I always love hearing the thrilling, trilling sound of the first hummingbirds here in Colorado. According to Audubon, hummingbirds beat their strong, tiny wings 90 times per second. Their energetic metabolisms burn up calories fast, which is why they typically eat half of their weight in bugs and nectar every day and visit 1,000 to 2,000 flowers a day.
We hang a feeder in the shade garden, and if we’re quiet we can watch the hummers stop by for a drink throughout the summer. The stores have commercial hummingbird nectar on the shelves right now, but a quick look at the ingredients list reveals that the mixture is mostly water and sugar enhanced with red dye #40 and chemical preservatives.
Instead, make your own hummingbird nectar. It’s easy and inexpensive, and all you need is water and refined sugar. According to Audubon, “Plain white table sugar is sucrose, which, when mixed with water, very closely mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar.”
I was tempted to make homemade nectar with a healthier ingredient than refined sugar — honey or raw sugar, for instance. But Audubon says NO — plain ole’ refined sugar is best since raw and organic sugars contain higher levels of iron that could be harmful to the birds, and honey can promote “dangerous fungal growth.” Goodness knows I always try to avoid that.
You don’t need to add red food coloring, either. Just use a brightly colored feeder to attract the hummers. Here’s how to make a batch of nectar, and you can increase the quantities depending on how much you need:
Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
1 cup water
1/4 cup refined white sugar
In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before filling feeder. Change nectar weekly.
Flowers Hummingbirds Like
You can also attract hummingbirds to your garden or yard by planting nectar-rich flowers.
Look for blossoms in bright colors, which are more attractive to hummingbirds than light pastel hues. Tubular-shaped flowers tend to contain more nectar. Here are some varieties that are especially attractive to hummers:
- Bee balms
How About You?
Does your garden attract hummingbirds? Do you have a feeder? Do you grow any special flowers in your garden that the hummers especially like?
If you want to take a deeper dive with hummingbird watching, check out Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home website and app where you can sign up to share your own sightings and observations.