Are you interested in hummingbird nectar recipes, so you can create fresh batches of nectar for your regular backyard visitors? There are several recipes that can be found online, but many of them are lacking the right nutrients a hummingbird needs to fuel their bodies and allow them to take to the skies at lightning speeds. I’ve included the traditional nectar diet recipe, in addition to some variations that you’ll want to avoid. I’ll walk you through the process of whipping a fresh batch of nectar and how to do it right and create a nectar that your regular hummingbird visitors will adore.
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Traditional Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
This is your standard sugar water for hummingbirds. The recipe consists of four parts warm water and one part granulated sugar. The water should be warm in order to make it easier to dissolve the sugar and prevent the sugar from settling at the bottom of the bowl. To prepare, you’ll also need a spoon and a large glass or bowl.
In a glass or bowl, you’ll combine the sugar with the warm water and mix it until the sugar has totally dissolved. And that’s it. You can use this mixture in your hummingbird feeders and store any leftovers in a sealed container. This entire process will take just five minutes.
This recipe will provide some of the following benefits:
- Affordable alternative to commercial powdered hummingbird nectar
- Mimics the natural taste of the nectar found in nature
- Easy to make
By finding the best place to put a hummingbird feeder in your yard, you can easily attract new visitors. If you get enough visitors, you can anticipate refilling your feeders a few times a week. If you have any leftovers after you’ve filled all of your feeders, store it in a sealed container in your fridge. Sugar water can begin fermenting in a matter of days, so it’s important that you remember to dump out any sugar water in the feeders and your fridge, after a few days. You may need to change it out every couple of days if the feeders are in direct sunlight and you’re experiencing temperatures above ninety degrees.
The natural nectar that’s found in flowers is mainly made out of a sucrose solution. Fortunately, granulated sugar is also made out of sucrose, so when it’s mixed with the right amount of water, the taste will closely resemble the nectar that’s found in nature.
Avoid experimenting with the recipe and don’t use any type of artificial sweetener or another type of sugar other than granulated. Only stick with plain granulated sugar and use the correct ratio for best results.
You may have heard that you have to dye the nectar red in order to attract hummingbirds. But if you used the best hummingbird feeder, it will be colored a bright red, so there’s no need to dye the mixture. Scientists believe many of the dyes used in commercial nectars can potentially be toxic to these birds. While research is ongoing and there’s no solid proof that can say whether or not the dyes can lead to serious health problems in hummingbirds, I recommend avoiding the use of any type of dye. Instead, purchase a brightly colored hummingbird feeder, which will work to attract these birds, if it’s placed in a safe, highly visible location.
There are many commercial hummingbird nectar products sold in stores and online. These products contain roughly the same water and sucrose ratios, the only real difference is the addition of red dye.
Changing Out Nectar
As I mentioned earlier, the hotter the weather, the faster the nectar will spoil and start to ferment. How long the nectar remains fresh will depend on the humidity, heat, and if your hummingbird feeder is hung in the sun or in the shade.
Below, you’ll find some basic guidelines that can help you determine when it’s time to replace the nectar:
- Temperatures above ninety degrees-two to three days
- Cool weather, feeder placed in the shade-four days
- Stored in a sealed container in the fridge-five to seven days
Follow these guidelines throughout the year and remember to replace the nectar promptly. If a hummingbird drinks spoiled nectar, they will not return to your yard. Check your feeders daily to look for any signs of fermentation or mold growth. Depending on where you live and the season, you may find that you have to fill the feeders several times a week.
Signs of Spoiled Nectar
Clean, fresh homemade nectar should be clear and look like plain clean water. Avoiding the use of red dye will make it easier to determine if the nectar has spoiled. When nectar is spoiled, it’s no longer suitable for birds.
If the nectar is bad, it will have:
- Milky or cloudy discoloration
- White or black specks
- Strong sour scent
- Fungus or mold growing inside or around the feeding ports and feeding reservoir
- Drowned or floating insects inside the reservoir
- Crystallized or sticky residue around the feeding ports
- The biggest indicator that the nectar has spoiled will be a lack of birds hanging out around the feeder. Once nectar has gone bad, a hummingbird will steer clear of it. Some birds may resort to drinking the spoiled nectar if they’re unable to find another food source. But in most cases, a hummingbird will not visit a feeder once it detects the smell of spoilage. If you notice that no hummingbirds are visiting your feeder, check the nectar, clean the hummingbird feeder, and refill it.
If you find that you’re throwing out more nectar and not receiving many visitors, you can make smaller batches of the nectar and avoid waste.
Adding Honey to Nectar
This is actually a thing. Some people take it upon themselves to experiment with the hummingbird nectar recipe and think adding honey will attract more birds. Hummingbirds do not eat honey, they eat nectar. Honey has a much higher sugar content compared to nectar. This means if the hummingbird drinks the nectar it can potentially make them sick since their bodies are not able to handle such a high sugar content. Please refrain from experimenting with the formula in order to prevent illness and possible death. Aside from the higher sugar content in honey, it also ferments rapidly, which can also make birds sick. When a hummingbird feeds on spoiled nectar it can lead to a serious infection that causes their tongues to swell. The tongue will swell to the point that the bird is unable to fit it back into their bill. Unfortunately, this often results in a slow and painful death.
What Else Do Hummingbirds Eat?
You may be surprised to learn that hummingbirds don’t solely live on nectar. A hummingbird will get their protein by eating small spiders and insects. To drive your hummingbirds crazy, you can lure fruit flies to your yard by using an overly ripe banana and placing it outdoors in a spot that’s highly visible to hummingbirds. The old overly ripe fruit is going to attract a lot of fruit flies, which will attract hummingbirds and give them a nice healthy snack.
The Truth About Nectar Recipes
The nectar recipes you come across will mainly consist of the same two ingredients-sugar and water. The preparation steps may vary slightly. As an example, one recipe may call for you to boil the water, while another will suggest using hot water to make dissolving the sugar easier. Some birders also believe that boiled water is safer, but tap water is perfectly fine, especially considering this is the water that fills birdbaths and other types of water features in the yard.
Steer clear of any recipes that call for any extra ingredients aside from sugar and water. Avoid using dyes, honey, or fresh fruit. This is a very simple recipe and one that can easily be prepared, stored, and even frozen, and defrosted when needed.
Making your own nectar to feed hummingbirds can be a great project for you and the kids. You can hang up a feeder close to your kitchen window and watch as hummingbirds quickly fly in and out for a bite, on and off throughout the day. You can teach the kids a lot about the common hummingbirds in North America, and how to identify the species that visit your feeders. Following one of these hummingbird recipes isn’t just a fun project for you and the kids, but it will also ensure you’re feeding your backyard birds the proper diet, providing them with the fuel they need for migration, challenging weather conditions, and more. Like any animal, the proper diet can have a positive impact on a bird’s health, energy level, and overall well-being.