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How to Make Hummingbird Food

Three Parts:Making Hummingbird NectarPreventing Mold and FermentationGiving Your Nectar a Boost

We can all admit it--hummingbirds are magical creatures. They seemingly dance on the air, zipping around like tiny cheetahs with wings. Attract these beauties by hanging your own feeder filled with homemade hummingbird food. Follow these steps to tempt those little birds to stay awhile in your backyard.

Part 1
Making Hummingbird Nectar

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    Make a rich sugar solution to attract hummingbirds to your yard. The sugary sweet mixture will encourage visiting hummingbirds to stay in the area. High-energy food is also important for hummingbirds in the spring because it helps to replenish the energy reserves that hummingbirds use up during migration.[1]
    • Avoid buying nutrient-enhanced hummingbird nectar. It will cost you money that you don’t need to spend, and the hummingbirds won’t really benefit either. Hummingbirds get all of the nutrients they need from natural flower nectar and the insects that they eat--the sugar mixture you are providing is a quick pick-me-up for them (similar to a cup of coffee for us) when they are flying around and feeling tired.[2]
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    Mix a solution of 1 part white, granulated sugar and 4 parts warm water. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cane sugar is a sucrose that falls into the carbohydrate family. Carbs are easily digested and give the hummingbirds the immediate energy they need to keep those little wings flapping.
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    Boil the sugar water for 1 to 2 minutes. Boiling the mixture will slow down any bacterial growth that may occur. Boiling the water will also get rid of any extra chlorine that might be in your tap water (which in turn could harm the little hummers.)[3] It is not necessary to boil the solution if you are only making a small amount of food for immediate use.
    • If you do not boil the mixture, you will need to change the food every 1 to 2 days or else bacteria may grow in the mixture that could harm the hummingbirds.
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    Do not add any dye to the food. Though hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, red dyes have been known to harm hummingbirds. Natural hummingbird food (nectar) is odorless and clear--there is no need to add dye to your homemade hummer food.[4]
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    Store the hummingbird food until you are ready to use it. Keep the food in the refrigerator. If you make a large batch of the food, you can keep the extra amount in the fridge until your feeder is empty. This will save you time when refilling your feeder.
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    Pick the right feeder. Red feeders are the best because the color red attracts hummingbirds. You should hang your feeder in a shady spot if possible because the nectar will stay fresh longer when it is in the shade. Hang your feeder in your garden if you have one. Hang your feeder near a window (but far out of the reach of cats) to be able to enjoy these beautiful little birds.[5]
    • Some hummingbird enthusiasts say that you should only hang a feeder near a window if you have cut outs of birds on the glass so as to keep the hummingbirds from flying into the glass and potentially injuring themselves.[6]

Part 2
Preventing Mold and Fermentation

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    Know that your food can cause harm if left to ferment or mold. When your sugar mixture turns cloudy, it needs to be replaced. Yeasts eat sugar, causing fermentation that could potentially harm a hummingbird. A warm, sugary mixture is also a great place for mold and bacteria to grow.
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    Check your feeder for black mold as often as you can. If possible, check your feeder every other day. Keeping an eye on your feeder will keep any harm from coming to the hummingbirds. If you find mold, mix ¼ cup of bleach in a gallon of water. Soak the feeder for an hour in this bleach mixture. Scrub any mold off and then rinse the feeder thoroughly before refilling it.[7]
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    Clean your feeder before your refill it. Flush the feeder with hot tap water. Do not use soap--hummingbirds do not like the taste that soap leaves behind and will avoid your feeder if it has soap residue.
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    Change the food in the feeders regularly. Be aware that the amount of time you can leave hummingbird food outside depends on the temperature in which the feeder is hung in.[8]
    • If temperatures are 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 26 C), change the food every 5 to 6 days.
    • When temperatures are 81 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 30 C), change the food every 2 to 4 days.
    • If the thermometer tops 91 degrees Fahrenheit (32 C), change the food daily.

Part 3
Giving Your Nectar a Boost

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    Decide on the potency of the food. Decrease the amount of sugar concentration in the food after a couple of weeks. Doing this will increase the activity at your feeder. One part sugar to five parts water, or one part sugar to four parts water will dilute the mixture. When the mixture is more diluted, the hummingbirds have to come back more often. [9]
    • Do not make the mixture any weaker than 1 part sugar to 5 parts water. If the food has less sugar than this, the hummingbirds will expend more energy flying to and from the feeder than they will be able to replenish by eating the food.
    • You want to make the food strong enough that you do not constantly have to fill the feeders, but not so strong that the birds visit infrequently and you don't get to see them. Making food that is incredibly high in sugar will give the hummingbirds a high amount of energy, allowing them to go longer before eating again (so they won’t be visiting your feeder as much.)
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    Plant flowers that hummingbirds like. If you have tried different mixtures but there are still no hummingbirds using your feeder, plant flowers that will attract hummingbirds.
    • Here are plants that hummingbirds like[10]: Bee Balm, Phlox, Lupine, Hollyhock, Red-Hot Poker, Columbine, Coral Bells, Foxglove, Cardinal Flower, Lantana, Salvia, Butterfly Bush, Rose of Sharon, Trumpet Vine, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Crossvine, Carolina Jessamine, Indian Pink (Spigelia).


  • If the hummingbirds are not eating all of the food before it goes bad, only fill the feeder part way to avoid having to keep throwing the food out.
  • Do not use honey, powered sugar, brown sugar, artificial sweeteners or any other type of sweetener or sugar substitute. The chemical makeup of other sweeteners is not the same and does not meet the nutritional needs of hummingbirds. Some of these sweeteners could cause hummingbirds to sicken or die.

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