Hummingbird Nectar Recipe: Best Ratio & Tips

Hummingbirds are delicate little birds that only weigh a few grams, but they have enormous energy requirements to power their fast wingbeats and aerial acrobatics. To fuel their high metabolism, hummingbirds need to eat frequently throughout the day by visiting nectar-rich flowers and feeders. Providing a homemade nectar solution is one of the easiest ways to attract hummingbirds to your yard. Follow this guide to learn the ideal recipe, tips for proper feeding, and everything you need to know about meeting the nutritional needs of these energetic pollinators.

What is Hummingbird Nectar?

Hummingbird nectar is a liquid food source made by mixing sugar and water together. It is designed to mimic the natural nectar found in tubular flowers that hummingbirds evolved to feed from. Natural nectars contain three key components:

  • Sugar: Provides carbohydrates for energy.
  • Water: Prevents dehydration.
  • Amino acids and electrolytes: Essential nutrients for muscles, nerves and metabolism.

By using white granulated sugar and water as the base of homemade nectar, you can create an artificial food supplement that hummingbirds readily accept. It won’t perfectly match real flower nectar, but the simplicity of a sugar and water solution makes it easy to offer as a feeding station in your yard. Follow the ideal ratio guidelines below to get as close as possible to genuine nectar.

Best Sugar to Water Ratio for Hummingbirds

The ideal sugar to water proportions for homemade hummingbird food are:

  • 1 part sugar
  • 4 parts water

This 1:4 ratio provides the optimal sugar concentration that hummingbirds are adapted to. It has a sugar content around 20-25%, which closely matches most natural flower nectars.

Too little sugar and the nectar lacks adequate energy. Too much sugar can actually dehydrate hummingbirds and potentially cause internal damage due to the high osmotic pressure. By using a moderate 1:4 blend, you give hummingbirds the carbs they crave without going overboard on sweetness or risking their health.

To make one cup of hummingbird nectar using the proper 1:4 ratio:

  • 1⁄4 cup white sugar
  • 3⁄4 cup water

For larger batches:

  • 1 part sugar (e.g. 1 cup)
  • 4 parts water (e.g. 4 cups)

Always avoid brown sugar, honey, molasses, artificial sweeteners or other substitutions, as these do not provide the correct nutritional profile. Plain white table sugar best mimics natural flower nectar.

Tips for Making Quality Hummingbird Nectar

Follow these tips when mixing up a batch of hummingbird food:

Use Room Temperature Water

  • Avoid using hot water, as this can caramelize the sugar when mixed together. Room temperature or lukewarm water works best.

Dissolve Sugar Fully

  • Stir continuously when adding the sugar until fully dissolved. Undissolved granules can cause digestive upset in hummingbirds.

Don’t Boil the Mixture

  • There is no need to boil the nectar. This can change the chemical structure of the sugar and reduce calories.

Allow It to Cool Before Filling Feeders

  • Let the nectar cool to room temp before pouring it into feeders. Hot nectar can damage hummingbird’s tender tongues.

Refrigerate Leftovers

  • Store any excess nectar in the refrigerator. The cool temperature will slow fermentation.

Avoid Using Food Coloring

  • Dyes and food coloring are unnecessary and could potentially be unhealthy if consumed in large amounts.

Change Nectar Every 2-3 Days

  • Replace nectar before it ferments or gets cloudy. Clean feeders thoroughly.

Following these best practices will provide fresh, unspoiled food that meets hummingbirds’ nutritional requirements.

Choosing a Feeder Style

There are several factors to consider when selecting a hummingbird feeder:


  • Look for a larger capacity feeder of 20 oz or more to avoid constant refilling. Smaller feeders need changing every 1-2 days.

Number of Feeding Ports

  • More feeding ports allow multiple hummingbirds to access the nectar. 4-12 ports is ideal for most yards.


  • Choose a feeder with either a wide-mouth design or that comes apart easily to allow cleaning of any mold or clogs.


  • Make sure to select a sturdy hanging model that can be positioned in a way that’s easily accessible for refilling and cleaning.

With so many types and styles available, visit local bird shops, hardware stores or wild bird supply websites to see feeder options in person. This will help ensure you get one tailored to your space that meets both hummingbird and human needs.

Where to Place Hummingbird Feeders

Proper feeder placement is key to attracting these petite birds to your yard. Here are some tips on positioning:


Hang feeders near flowering plants that hummingbirds are accustomed to feeding from. Also consider visibility from windows so you can observe your visiting hummingbirds.


