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How to Attract Hummingbirds and Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar

Learn how to make hummingbird nectar with this easy recipe. There’s something truly enchanting about these tiny, iridescent birds buzzing around the garden, don’t you agree?

By providing them with a food source, you can easily attract colorful hummers to your yard. When you make hummingbird nectar from scratch, you’re ensuring that you provide them with a safe food source that will keep them coming back for more.

Hummingbirds are known for their love of nectar, a sweet, energy-packed liquid that fuels their fast-paced flight. Making your own hummingbird food is not only inexpensive, but also allows you to have complete control over the ingredients you use.

A hummingbird at a feeder drinking nectar.

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By following our step-by-step instructions, you’ll learn how to create a homemade nectar solution that is free from additives, preservatives, and artificial coloring, ensuring the health and well-being of these incredible little birds

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.

Commercial Hummingbird nectar.

Instead, make your own hummingbird nectar. It’s easy and inexpensive, and all you need is water and refined sugar.

Audubon Society Hummingbird Nectar Formula

According to Audubon, “Plain white table sugar is sucrose, which, when mixed with water, very closely mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar.”

Perhaps, like me, you’re thinking that sugar water can’t possibly be a good thing to feed wild birds. 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.

Hummingbird at feeder.

You don’t need to add red food coloring, either, according to Audubon. Just use a brightly colored feeder to attract the hummers.

Real Life Note from Eliza: At the beginning of the season, I’ve found that adding a couple of drops of red food coloring to the mix attracted more hummingbirds here than when we filled the feeder with clear nectar.

Once the hummingbirds are in the habit of coming to the feeder regularly, I can stop adding the red coloring and keep the mixture clear.

How Often to Clean Your Hummingbird Feeder

Replace the hummingbird nectar weekly with a fresh new batch.

Clean the feeder completely with warm, soapy water and rinse well before filling. I use a soft sponge on the inside of the glass, and a scrub brush around the little flower openings when cleaning.

Designating a day of the week makes it easy to remember, so I always clean and change the nectar in the feeders on Wednesdays. I added a weekly reminder in my phone calendar, too.

My Favorite Hummingbird Feeder

This beautiful handblown glass feeder is bright and colorful, so it attracts hummingbirds without the need for artificial color in the nectar.

—> Check It Out

A blown glass hummingbird feeder with three hummingbirds.

13 Flowers Hummingbirds Like

Hummingbird at a flower.
Photo: Monkeystyle3000

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:

Perennials:

  • Bee balms
  • Columbines
  • Coneflowers
  • Daylilies
  • Delphiniums
  • Lupines
  • Salvia

Biennials:

  • Foxgloves
  • Hollyhocks

Annuals:

  • Cleomes
  • Impatiens
  • Petunias
  • Zinnias

If you want to take a deeper dive into hummingbird watching, check out Audubon’s mobile app where you can learn more about hummingbirds and share your own sightings and observations.

I also like to record when the first hummingbirds arrive each year in my garden journal, so I can have the feeders up and ready for them.

Hummingbird Food Recipe

Here’s the easy recipe for homemade hummingbird food:

A hummingbird at a feeder drinking nectar.

Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar

Eliza Cross
Learn how to make the Audubon-recommended recipe for hummingbird nectar, and attract more hummingbirds to your feeders and flowers.
5 from 4 votes
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Materials

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup refined white sugar

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Make a new batch of hummingbird nectar weekly. Clean the feeder completely with warm, soapy water and rinse well before filling. 
This recipe can easily be doubled or multiplied as needed. Extra hummingbird nectar can be refrigerated in a tightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks. Allow the nectar to come to room temperature before filling feeders.
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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?

Drop a comment below about your experiences!

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is the author of 17 books, including Small Bites and 101 Things To Do With Bacon. She shares ideas to simplify cooking, gardening, time and money. She is also the owner of Cross Media, Inc. and founder of the BENSA Bacon Lovers Society.

3 thoughts on “How to Attract Hummingbirds and Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar”

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks so much for this easy recipe for hummingbird food!! It’s cooling on the stove now, ready to go into my new feeder!

    Reply

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