The Best Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been making their appearance in our gardens again and if you haven’t already  you should put out your nectar feeders, that is if you want them in your yard.  This migration map from my post in March will give you more details as to how far they have migrated now.

We have had our hummingbird feeders full with homemade nectar and hanging outside since the middle of April.  The best hummingbird nectar recipe is always used because hummingbirds absolutely love it plus it is very healthy for them.

You heard that right…the best hummingbird nectar recipe.  The reason that I say this is because people have been known to make their homemade nectar with honey, corn syrup, and molasses, that they dilute with water.  The problem is that these mixtures only invite bacteria and fungus which is not good for the hummingbirds.

Really the Best Nectar Recipe that I found is a simple mix of sugar and water.  Here’s the recipe:

hummingbird nectar recipe - the best hummingbird nectar recipe

There is no need to use any red dye or coloring because number one, experts say that it is not good for the hummingbirds.  They say it is an artificial synthetic chemical that can be harmful for them (however there are no proven facts on it).  Secondly, you do not need red dye to attract hummingbirds.

We have been using plain sugar and water without red dye all along and hummingbirds still find our feeders.  I think that it probably has to do with the fact that most hummingbird feeders have red flowers on them anyway (or any bright color for that matter) which hummingbirds are attracted to.  If your feeder does not have any color on it to attract the hummers then you can put a fake red flower or red ribbon on it.  Trust me, they will find your feeder.

About Store Bought Nectar

Of course you can also purchase the store bought nectar at any wild bird supply store.  They come in powdered mixes and in liquid form (red and clear).  All you have to do is add water the directions say and you are ready to go.  That works if you are a busy person and do not have the time to boil sugar and water and wait for it to cool (as mentioned in the above recipe).

But here’s the thing!  Have you ever priced the store bought next to the homemade version.  I have and they can be pretty expensive especially if you are replenishing the feeders all the time.  Let me give you an example.  One brand that I found that was one of the cheaper ones on Amazon cost $5.06 which will make thirty two ounces of nectar.    You can purchase 4 LBS of sugar for $1.99 and make your own which will make about two gallons of nectar.     Just a thought!

Maintaining Your Hummingbird Feeders

flower pot one tube feeder - top 5 best hummingbird feedersIt is a very good idea to keep an eye on your hummingbird feeder to make sure that your nectar doesn’t ferment and/or grow bacteria.  That is definitely not good for the hummingbird plus they probably won’t come to it anyway.  How do you know if your hummingbird nectar goes bad?  If you are using the water and sugar recipe without the dye then your water should be fresh looking and clear.  If it becomes cloudy or has mold or other growths in it you should empty the feeder and clean it out thoroughly.

Really you should rinse your feeder with hot water and/or clean with a bottle brush each time before you refill it.  If you see any mold growing on it you will need to soak the feeder with vinegar and peroxide until the residue has been destroyed.  Then clean it with a bottle brush and rinse well with hot water.   Some people use diluted bleach but you have to make sure that you thoroughly rinse the feeder to make sure that all bleach has been removed.

How Often Should You Change The Nectar?

Hopefully you don’t have to change the nectar because you have so many hummingbirds drinking it that it is always empty ;-).  Seriously though, it really depends on the outdoor temperatures.  Hotter temperatures (85 degrees or higher) ferment the nectar faster and if that is the case you should be changing it daily.  However, if the temperatures are cooler (70 degrees to 85) every two days is best.  This is just a guide as it really depends on where you have your feeder placed too.  For example if it is hanging in direct sunlight it will likely spoil faster.  The best thing to do is to just keep an eye on your feeder.

In Conclusion

The best hummingbird nectar recipe is a simple one part sugar and four parts water mixture.  All you have to do is boil it on the stove and let cool and then refill your hummingbird feeder (rinse it out with hot water first).  If you have any extra just pour it into a container and refrigerate.  I prefer to use a bottle type container where you can easily pour the nectar into your bottle feeder when it is time to  replenish.   This works out very well fast and easy.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your hummingbird feeder especially if you are not getting a lot of hummingbirds coming in.  The nectar may end up spoiling if it is sitting out in the sun too long.  You should always do a good hot water rinse prior to refilling your feeder and if you see any mold growing then it will need to be cleaned very thoroughly with either peroxide and vinegar (my choice) or a diluted mix of water and bleach.

By doing this you will keep your hummers healthy and happy and wanting to come back for more of your delicious nectar.  Isn’t that the ultimate goal anyway?

If you have any questions or would like to make a comment about this post please feel free to do so below.

Happy Birding!

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Posted in Attracting Hummingbirds, Bird Feeders, Wild Bird Food and tagged , .


  1. When Googling hummingbird nectar recipe, under “People also ask”, your recipe is misprinted as four parts sugar and one part water. Yikes! Could kill the precious little things!

    • Hi Denise, thanks for the heads up. I changed it to correctly to read 4 parts water and 1 part sugar. It really is the best hummingbird nectar recipe. :-).

  2. You said you changed the incorrect nectar amounts mentioned above. It is still there incorrectly. And is worrisome that you haven’t corrected it.

    • To all who are concerned about the incorrect nectar recipe showing up on google from my site. I am not able to change it, have tried but to no avail. It is correct on my blog and that is all I can do at this time. I appreciate your concern but I would hope that just like you have all done, will be able to figure it out and move on. Thanks for your understanding. Happy birding!

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