in your backyard!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Please Post Your Comments Now And Thanks For Reading.

donab on August 28, 2019:

i have tried plastic feeders for the past several years..attracted more ants, wasps, etc. This year I bought a new glass and metal feeder similar to what I used to have. We have so many hummers..no ants.

Yvi Kosta on August 27, 2019:

Humming birds gather in large flocks in August before they all fly off south seemingly together! A lot of them get into the barn studio and even with the 20ft high sliding doors wide open, they prefer to fly up at the skylights and rafters. No suggested tricks work to get them out. If enough gather, one or two wise up to the exit and the others follow. Larger birds get stuck inside and are very hard to get out. Any suggestions?

Ale B on August 17, 2019:

I have been doing my own nectar with the 2 cups of white sugar and whatever amount of water fills the feeder and it’s been a success! .. I can see at least 12 daily. They may be the same ones but I like to think I feed them all. Lol ..

I was thinking about adding red food coloring, so thank you for the tip!

I found this article looking for how to update my hummingbird feeder. Currently have a all the flowers around it .. non on them on the description, gonna try to look for them :) thanks

KathyJ on July 30, 2019:

I have ants all over my feeder, do the birds eat the ants too or do the ants just contaminate the food?

Aliza on June 16, 2019:

1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water. They love it

Laura on June 09, 2019:

I’ve been trying to attract humming birds to my feeder. I am getting a few, not a lot. How often should i change the sugar water if they do not drink it all in a timely manner?

Nancy on May 26, 2019:

Where’s the recipe? So much filler, can’t find the recipe!

Norma Dechene on May 14, 2019:

We live on the 18th floor of a high rise in the West End of Vancouver. We look west. I bought a feeder because the lady at the bird store said they would come this high. We have plant on the deck but not those recommended. Where I lived before there were always hummingbirds who came and even to the window if I hadn’t put in nectar for them. Great article but if didn’t solve my lack of Humming birds

Anne parker on May 10, 2019:

When my son was a toddler, he asked me, Mom, how high can a hummingbird fly?" All I could say was I knew that they could fly thousands of miles in distance. Really couldn't find an answer.

Mary on March 22, 2019:

Rented a house in Sun City for some spring training. Found a dusty old feeder in garage and decided to fill it. Found your recipe. Surprised there was no red food coloring but thought I’d see what happens. To my surprise one arrived within the first hour. Later 2 more (at once). Will try again when I get home to Wisconsin

Carol Rondo on September 17, 2018:

What a great & informative article! We have 3 hummingbirds that never leave in the winter with the others. In winter months we take the the screen out of our window and bring the feeder in. The hummingbirds are out there waiting when we put it back out in the morning!

Mary Beth Walkup on May 31, 2018:

Thanks for the fact filled article! We’ve recently moved to the Center Hill Lake Area and enjoy watching the hummingbirds from our deck. I had never heard about the red dye in commercial food being harmful. I will share this info and make mine from now on !

Peg Andrews on May 10, 2018:

On our trip to Alaska we ate at a restaurant where the main attraction was the humming

bird feeder area.....there were hundreds of them there‼️‼️‼️

Vin on May 06, 2018:

My aunt told me to put Vaseline on the shears hook to keep the ants from the feeder. It works well.

Ed Noehre on August 01, 2017:

A hummingbird got stuck in our garage yesterday. Most birds will stay at the roof line in a garage and cannot find their way out. Birds often get stuck in our big pole build and our garage so here is what I do to get them out: Do not chase them with a broom, a stick or anything else. That just terrifies them and stresses them out. Rather, put a low flat pan of water (pie plate) on a stool in the garage near the big overhead door so the direct or indirect sunlight will reflect off the water. If dehydrated they will come to the water and possibly fly out the door. Otherwise open all garage doors and windows. Remove screens of course. Leave the bird alone to calm down. It may take all day but as evening and darkness approaches the cool air entering the garage will lead the bird outside. I have had several dozen birds find their way outside this way. It works everytime. Even leaving just one window open works. Good luck.

