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How to Make Hummingbird Nectar

Three Parts:Making the NectarFilling, Changing, and Cleaning Your FeederTroubleshooting Your Feeder

Hummingbird nectar is so cheap and simple to make, there's no reason you should go the store-bought route. A little sugar and water is all you need; no need for the red food coloring – it can harm these fast flyers. In just a few minutes, you'll have a meal ready to hang outside your window.

Part 1
Making the Nectar

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    Mix together sugar and water using 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.[1] Only you know how much you should make – take into consideration the size of your feeder and how quickly the birds go through it – it can only store for so long. Here's a simple chart to make the math easier:
    • 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water
    • 3/4 cup sugar to 3 cups water
    • 1/2 cup sugar to 2 cups water
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    Mix the sugar and water together. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat off, stirring all the while. The sugar should dissolve entirely into clear sugar water. And don't keep it boiling – that changes the water to sugar ratio through evaporation.
    • Don't use a sugar substitute – your hummingbirds do not need to go on a diet. They burn so much energy every day fluttering their wings at breakneck speeds that sugar is necessary. So only use plain, white sugar – not brown, not a sugar substitute, and definitely not gelatin.
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    Allow the sugar solution to cool. Cover the pan and allow the solution to reach room temperature. If you put it into your feeder warm or hot, the sugar may crystallize.

Part 2
Filling, Changing, and Cleaning Your Feeder

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    Fill your hummingbird feeder and keep the rest in storage. Most experts suggest only filling it about halfway full – sure, it means more work on your part, but then it's less likely the nectar will get a chance to mold.[2] However, if you have so many hummingbirds you can barely keep up, go ahead and fill it up all the way.
    • Take a clean, empty 2-liter bottle to hold the rest of the nectar and keep it in the refrigerator. It will keep for around a week as long as it keeps in a cold, dry location.
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    Change the hummingbird nectar every few days. Do this more often if you notice mold growth or fermentation. Generally speaking, nectar deterioration will be controlled by the outside temperature. Here's a brief rundown of how it works:[3]
    • Temperature: 71-75°F (23-25°C); change every 6 days
    • Temperature: 76-80°F (25-27°C); change every 5 days
    • Temperature: 81-84°F (27-29°C); change every 4 days
    • Temperature: 85-88°F (29-31°C); change every 3 days
    • Temperature: 89-92°F (31-33°C); change every 2 days
    • Temperature: 93°F+ (33°C+); change daily
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    Clean the hummingbird feeder using a vinegar and hot water. Do this every time before you add new hummingbird nectar to the feeder. Old nectar will mold, resulting in white strings and sometimes even black, moldy spots, so be sure to get rid of it.
    • Sometimes you can get away with only washing it with hot water, if you take it apart and are diligent. However, only do this if no mold whatsoever is present. Most feeders come apart easily just for this reason.
    • If you do use vinegar, make sure the vinegar odor is gone before you replace the nectar. Finish with a hot water rinse.

Part 3
Troubleshooting Your Feeder

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    Place your feeder in the shade. You don't want your nectar to start getting milky and develop black spots in the blink of an eye, so keep it in the shade. It's heat and sunlight that make it go bad. Make sure it's out of the way of cats, too.
    • Near your window is probably best for you and your view. Don't worry about the hummingbirds being shy. They may start out unsure of your feeder (just the way we're unsure of any new food), but soon enough they'll come to trust your homemade treat. And you being in the window isn't a threat – they could out-fly you any day of the week and they know it.
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    Keep ants away from the nectar. Ants love sugar water and hummingbirds do not love ants. They will not drink from a feeder contaminated with ants on it or dead ants floating in the nectar. You can keep them away with an ant guard (some feeders come with them already installed).
    • Some people put vaseline around the ridges of the feeder or use Tanglefoot. The latter could potentially contaminate the nectar and Tanglefoot not only kills ants, but can be dangerous for hummers, too. If you go either of these routes, be very, very careful.
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    Place a red ribbon around your feeder if hummingbirds aren't coming. Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red – likely because its their favorite color or is a vibrant color. If hummingbirds can't seem to find your feeder, put a splash of red on it. It'll attract their eye, piquing their curiosity.
    • It doesn't have to be a ribbon – red tape, paint, or even red nail polish will work. Just make sure it doesn't contaminate the nectar and can handle external weather conditions, whatever changes you make.
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    Learn more about attracting hummingbirds to your yard. Though hummingbirds are quite territorial, they put on such a show they're often worth it. People have been trying to attract hummers to their yards for centuries and it's just about down to an art. Here's a few other things you can do to up your hummingbird quotient:
    • Place a mister in your garden as well. Hummingbirds love to take a quick "shower" after eating.
    • Place several feeders all over your yard. Sometimes alpha hummingbirds will scare smaller birds away.
    • Place your feeder next to vibrantly colored flowers. It'll then be hard for the hummers to miss your delectable sugar water.


  • Filtered water is better than tap. Hummingbirds' high rate of metabolism makes them more vulnerable to impurities.
  • Make sure to let the water cool or the sugar will crystalize inside the feeder.


  • Don't wash the feeder in the dishwasher or use harsh detergents or soaps. Even a little soap residue can harm them.

Things You'll Need

  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Saucepan
  • Spoon or whisk
  • Hummingbird feeder
  • Vinegar (for cleaning)
  • Bottle Scrubber

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