Food For Hummingbirds: Top 3 Best Recipes

8 mins read
Image by ~☮Rigs Rocks☮~ on Flickr

Hummingbirds are little tiny creatures belonging to the avian family. Nectar is the most common food for hummingbirds. They are unique among all as hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backward as well as forwards. They prefer flowering plants producing nectar with higher sugar concentrations.

Hummingbirds bring elegance and their bright colors look mesmerizing to the eye. Hummingbirds adapt themselves very easily to their surrounding environment. They count among some of the most beautiful birds with pugnacious, jewel-like attractive features.

How Are Hummingbirds Classified Scientifically?

Hummingbirds are native Americans and belong to the biological family Trochilidae. They are small birds with over 360 species found in varied tropical regions. Hummingbirds mostly feed on flower nectars in their natural habitat. They might also consume flying insects or small spiders.

Scientifically, hummingbirds are classified into:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Apodiformes
  • Family: Trochilidae
Beautiful hummingbirds
Photo by Juhani Viitanen on Flickr / all rights reserved 2017

Hummingbirds are called so because of the constant humming sound created by their beating and rapidly flapping wings. When food is scarce, hummingbirds can go into a hibernation state resulting in slowing their metabolic rate to 1/15 of its normal rate.

How To Make Homemade Food For Hummingbirds?

Hummingbird food
Photo by Robert Scott on Flickr / all rights reserved 2013

Recipe 1:

Ingredients Needed:

  • Refined white sugar
  • Water


  1. Mix 1 sugar cup with 4 cups of water
  2. Continue the process until the sugar gets dissolved.
  3. Fill the hummingbird feeders with it and place them inside the cage (for pets) or simply outside (for not tamed ones)

Recipe 2:

Ingredients Needed:

  • White granulated sugar
  • Water


  1. Boil 4 cups of water
  2. Add 1 cup of white granulated sugar to the boiling water
  3. Stir it well until the sugar gets dissolved
  4. Boil the mixture for 2 minutes
  5. Let it cool
  6. Pour the mixture into clean hummingbird feeders.

Recipe 3:

Ingredients Needed:

  • White table sugar (used for baking)
  • Warm water
  • Bowl or glass
  • Spoon


  1. Add 1 cup of white table sugar in the bowl or glass
  2. Pour 4 cups of warm water until the sugar dissolves in it
  3. Mix well using the spoon

Follow the above nectar recipes and also create a garden with flowers producing natural nectar to attract hummingbirds.

Hummingbird feeders
Photo by Happy Shuttering (Ruth) Off/On on Flickr / all rights reserved 2018

Sugar To Water: Correct Sugar  Ratio

The sugar to water ratio in food for hummingbirds must always be 1:4 i.e 1 part of sugar must be mixed with 4 parts of water until the solute is dissolved in the solvent. Do not add red dye at any cost. This will only cause harm to the hummingbirds.

Keys Points To Remember:

  • Adding red dye to the mixture is a bad choice
  • Hummingbird feeders must be changed and cleaned thoroughly every day and especially in warm weather to prevent harmful mold growth.
  • Leftover extra sugar water must be stored in a refrigerator
  • Changing the nectar from time to time is extremely crucial
  • Avoid using honey or corn syrup
  • Raw and natural sugars contain too much iron in them that cause harm to hummingbird health. Thus, avoid using them.

Food For Hummingbirds: Don’ts

  • Artificial sweeteners: Hummingbirds do not need to watch their sugar intake quantity. So, never use artificial sweeteners as it may affect their health. Regular sugar is enough when making nectar for them.
  • Honey or molasses: Honey or molasses are also potentially bad for hummingbirds as they create room for bacterial and mold growth.
  • Chilli oil or powder: Hummingbirds are strictly nectar eaters and anything else might affect their health. Thus, elements that are not common to their diet must therefore be avoided. Hence, food for hummingbirds must not contain such ingredients

What Are Some Of The Naturally Available Food For Hummingbirds?

