Hummingbirds are awesome! Tiny flying powerhouses whose wings can beat in courtship up to 200 times PER SECOND! That takes lots of energy. Hummingbirds are expert level pollinators, insect eaters, and are just so darned cute. If you’re looking to attract these flying jewels to your own yard and give them the best hummingbird food recipe possible, you’ve come to the right place. It’s VERY EASY to make at home and 100% “birder approved” to be safe for our diminutive friends. There’s lots of good information here, including how to take care of your hummingbird feeder to keep them coming back. If you’re in the market for a hummingbird feeder for your garden, check out our guide to the Best Hummingbird Feeders to Attract Hummers to Your Yard.
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Research has shown that we can help supplement their nectar-rich diet by providing hummingbird feeders and hummingbird-friendly natural plants to keep them happy and coming back for many more visits. I’ll be the first to admit it…I’m a “little” bit obsessed by hummingbirds. I know, so hard to believe I’d spend hours camping outside to catch the perfect photo…even getting stung by a bee on the face while trying to get just a tiny bit closer to my teeny pals! Ouch! But observing hummingbirds in your own yard is a treat for the whole family…and even worth a bee sting!
What Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hovering in the air and darting from flower to flower definitely burns up some calories. A ruby-throated hummingbird’s heart beats from 225 times per minute when the bird is at rest to more than 1,200 times per minute when it is flying! Not only do these little fellas need to eat up to half of their entire body weight every day, but they also visit 1,000 -2,000 flowers daily while feeding every 10-15 minutes!
Small insects and sweet nectar from flowering plants are their main diet staples. Some northern varieties even sneak into the wells of sapsucker woodpeckers to nip a taste of sugary sweetness. Hummingbirds have a long, grooved tongue which they use to sip their liquid food at a rate of up to 13 licks per second.
What is the Proper Sugar-to-Water Ratio for Hummingbird Feeders?
As a pharmacist, I was taught the importance of measuring accurately and I’ve read just about everything on the proper ratio of ingredients to give the best hummingbird food recipe – so here it is! The consensus from trusted sources like the National Audubon Society and Wild Birds is to use a 1 part sugar to 4 parts water ratio as the perfect hummingbird food recipe.
Our goal is to as closely approximate flower nectar sweetness as possible to keep the hummingbirds healthy and happy. Natural plant nectar has an average sugar content of about 26 percent. But the nectar can’t be too thick or sticky or the hummingbird won’t be able to use their tube-like tongue to sip it up. That’s why this is the best hummingbird food recipe!
What Do You Need To Make Hummingbird Food?
First, you’ll want to assemble the kitchen items you’ll need to make hummingbird nectar.
- Measuring Cup for Water
- Measuring Scoop for Sugar
- Small pan for boiling
- Hummingbird Feeder
**It’s very important that you only use refined white cane sugar. Organic, natural or raw sugar contains iron that can be harmful to hummingbirds. Honey, guava nectar, stevia, or other sweeteners can ferment into a toxic mess for the birds. A simple white sugar mixture is perfect.
Best Hummingbird Food Recipe
Once you’ve assembled your kitchen items, it’s just a few more steps!
- Mix 1 part sugar to 4 parts water in a small pan on the stove and bring to a boil. (It’s important to boil the mixture together because it helps the sugar dissolve more completely into solution and the heat from boiling can kill any bacteria or mold that could be harmful to the hummers.)
- Take off heat and allow to cool. Stir gently to be sure all the sugar is dissolved.
- Place in a clean hummingbird feeder and hang outside.
- Store the remaining hummingbird nectar in the refrigerator.
Should I Use Red Food Coloring to Attract Hummingbirds?
Red food coloring is not necessary and may be harmful to their tiny bodies. Natural nectar is clear. A colorful feeder is enough to encourage their visits. While hummingbirds are attracted to red, they also enjoy other colors, too. (see below!) You’ll see some forms of commercially available hummingbird nectar that still contains red coloring deemed safe for human consumption by the FDA, but hummingbirds are much smaller and their physiology is different. I would not recommend adding anything at all to the pure simple sugar hummingbird food recipe above.
Fun Hummingbird Facts
- The average life span of a hummingbird is 5 years, but they have been known to live for more than 10 years.
- The bee hummingbird, found in Cuba, weighs only 1.95 grams and is considered the world’s smallest bird.
- Hummingbirds fly at an average speed of 25-30 miles per hour, and are able to dive up to 50 miles per hour.
- Hummingbirds can visit 1000-2000 flowers a day and remember every flower they’ve sipped from.
- Some hummingbirds will travel over 2,000 miles twice a year during their migration.
Taking Care of the Hummingbird Feeder
When a new hummingbird feeder full of sugary goodness is introduced to the yard, the hummers aren’t the only ones who get excited. Often you’ll find the feeder attracts unwanted ants, bees, or wasps. Here are a few tips on taking care of your hummingbird feeder and avoiding the pests.
- During cooler months, change the hummingbird nectar every 3-5 days. In the summer, change it every other day or as soon as the water begins to look cloudy.
- Check for mold in the feeder often, it will appear grey or black. Use a 50/50 solution of vinegar and warm water to safely clean the feeder. Rinse and let it dry thoroughly before hanging back up.
- When wasps, bees, or hornets are a problem, it might be time to try a new type of hummingbird feeder. Saucer-type feeders position the nectar away from the feeding port where long-tongued hummers can reach the nectar, but insects cannot.
- Bees and wasps really like the color yellow. Avoid feeders with yellow insect guards or flower accents so your feeder will be less attractive to insects.
- If ants are a problem, first try a dab of plain Vaseline on the hanging hooks – not on the feeder itself – as it’s important that petroleum-based products don’t get on delicate hummer wings.
- If ants are still a problem, you could try an inexpensive ant moat or bug guard to keep the pests away. Ant moats work by by creating a small but impenetrable wall of water between the feeder and the ants. These are effective, but can be messy and must be refilled frequently. Bug guards like BugSnub use a USDA food-grade gel (applied seasonally) that insects can’t walk across. These are very safe and effective.
Best of luck with your beautiful hummingbirds! I’ve put together a list of a few of my favorite hummingbird feeders below and if I can answer any questions about these little jewels, please let me know!