Amy Heitman on July 22, 2017:

Please beware of the type of sugar you use. Make sure your sugar says CANE SUGAR. If it doesn't say CANE, it's probably beet sugar and not good for hummingbird feeders.

dan c. on July 10, 2017:

Very interesting reading...some I knew but a lot I didn't. I had not heard the story about migrating on the backs of geese..Interesting image. We tried and tried to use commercial feeding water - not successful. We changed to sugar water and saw the first hummingbird within hours. I now have some great close-up pics of hummingbirds. :-)

Bonnie Sweitzer on June 05, 2017:

Thanks for the interesting article. My feeder is late going up but at least I will entertain some on their way back south.

Sandy Stallbom on June 03, 2017:

I have heard that it is not good to feed hummingbirds with sugar water as it is not good for them and you should rather plant the flowers that attract them. Please let me know your thoughts on this

Gail Wallace on October 01, 2015:

I live close to the Mountains in Colorado. I have to feeder's by my windows. I love seeing the hummingbird's go from my feeder's to flower's in my yard. Also love watching them flying up to our water feature to wet themselves!!!!

We planted our yard to be hummingbird and bee friendly!

Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on April 28, 2014:

I live near Key West and I have them in my yard all the time. I keep two feeders up all the time.

KrisL from S. Florida on April 28, 2014:

Thanks for an interesting and useful hub. We don't see all that many hummers down in South Florida, though I would expect to see more with the year-round flowers.

I wonder what would happen if I put up a feeder.

daveshummers on November 18, 2013:

I put up a feeder last year and what a great experience. My hummingbird doesn't like to share the feeder and chases away all the hummers that try to feed, somestop for a quick drink and get away before being chased

SolveMyMaze on June 16, 2013:

Nice hub. We don't have hummingbirds in the UK as far as I know, but it's still an interesting read regardless. I did actually think that they would sing though before reading this hub. I suppose the hint that they chirp instead is in their name.

Eiddwen from Wales on May 16, 2013:

Interesting ,well informed and so useful so voting up for sure.

Voting up for sure and enjoy your day.

Eddy.

Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on May 15, 2013:

Thanks to everyone about your wonderful comments. They are appreciated. Hummingbirds are my favorite bird. I really appreciate everyones comments.

Faythe Payne from USA on May 15, 2013:

Thanks for the tips ..I have many humming birds here..they nest in my Japanese red maple tree..

Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on May 15, 2013:

Fabulous hub. Great info and pictures.

regards Zsuzsy

moonfairy on May 15, 2013:

I always anticipate the arrival of the hummingbirds in the spring. They're so awesome to watch!! Our table sits in front of a set of glass doors and the hummingbird feeder hangs over the edge of our deck railing right in our line of sight. I absolutely adore watching these tiny little birds =)

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on May 15, 2013:

Very well written and interesting article with some good useful information within it. Well done !

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 15, 2013:

Thanks for the reminder to put my hummingbird feeder outside! This was a lovely hub with beautiful photos and helpful tips (recipe, the cinnamon idea for ants). I am putting it to good use today!

Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on May 15, 2013:

Thanks to both you for great comments. They are appreciated.

Claudia Mitchell on May 15, 2013:

Beautiful photos here. We are just starting to see the hummingbirds come by here in NW Pennsylvania. I don't usually boil my sugar water mixture, but will definitely give it a try. Pinned for later use.

Silva Hayes from Spicewood, Texas on May 15, 2013:

Voted Up and Useful. I would like to add another plant that hummingbirds like. It grows well here in Texas: Gregg's salvia, or Salvia Greggii, one that has red blooms. We have large beds planted in both front and back yards and the hummingbirds come back every year to feed.

Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on May 15, 2013:

Thanks for the comment. And yes they are beautiful birds.

HendrikDB on May 15, 2013:

Very thorough hub! And what a beautiful bird!

Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on May 15, 2013:

Thanks for your comment. And yes they do help to pollinate a lot of flowers.

whonunuwho from United States on May 15, 2013:

Thanks for sharing this beautiful work, my friend and I always am amazed at the uniqueness of Humming Birds. The bird does as much as the bee in pollination. Fantastic hub. whonu

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