This healthy hummingbird nectar recipe and glass feeders will keep those pretty hummingbirds coming back to your garden year after year.
We have 4 species of hummingbirds that visit Joybilee Farm each spring — rufous hummingbirds, calliope hummingbirds, and black-chinned come regularly. Some summers we’ve also seen ruby-throated hummers. They raise their babies in the spruce and pine trees around our log house. It’s delightful watching them buzz back and forth with their territorial antics. They let us know when the feeders are empty by coming to the dining room window or visiting us on the deck. When we fill the feeders with our healthy hummingbird nectar recipe, they come back to say, “Thank you”.
Inviting hummingbirds to your garden by providing nectar, ample red flowers, and hummingbird habitat is one of the easiest ways to connect with nature. Hummingbirds are an easy bird for children to identify. And their antics delight young and old, alike.
When you supply hummingbird nectar and flowers that meet their habitat needs, you’ll have them coming back to your garden every spring.
Not your momma’s hummingbird nectar recipe
In the old days, housewives would boil water, mix in white sugar, and red food colouring, and fill up a plastic hummingbird feeder with the syrup. But things have changed. The sugar we have today is genetically modified and contain pesticide and herbicide residues. The plastic feeders give off BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical when they are exposed to direct sunlight. The red food coloring is carcinogenic. No one wants to harm the hummers when we put out our hummingbird feeders. But what can we do?
Here are some tips for healthier hummingbird nectar
- Use glass instead of plastic feeders
- Omit the red food coloring — use a red bottle instead
- Use organic sugar or cane sugar instead of GMO beet sugar.
- No need to boil the water first, the hummingbirds introduce bacteria from their bills anyway.
- Use filtered water instead of chlorinated, fluoridated tap water
- Change the water every two or three days when the temperatures are high to prevent fermentation and mold
How to attract hummingbirds to your garden
- Plant red flowers like bee balm, hollyhock, columbine, and fuchsia
- Plant tubular flowers like lupines, daylilies, petunias, and salvia
- Offer nectar in several feeders around the garden
- Offer nesting sites by planting conifers near the feeders.
Red Bee Balm or Monarda is especially attractive and easy to grow. It is hardy to zone 3, perennial, and beautiful. The plant has medicinal benefits, much like oregano. From the mint family, it spreads easily and comes back every year.
What to avoid when making hummingbird nectar
- Raw honey
- Genetically modified sugar
- Non-organic sugar due to the presence of glyphosate, herbicides, and pesticides
- Artificial sweeteners
- Commercial hummingbird nectar powders
- Food coloring
Healthiest hummingbird nectar recipe
This easy hummingbird nectar recipe has only 2 ingredients. It is easy to mix up as you need it and doesn’t require any special equipment.
Yield: 2 cups
- 1/2 cup organic sugar*
- 2 cups of filtered water or natural spring water
- There’s no need to boil or sterilize the water or the hummingbird feeders. Wash the hummingbird feeder before you fill it to minimize bacterial contamination. Rinse well to remove all soap residue. There is no need to rinse in bleach water. Bleach is very difficult to remove from the inside of hummingbird feeders and can injure hummingbirds.
- Mix the sugar and water together in a Mason jar until the sugar crystals are dissolved.
- Pour into clean hummingbird feeders.
Refill the hummingbird feeders as they empty. Put up a minimum of two hummingbird feeders to make a place for all hummingbirds to feed. The territorial nature of the hummingbirds means that one bird may dominate a feeder, preventing other hummingbirds from partaking. (Check out this territorial behavior in the video below).
One bird can’t defend two feeders so other birds get to drink as well.
The best hummingbird feeder
These are the hummingbird feeders we’ve switched to. They stay fresher longer than the plastic feeders we used to have. They are already red so no need to use food coloring. The red colour is on the outside of the bottle so it doesn’t come in contact with the nectar. They are nonreactive. Since they are glass they are easy to keep clean. The tray is nonrusting metal with a plastic base so it is also easy to clean, virtually leak-proof, with no sharp edges. Because of the way the feeding hole is designed there are no problems with wasps, ants, or bees feeding on the nectar and chasing the hummers away. There are no sharp edges to harm hummingbirds.
We’ve been using these feeders for 7 years without any problems.
Can I use organic sugar in my hummingbird feeder?
That’s a great question. There are some internet myths floating around that say that organic refined sugar has too high of an iron content and it will kill hummingbirds if you feed it to them. This posts unpacks that myth, shows you where it stems from and gives you science-backed, evidence to support the feeding of organic refined white sugar solutions to hummingbirds. It also shows which kinds of sweeteners you actually should avoid when feeding hummingbirds in your backyard and explains why that’s important.
Don’t be bamboozled by internet hysteria. Get the facts here.
Make the switch to healthy hummingbird nectar and glass feeders now and keep those pretty hummingbirds coming back to your garden year after year.
Frederick H, Dierenfeld E, Irlbeck N, Dial S. 2003. Analysis of nectar replacement products and a case of iron toxicosis in hummingbirds. In Ward A, Brooks M, Maslanka M, Eds. Proceedings of the Fifth Conference on Zoo and Wildlife Nutrition, AZA Nutrition Advisory Group, Minneapolis, MN.
PEAKER, M. (1990), Nutritional requirements and diets for hummingbirds and sunbirds. International Zoo Yearbook, 29: 109-118. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1090.1990.tb03339.x
Suarez RK, Welch KC. Sugar Metabolism in Hummingbirds and Nectar Bats. Nutrients. 2017;9(7):743. doi:10.3390/nu9070743.
Rio, Carlos. (1990). Sugar Preferences in Hummingbirds: The Influence of Subtle Chemical Differences on Food Choice. The Condor. 92. 1022. 10.2307/1368738.
How many species of hummingbirds are regular visitors to your garden?