Hummingbird sucking nectar
Photo by Minder Cheng on Flickr / all rights reserved 2013

Hummingbirds eat numerous varieties of insects for nutrition. These include mosquitoes, fruit flies, gnats in flight, or aphids on leaves and even spiders in their webs. Hummingbirds have a flexible lower beak that can bend up to 25 degrees making a wider and much larger surface area for catching insects.

Nectar can be a go-to food for hummingbirds. Nectar from certain flowers counts among the most common food energy supplies taken in by hummingbirds. Hummingbirds generally prefer flowers with a high concentration of sugar and reject the ones which produce less than 10% sugar.

Nectar is a sweet liquid involving higher concentrations of glucose, fructose, and sucrose and a poor concentration of other nutrients. Thus, insects meet their nutritional needs by the consumption of certain small insects.

Food For Hummingbirds: Their Favourite Flowers

Create the perfect environment for hummingbirds with brightly coloured and nectar producing flowers. Tubular flowers hold the most nectar and are attractive to the eye.

Some of the flowers that attract them and can work wonderfully as food for hummingbirds  are:

  • Bee balms
  • Columbines
  • Daylilies
  • Lupines
  • Biennials like foxgloves and hollyhocks
  • Cleomes
  • Impatiens
  • Petunias

Learn amazing facts about Colorado State Flower here

Tips To Attract Hummingbirds At Home

Beautiful hummingbirds
Photo by Lars Jacobson on Flickr / all rights reserved 2017

Enrich your garden with colorful and nectar-rich flowers to attract hummingbirds. You can carry on your mission from summer to fall (autumn). Hummingbirds are attracted by flowers like Russian sage, bee balm, and sunflowers the most until frost. Ensuring that there is food for hummingbirds in abundance will lead those hummingbirds to your garden.

Hummingbirds Have Flexible Beaks

Hummingbirds have long, thin, needle-like beaks. Different species of hummingbirds have different beak sizes and shapes, each unique for individuals. They seek out nectar in flowers that are suitable concerning the sizes of their beak.

Hummingbird Beaks: Used For Sucking Nectar Or Not!

Most people still believe that hummingbirds use their beaks like a straw to suck up nectar. Well, this is not true at all. The beak is just a protective sheath to protect its tongue. A hummingbird tongue is fork-like with hairs all over it and is thus used for sucking nectar out of the flower. This process is called capillary action. There is no suction involved in the procedure and two ” troughs ” simply soak the nectar upwards.

Once the nectar is drawn, hummingbirds retreat the tongue back to the month and take the nectar down the throat. The process continues 3 to 13 times per second which eventually looks as if they are licking or lapping up the nectar.

What Are The Qualities Your Hummingbird Feeders Must Have?

  • It should be sturdy and reliable
  • It must have a lot of red on it. Red attracts hummingbirds
  • It should also be easy to wash
  • It must be efficient with a relevant price tag
  • Lastly, hummingbird feeders must hang

How To Attract Hummingbirds Towards Your Feeders?

Hummingbird feeder
Photo by Paul Chambers on Flickr / all rights reserved 2011

These tiny birds can be easily attracted to your yard by accomplishing some simple steps and providing them with necessities i.e food and water.

Here are some of the guaranteed methods to attract hummingbirds:

  • Red attracts hummingbirds. Thus, display as much red as possible. Growing red flowers, displaying red feeders as well as hanging red ribbons will increase your chances of attracting hummingbirds
  • Do supply a water source for them
  • Along with nectar, also hang insects as protein feeders
  • Plant as many trees as possible along with tall shrubs
  • Keep track of the nectar and change often. Especially when there is even the slightest display of mold in it.
  • Keep distance among your hanged feeders if you wish to expand your hummingbird territory.
  • Never use any coloring reagent, artificial sweeteners, honey, and corn syrup. These are harmful to hummingbird health.
  • Clean your feeders often and frequently during summers.
  • Bee resistant feeders are most recommended

Hummingbirds have a high demand for nectar due to their fast metabolic reaction. If you fulfill this need, hummingbirds will surely be attracted to your yard. Researchers confirm that these tiny little birds are loyal and return to their same old habitat after a year faithfully if it satisfies their demands. They do not have a strong sense of smell but have an extraordinary sight which helps them attract beautiful and colorful flowers. Red feeders filled with nectar can never go wrong.

