The hummingbirds have officially arrived to the Ozarks of Missouri! I wanted to be prepared this year with a feeder (plans to get more) and the knowledge that I needed to feed the hummingbirds correctly as not to harm them. My neighbors have several feeders on their front porch and it sounds like an airfield over there with all the buzzing about as they are going from feeder to feeder. So I decided this year as I am landscaping and creating my zen garden, I would incorporate a hummingbird feeder. First, I need to know more about what I needed to feed them to take care of them.
I quickly learned that it’s best not to purchase the food they have in the stores because of the dyes and other added chemicals can harm the hummingbirds. So the best way is to make your own!
Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
Hummingbird nectar is a simple sugar water solution, but it must be made with the right proportions to attract hummingbirds and give them easily digestible food.
- Combine one part plain white granulated table sugar and four parts water.
- Slowly heat the solution for 1-2 minutes to help the sugar dissolve and slow fermentation.
- Allow the solution to cool completely before filling feeders.
Nectar Recipe Tips
While hummingbird nectar is simple to make, there are other steps birders can take for the safest, best nectar from a homemade recipe.
- If your tap water contains heavy chemicals, strong tastes, or odors, consider using bottled or purified water for purer nectar. Boiling the water before adding the sugar will help purify it, but double check the liquid amount after extended boiling to be sure you have not reduced the volume too far, which could make the sugar concentration much higher. Hummingbirds can enjoy sweeter nectar, but it will ferment more quickly and may clog feeding ports as the sugar crystallizes.
- Do not use honey, brown sugar, molasses, or artificial sugar substitutes for any hummingbird nectar recipe. Honey and molasses (brown sugar contains molasses products) are too heavy for hummingbirds to digest efficiently and can ferment more quickly, creating
moldthat is fatal to hummingbirds. Sugar substitutes do not have the calories hummingbirds need for energy and offer the birds no nutritional value.
- While boiling will help slow the fermentation of the nectar initially, the nectar in hummingbird feeder is contaminated as soon as it is sipped by a bird. Therefore, it is not necessary to boil the nectar once the sugar has been dissolved. If you use extra fine sugar or stir the nectar vigorously, no boiling or heating may be needed.
- The ratio of sugar and water can be slightly adjusted, but a solution that is too sweet will be difficult for the birds to digest and one that does not contain enough sugar will not be suitable to attract hummingbirds. The 4:1 water to sugar ratio most closely approximates the sucrose levels in the natural nectar of hummingbirds favorite flowers.
- Hummingbird nectar must be completely cool before filling feeders. Hot nectar can warp or crack both glass and plastic hummingbird feeders, causing leaks. Warm nectar will also ferment more quickly once it becomes contaminated.
- Commercial hummingbird nectar products often advertise different flavors, vitamins, and other additives that are supposed to attract additional birds. These additives are not necessary for hummingbirds’ health and a simple sugar solution will attract just as many birds as more expensive commercial products.
- Unused hummingbird nectar can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week before it begins to spoil. When making your own nectar, adjust the recipe quantity to only make enough for one week to eliminate waste and ensure birds have the freshest possible nectar to enjoy.
- Clean feeders at least once a week and refill them with fresh nectar. In warm weather or when multiple birds are using the feeders and they are emptied more frequently, clean feeders more often.
I am excited to see the hummingbirds that come into this feeder and the others that I will be purchasing in the near future. We would find abandoned hummingbird nests in the yard that were blown out of the bushes by strong wind and storms. They always made me laugh as they had a lot of hair from our dog, Sasha. She was a McKenzie River Husky from Alaska and she would shed bags and bags of fur and you could watch her layout in the yard and birds of all kinds would come up behind her and pick hair out of her tail. Sasha’s fur must have been premium nest building material!
One problem I did encounter when I hung up this feeder is that the ants who also love the nectar were inside in the nectar and all around the outside. I noticed that the hummingbirds were coming to the feeder and then flying off. So a simple google search showed me that I needed an “ant moat” for a solution to this problem. I guess you can purchase ant moats at the store, but I opted to make my own. I will cover this project in another blog post. The idea of “moats” has blown my mind…maybe they will work to keep the horned worms off of my tomatoes this year? hmmm…I will have to try that as well!
Do you have feeders up for the hummingbirds this year?