Best Recipe for Hummingbird Food

One of the biggest things I want to teach people how to do is make your own hummingbird food. It’s so easy, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before.

I don’t recommend feeding the hummingbirds that red liquid the stores sell as “hummingbird food”. The red dye is not part of their natural diet and may cause health issues, including birth defects in baby hummingbirds.   

I don’t want to have any part of damaging a generation (or more) of hummingbirds. When it’s so easy to make your own sugar syrup for them, there really is no reason to buy the red stuff. If you can measure two ingredients and boil water, then you can do this. It’s worth the effort, the birds will appreciate it greatly.

Don’t use:

  • Honey
  • Red food colouring
  • Any artificial sweetener, like Splenda or Equal
  • Jell-O
  • Brown sugar

Just use plain white granulated sugar. That’s it. Measure the sugar and water for the appropriate time of year and add nothing else. 

Important sugar secret: Put the sugar in the pot first and then gently pour in the water so no sugar crystals splash up the sides. Then put it on the stove and you won’t even have to stir it.

It will mix and boil on its own. Do not leave it unattended! Stick around, it’s fascinating to watch.

Spring and Summer Recipe

4 cups water
1 cup white sugar 

  • Mix these two ingredients in a medium size pot
  • Bring these to a boil on high heat
  • Boil for about 10 seconds
  • Remove from heat at this point
  • Cover, but let steam escape and let the mixture cool completely

Do not put out hot liquid sugar for them, room temperature is ideal.  Store in a sealed and labelled bottle in the fridge. Use it up within two weeks and then make a fresh batch. 

It will go moldy if left too long, so better to pour it out than to risk it being unhealthy for the birds.

Feed them in the Winter too

In the winter it’s cold and it takes extra energy for the birds to stay warm. It’s nearly impossible for them to find food when they rely on primarily flower blooms and the nectar for food. When there are no flowers around and they are faced with very limited sources of food.

It’s during the coldest months is when you need to provide the hummingbirds with a thicker syrup. The boiling procedure is the same, it’s just with a higher sugar content.

At one time it was believed that if we fed birds in the winter that it would cause them (as a species) to become dependent on an artificial source of food and therefore cause them to be less able to hunt for their own food naturally.

It has since been shown that feeding birds in the winter only helps them survive and become stronger when they need help the most.

If you are going to choose a season not to feed the birds, make it summer!

Fall and Winter Recipe

4 cups water
2 cups white sugar

Important sugar secret: Put the sugar in the pot first and then gently pour in the water so no sugar crystals splash up the sides.

Then put it on the stove and you won’t even have to stir it. It will mix and boil on its own.

Do not leave the stove unattended! 

  • Mix these two ingredients in a medium size pot
  • Bring to a boil on high heat, it takes about 3 minutes
  • Boil for about 10 seconds
  • Remove from heat
  • Cover but let steam escape and let the mixture cool completely

Do not put out hot liquid sugar for them, room temperature is ideal. Store in a sealed and labelled container or bottle in the fridge.

Use these recipes for hummingbird food and hang up a nice feeder in a spot that you can see. Grab your camera and enjoy the show.

Small Recipe

Sometimes it’s easier to make a smaller amount of sugar syrup. This way you won’t have any left over to sit in the fridge and risk going moldy. This is especially important if you have only a few birds visiting on a daily basis. Watch closely how long the syrup sits there.

1 cup Sugar
2 cups Water

For any amount of syrup, just make the recipe 2 parts water to 1 part sugar, boil it for a minute or two and it’ll be good to serve. 

Best Type of FeederMy Preferred Hummingbird Feeder

First, look for a feeder that has red colour with prominent, attractive flowers. Plastic feeders are fine, sometimes the fancy decorative glass ones are too fancy and can become unappealing to the birds.

Choose one with a little perch by each flower. The little perches allow the bird to stop and rest a little while. Then once they are comfortable they’ll land and stay longer when feeding.

The feeder in the picture is the one I have and it works wonderfully. It’s good quality and made of hard plastic. It’s comprised of 5 main parts and then the flowers come out and in to two pieces.

The most important quality to the bird feeder you choose is how easy it is to disassemble and clean.

Take a moment to look at it before you buy it, unscrew it and see how easily it comes apart, you’ll need to be able to wash and scrub all parts of it.

Only choose it if you can completely disassemble and access the entire feeder for cleaning. It’s extremely important that the feeder stays clean and completely free of mold.

What if I don’t have any hummingbirds around?

Even if you don’t think there are any hummingbirds around your place, put up the feeder anyway. You’ll be surprised, the birds will come out of nowhere within a few days to get the food once they see it. Then soon you’ll have a loyal following that relies on your feeders for most of the year.

If it’s near or below freezing at night, you may need to watch and make sure that the syrup doesn’t freeze solid overnight.  I recommend bringing in the feeder each night and then putting it out again in the early morning hours. They will appreciate the warmer food. 

Please leave a comment and share your hummingbird experiences.


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One thought on “Best Recipe for Hummingbird Food

  1. Adhum Ming

    December 28, 2016 at 3:21am

    This really helps me to feed the best recipe for my hummingbirds. It is very easy to do the sugar syrup for my bird.the important thing to be noted is to prevent the birds from insects and ant.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Stacy

      December 29, 2016 at 9:24am

      Very true, I’ll add some information about that. Thanks!

      Permalink  ⋅ Reply
  2. Stacy

    July 31, 2016 at 12:17pm

    Unprocessed cane sugar with its natural color still present is ok but not ideal, non-organic white sugar is best. The brown coloring in the unprocessed cane sugar comes from the slight presence of the naturally occurring iron rich molasses that hasn’t yet been washed out. Iron is toxic to hummingbirds and deadly if the level is high enough.

    White sugar is made from sugar cane…they are one in the same and it isn’t bleached. This statement is taken directly from The Sugar Association website:

    “Sugar is not chemically altered or bleached during processing. The sugar in your sugar bowl is the same as the sucrose naturally present in the original sugar beet and sugar cane plants, and is also identical to the sucrose in other fruits and vegetables. Pure sugar crystals are naturally colorless. No artificial bleaching or whitening is necessary. Molasses, which is naturally present in sugar beet and sugar cane and gives brown sugar its color. This color is removed from the sugar crystal with water and centrifuging. Carbon filters absorb any remaining colored plant materials “.

    Straight up, plain white sugar is the best for hummingbirds.

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  3. Gary Thomas

    April 26, 2016 at 3:38pm

    What plants should you grow for hummingbirds. Have u ever heard of a hummingbird vine?

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Stacy

      April 28, 2016 at 9:27am

      Hummingbirds like a lot of different flowers. You have many choices, some of which depend on the climate zone you live in. Do you know the zone of your area? What’s your general location?

      Usually hummingbirds prefer plants and vines that have trumpet or spout shaped flowers but I’ve seen them drink from anything that’s available. A good example of the type of flower they like is a Hosta flower. They also like Bee Balm (monarda), Aqueligia, Astilbe, Lilies and Centurea is unique and beautiful and they love it too.

      I’ve heard of the Hummingbird vine, although it’s not something that grows in my area. It’s also known as a Trumpet vine because of the shape of the blooms. Hummingbirds do love it and that certainly attributes to its name.

      The plant does require some caution because it’s very fast growing (some consider it invasive) and it has a relentless root system. It needs frequent pruning to be kept under control. Planting it in a container is a good idea or planting it in a big container that you dig and sink into the ground will control it more effectively.

      If you want to plant it in the ground, then do it along a fence or a good distance from your house or any buildings as the underground roots and vines have the capability to crack foundations and grow under shingles and siding.

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