Hummingbirds have a huge appetite and consume a lot of nectar altogether. Thus, a garden that fulfills all of its demands will always receive loads of hummingbirds every year. They need nectar and protein for survival as they use nectar for energy.

Feeders must be hung in open spaces so that they are easily detected. Red ribbons will always help attract them initially. If you want to attract more hummingbirds or hummingbirds in huge quantities, hand the feeders far apart. Hummingbirds are territorial and tend to not share their feeders with others. Thus, hang feeders in huge numbers and remember to hang them far apart.

Why Do Hummingbirds Consume Nectar?

Hummingbirds primarily consume nectar for survival. Due to their fast metabolism, hummingbirds need the energy to stay alive. Hence, they consume twice their body weight of fresh nectar. For other survival needs, they consume small insects that supply them with proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

How To Clean Hummingbird Feeders?

Rinse your hummingbird feeders with very hot water. Clean the nectar refills properly. You can also use a mild soap or detergent but make sure to remove any leftover soap residue.

A designated hummingbird bottle brush may come in handy for a much detailed cleaning. You can also use a toothbrush with tiny bristles to clean the same.

Soaking the feeder in stronger disinfectants, such as hydrogen peroxide or vinegar at least once a month is also essential and beneficial at the same time. You can also use diluted bleach water under harsh circumstances such as when gnarly black mold grows inside of it.

How To Use Vinegar To Clean Feeders?

  1. Mix 1 cup of vinegar with 2 cups of water in a bucket.
  2. Allow the feeder to soak in the water for an hour or so
  3. Wash it clean

How To Use Chlorine Bleach Water To Clean The Feeders?

  1. Mix 1 cup of bleach with 10 cups of water
  2. Allow the feeder to soak for about 15 minutes
  3. Wash it clean

How To Use Hydrogen Peroxide To Clean A Hummingbird Feeder?

  1. Soak the hummingbird feeder in undiluted 3% household strength hydrogen peroxide for 10 to 15 minutes
  2. Wash it clean

Note: Remember to never combine bleach and vinegar

Humm-Bug Insect Feeder

Humm-Bug Insect Feeder is a new protein feeder that has come recently in the market. It comes with the brilliant idea to hold banana peels to attract insects that feed on those peels. If these insect attracting feeders are displayed near nectar feeders, hummingbirds will also have insects to consume and fulfill their protein and vitamin needs.

Hummingbirds Have High Metabolism

Hummingbirds are vulnerable to starvation as their metabolic rate is very high. They do not waste their energy by flying all day and rather spend most of their time sitting or perching. They consume about twice their weight in nectar if it comprises 25% sugar. Having small sizes and high metabolic rates, they digest rapidly. They keep track of previously visited flowers during nectar foraging. Hummingbirds have a spatial memory which helps them facilitate these maps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to select good quality feeders?

Good quality feeders ensure safety for hummingbirds.

Should one use tap water while making hummingbird nectar?

Tap water should be used only after boiling. Boiling will remove all the impurities and kill the bacterias present in the water.

Can we use unprocessed sugars?

Granulated white or simply regular table sugar or white cane sugar is mostly recommended among all. Unprocessed sugar should not be used as it can result in harmful health problems.

Can we use commercial nectar?

Many people simply purchase commercial nectar. But, we must beware of the fact that commercial nectar consists of artificial red dye or food colouring and other additives. Artificial red dye can be very harmful to hummingbirds.

Should we store extra sugar water in a refrigerator?

Yes, extra sugar water can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If you notice even the slightest growth of molds in the mixture, you must replace it with a new batch of nectar.

How often should we clean hummingbird feeders?

Hummingbird bird feeders must be cleaned every day or at least twice during summers and once during winters.

If I want to put my hummingbird feeders in outdoor spaces, where should I hang them?

It is recommended to place your hummingbird feeders in low activity areas. Place them close to trees and hang them in the branches of the trees.

Why is red dye bad for hummingbird nectar?

Red dye is harmful to hummingbird health as it contains certain harmful chemicals with zero nutritional value and is therefore not recommended. Also, most hummingbird feeders are red so the dye isn’t very crucial.


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