Hummingbirds are one of the smallest birds in the world. Despite their size, they are capable of flapping their wings at a speed of up to 90 beats per second. They do that to maintain their momentum.
90 beats per second!
Imagine just how fast they consume energy and burn calories! No wonder they have quite an appetite. Their speedy metabolisms plus their wing workout can be satisfied by half their body weight’s worth of bugs and nectar, feeding every ten to 15 minutes, and dropping in on about 1,000 to 2,000 flowers per day.
In the Midwest, hummingbirds come in the picture late April to early May. In the northern parts, they arrive by mid-May to early June. The rest like the coastal areas, south Texas, Arizona, Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central, and South America enjoy them all year round.
Seeing their tiny wings and imagining just how tired they must be after the constant flapping, you can’t help but think about ways to help them. One sure way is to keep them fed and nourished when they visit your backyard.
Hummingbirds are attracted to red, perhaps because they associate this color with the flowers they get nectar from. If you have a backyard that is accentuated with red ornaments, expect these tiny birds to flock your yard when they are around the area.
This doesn’t mean that you put food coloring in the food you offer them. Artificial food coloring can be harmful to them. The best way to attract them is to have some red flowers around or set up a feeder with red accents.
Making Hummingbird Nectar
White Cane Sugar
Most of the time, organic sugar is the best way to go. But, we’re skipping organic with this recipe, unless they are pure white. Sugar that is not 100% white refined may contain a few amounts of molasses. Note that, molasses is rich in iron and can be toxic to hummingbirds even in small quantities.
You can go with beet sugar as they are the only other suitable alternative for white cane sugar. Avoid brown sugar as well as unrefined or raw cane sugar. Skip with the honey, agave syrup, or other artificial sweeteners.
While most city tap water can be used, it would be best if the water source is un-chlorinated, filtered, well, or spring water.
No Artificial Coloring
Never use red food dye or preservatives. Aside from being harmful to hummingbirds, they are not entirely the reason that these birds get attracted to your feeder but the colorful fake flowers that adorn it. No need to add coloring to the nectar liquid.
Hummingbird Nectar Sugar to Water Ratios
The typical sugar-to-water ration for homemade hummingbird nectar is 1 is to 4.
This means combining 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. “Part” is the measurement you use. In this case, we use a cup. Thus, we mix 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water. Or you can prepare them in smaller amounts like half cup sugar to 2 cups water, or ¼ cup sugar to 1 cup water.
You will find the right amount that you will put to your feeder. Best if you observe how many hummingbirds actively visit your feeder in the garden so you can estimate the food to prepare.
Instructions in Making Hummingbird Nectar
- Combine the ingredients – 1 part sugar to 4 parts water in a pot.
- On the stove, heat the mixture in a low setting. Stir continuously until the sugar completely liquifies. No need to let the blend boil.
- Let the sugar water (hummingbird nectar) to cool down to lukewarm or room temperature. Make sure the feeder is clean.
- Once the temperature of the feeder is tolerable, pour it to the feeder.
- Hang your feeder outside, and wait for your hummingbird visitors to enjoy their sweet treats.
- Store any extra or unused hummingbird nectar in the fridge. The shelf life should be up to two weeks.
Useful Tips in Making Nectar for Hummingbird Feeders
Making hummingbird nectar does not require a long list of complicated processes. They are simple and very easy to follow. However, there are a few steps you may want to consider doing to make sure the hummingbird nectar you are preparing is the safest and the best homemade recipe there is.
- Tap water may sometimes taste or smell too strong because of the heavy chemicals it contains. If this is the case with your tap water, consider using bottled or purified water for your recipe. Although boiling water is the best way to purify it, do so before adding the sugar.
Reassess the liquid amount after boiling to be sure that the volume did not reduce too far. Better yet, boil water more than what’s required so you will have enough even when you boil a little longer. Otherwise, the sugar concentration will be higher. While hummingbirds are fine with sweeter nectar, it may ferment faster and could clog feeding ports when the sugar crystallizes.
- Honey and molasses are too heavy for our tiny friends to digest efficiently. It ferments more quickly too, making it prone to molds that are fatal to hummingbirds. Such sugar substitutes do not have enough amount of calories that these birds need to replenish energy so they come off without any nutritional value.
- Boiling sure helps slow down the fermentation of the nectar, however, as soon as the hummingbird sips the nectar, it gets contaminated instantly. Therefore, it becomes useless to boil it once the sugar gets dissolved. Extra fine sugar doesn’t even need heating as vigorous stirring can sometimes run them thoroughly.
- Homemade hummingbird nectar should be completely cooled off before poured into feeders. Hot nectar can melt or crack both glass and plastic feeders and may cause them to leak. They also ferment quicker once they become contaminated.
When Should You Change Hummingbird Nectar Off the Feeder
The fermentation of sugar water happens quickly during hotter days. Therefore, you should change more often when the weather is warm. In colder days, you can change it at least once a week. In days when it gets above 60 to 70 degrees, change it every 3 to 4 days.
Should You Clean Your Hummingbird Feeder
Yes. There are many reasons hummingbirds leave your backyard even when you’ve prepared them sweet treats. Such is if the feeder has been left with moldy or fermented nectar. Sometimes, we tend to leave them for too long that sugar crystallizes.
Be sure to clean your hummingbird feeder with these simple steps:
- Regularly wash the hummingbird feeder with hot water in between nectar refills. Use a mild soap if needed, but be sure to thoroughly rinse afterward for any soap residue.
- Keep a designated hummingbird bottle-brush handy for more meticulous cleaning.
- Soak the feeder in a faintly stronger disinfectant at least once per month. You can make use of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. If you are to use vinegar, make sure the mixture is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water. For hydrogen peroxide, soak the feeder in an undiluted 3% household strength hydrogen peroxide. Leave the feeder for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Be sure to keep insects away. You can:
- Pick a no insect feeder
- Avoid yellow feeders to keep away insects that are attracted to yellows like wasps and bees
- Keep the feeders clean
- Post the feeders in a shaded area
Some say that keeping feeders available all the time will keep the birds during fall from migrating to the south. In reality, these birds know naturally when to leave. Keeping your feeders available ensures that they will have food sources to come back to after their journey.
So, should you keep these feeders with the hummingbird nectar you prepared available all the time? The best practice is to let them be for about 1 to 2 weeks after the last bird has been seen.
Until then, keep your feeders clean and with fresh hummingbird nectar available until they leave for the south.