In this post I am going to compare homemade and store bought hummingbird nectar, go over the dangers of red food dye, and share a super easy recipe to make your own hummingbird nectar. Please read all the way to the end, I share some important information and tips.
Our feathered friends will be making their way north very soon! According to Southeastern Avian Research, the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds will be arriving in my area any day now 😀 If you would like to see the migration map you can find it on their Facebook page.
So let’s start with store bought nectar, most of the nectar you see in the stores are red. However, the red dye is not needed! The birds will still come without it, I have seen it myself many times. According to Bird Watchers Digest, Red #40 is a known carcinogenic and mutagenic. Please see their full article on the topic HERE (link will open in new tab) it’s very interesting and good information to know. Store bought nectar will last a little longer in the feeder before you need to replace it and clean the feeder, but you will have to replace the nectar and clean the feeders fairly often anyways. Which leads me to this:
You do NOT want mold to start forming, this could make the birds very sick. You will want to change the nectar out frequently, you may have to do it daily or every other day if you live somewhere very hot (like I do!). If the nectar starts to look cloudy, it definitely needs to be changed. I like to clean my feeders out with an all natural soap and vinegar, it’s important to make sure to rinse very well. When looking for a feeder, I like to make sure that a bottle brush will be able to fit inside for cleaning as some have very narrow openings.
Now for homemade nectar, it’s VERY cheap, and VERY easy! You can make it fresh in small batches as needed if you’d like, or you can make a large batch and store the extra in the fridge for up to a week. This will need to be replaced more often than store bought, as it contains no preservatives. I have seen conflicting advice on whether or not you need to boil the water, but I like to do it just to be safe. You also want to make sure you ONLY use white cane sugar. Please never use honey or any artificial sweeteners, or RAW sugar because it is higher in iron which can be bad for the birds in large amounts. You want plain ‘ole white sugar.
Homemade Hummingbird Nectar:
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
Heat water to boiling, remove from heat, and stir in sugar until dissolved. Cool before pouring into hummingbird feeder. Store extra covered in fridge for up to one week. Replace with fresh nectar often, especially in hot weather.
This picture is from 4 years ago when we lived in an apartment complex in a very busy area of town. I used this same recipe and it attracted multiple hummingbirds to our balcony!
A few other tips:
- Avoid using insecticides/pesticides in your yard, hummingbirds also eat bugs!
- If you have many birds battling over the feeder, consider hanging multiple feeders, even in multiple locations around the yard.
- Plant flowers and fruit trees to help attract hummingbirds.
- If you see a praying mantis on or near your feeder, please gentle relocate it to another spot. Praying Mantis can catch and eat small hummingbirds.
- Find beautiful hummingbird feeders here.
Enjoy watching your new feathered friends!