Mount the feeder about 5 feet high, or eye level, using hooks, poles or sturdy branches. This makes it easy to refill and clean while keeping it safe from other wildlife.


Situate feeders with some protection from wind and rain, such as under eaves or tree canopies. Hummingbirds may avoid feeders swaying in strong gusts.

Sun Exposure

Place feeders facing east to avoid afternoon sun. Direct sun heats up the nectar, causing it to ferment faster. Morning sun is alright.

Number of Feeders

Start with one, but consider adding several more spaced around your yard to reduce crowding and allow uninterrupted feeding.

With a quality feeder filled with fresh nectar hung in a convenient hummingbird hotspot, you’ll be rewarded with the dazzling sight of these energetic birds buzzing around your garden.

When to Put Up Hummingbird Feeders

Hummingbirds migrate and breed during specific times of year. Knowing when to expect them in your area is important to ensure food is available upon their arrival:

Western States

Hang feeders in early to mid-March to coincide with hummingbirds returning from Mexico and Central America. Leave feeders up until October before winter migration.

Midwestern States

Put up feeders in early April and take down in late September. Food will be needed along migration routes.

Eastern States

Mid-April is the time to get feeders ready for the long haul until October. Hummers primarily breed in this region over summer.

Southern States

Some hummingbird species are year-round residents. Put feeders up as early as January and leave them up continually through November.

Check local birding sites and resources to find exact timelines specific to your state or region. Having the food source ready and waiting for hummingbirds when they arrive is key to attracting them to your yard.

Types of Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds

While artificial nectar feeders provide an important supplemental food source, also incorporate flowering plants into your landscape to entice hummingbirds. Some top-rated hummingbird flowers include:

Native Wildflowers

Native wildflowers co-evolved alongside hummingbirds and cater perfectly to their needs. Lupines, columbines, bee balms and trumpet vines are some great options.

Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Trees like mimosa, crape myrtle and weigela provide clusters of flowers full of nectar.

Cultivated Blossoms

Hummers also visit familiar backyard flowers like fuchsias, petunias, salvias and flowering vines. Plant red, orange and pink blooms which attract hummers best.

Choose a variety of tubular and trumpet-shaped flowers that allow a hummingbird’s specialized beak and tongue easy access to nectar. Include flowers that bloom in succession for nectar through the seasons.

FAQs About Hummingbird Care

How often should hummingbird nectar be changed?

  • Empty and clean feeders every 2-3 days. Change more frequently in hot weather. Old nectar can ferment and make hummers sick.

What is the best way to clean a hummingbird feeder?

  • Use a bottle brush and mild soap and water. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry fully before refilling. Vinegar can sanitize if needed.

Can I use raw sugar or honey in hummingbird food?

  • No, only use plain white granulated sugar. Raw sugars and honey can promote bacterial growth.

When should I take down hummingbird feeders?

  • In most regions, take down feeders in late September or early October before hummingbirds migrate for the winter.

How do I keep ants and bees out of my hummingbird feeder?

  • Use a feeder with a built-in ant moat, coat the hanger with petroleum jelly, or mix a small amount of cooking oil into the nectar.

How often do hummingbirds eat?

  • They eat up to every 15 minutes throughout the day. Their high metabolism requires frequent feeding on flower nectar and insects.

What is the best planting to attract hummingbirds?

  • Native wildflowers with tubular red, orange or pink blossoms, and flowering trees and shrubs provide excellent hummingbird habitat.

Providing proper care of hummingbirds requires understanding their unique nutritional needs and how to best attract them using both feeders and flowers. Following these research-based tips will help support hummingbirds and allow enjoyment of their dazzling beauty all season long. With an ideal sugar water ratio, clean feeding apparatus, and a landscape filled with blossoms, you’ll soon have ruby-throated and iridescent green hummers buzzing all around your yard.


Attracting hummingbirds to your garden is simple and rewarding. By offering a homemade nectar solution in the proper 1:4 sugar to water ratio, setting up quality feeders in optimal spots, and landscaping with hummingbird favorites in mind, you can easily entice these energetic pollinators to visit. Getting to observe the dazzling aerial displays, ferocious chirps and stunning iridescence of hummingbirds up-close is an experience bird lovers cherish. Use the tips provided to become an expert at meeting the nutritional needs of hummingbirds so you can enjoy their beauty and fascinating behaviors all season long. With the right care, these tiniest of birds will continue returning to enchant you every year.