Love hummingbirds? This sugar water recipe has the right proportions to match the nectar hummingbirds find in the wild.
Waiting for the annual migration? We have a live hummingbird migration map here tracking their journey through the United States and Canada.
Hummingbird Sugar Water
The hummingbird food we pour into our feeders is simply white granulated sugar and water.
It is very important to get the ratio right (listed below) so it mimics the amount of sugar found in the flower nectar hummingbirds have co-evolved with.
Hummingbird Sugar Water Recipe
- 1-part white granulated sugar | 4 parts clean, boiled water
- White granulated sugar (the same kind you use for baking)
Do NOT Use:
- Brown sugar
- Sugar powders
- Red dye or red food coloring
- Organic, natural, and raw sugars (can be too high in iron)
- Artificial sweetener
These items can cause a range of problems including bird illness, rapid bacteria and fungi growth, and the potential spread of disease.
- Clean, boiled water.
1 Have hummingbird feeders clean and ready. There is more info on this below.
2 Add 1-part sugar and 4-parts water to saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Tiny Batch: 1/8 cup sugar: 1/2 cup water
- Small Batch: 1/4 cup sugar: 1 cup water
- Medium Batch: 1/2 cup sugar: 2 cups water
- Large Batch: 1 cup sugar: 4 cups water
3 Allow mixture to gently boil for at least 5 minutes to completely dissolve sugar.
4 Leave mixture to cool to room temperature before adding to feeder.
5 Place any leftover mixture in jar with tight lid and store in fridge up to 5 days. Mark expiry date on jar.
Helpful Hummingbird Info
1 What do hummingbirds eat?
Hummingbirds eat insects and consume natural nectar from flowering plants.
They do not require the sugar water we provide to survive but it can help to supplement their diets.
2 Any tips for choosing a hummingbird feeder?
When choosing a feeder, I look for:
- Small sugar water bottle or tank area.
Sugar water spoils quickly—the hotter the weather, the faster it spoils—so I like to use small feeders and change them frequently rather than feeders with large bottles that will not get used up.
- Easy to clean: can everything come apart and be scrubbed clean?
- Perch for hummingbirds to rest while dining (to conserve energy).
- Durability: if the feeder has a dispenser bottle, I prefer glass to plastic which tends to be short-lived and gets old-looking.
- Hook for hanging
Also, if you find a feeder you really like, buy a few! I rarely see my favorites year after year so I stock up when I can.
3 How do hummingbirds find feeders?
- Hummingbirds find feeders by sight and that is why red feeders—the same color as some of their favorite nectar flowers— are a helpful signal to them that nectar may be available.
- Hummingbirds have minimal or no sense of smell so it’s a myth that they smell the sugar.
4 How can I attract hummingbirds?
- First, be sure they do live in your area. There are parts of Canada and the United States where they do not visit.
- Create a hummingbird-friendly garden.
- Garden organically without pesticides, herbicides, and any other harmful chemicals.
- Grow plants hummingbirds like.
- Provide nesting and resting habitat with trees and shrubs.
- Make your hummingbird feeders visible from above: don’t place them on a covered patio where the birds might never discover them.
- Keep cats and dogs out of garden (if you can).
5 How often should I change the sugar water?
- Sugar water does not stay fresh very long.
It lasts just 4-5 days in the refrigerator and can spoil quickly outside depending on how hot it is.
- I find it needs changing every second day in moderate weather (70°F | 21°C) and twice daily on hot days (90°F | 32°C).
If we have a heat wave, I take the feeders down because they will go moldy.
6 How can I keep ants off my hummingbird feeder?
- Suspend your hummingbird feeder from a hook so the only physical way to for ant to reach it is via the hook.
- And, use an ant moat. These are little cups of water that suspend a hook, with a hanger on the underside to suspend the feeder.
The ants will stop at the hook because they cannot swim across the cup of water to continue their journey.
7 How do you clean a hummingbird feeder?
Start with feeders that are easy to clean. Some of them are terrible!
There are two steps to cleaning a feeder after emptying it:
1. Wash in mild soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
2. Soak in a solution of 1-part household bleach and 9-parts water for at least two minutes.
3. Rinse and dry thoroughly before reuse.
Enjoy those dear little birds and be sure to clean your feeders regularly to keep it safe and healthy for them.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