The Bottom Line on Hummingbird Nectar

Hummingbird looking for nectar by a flower

Hummingbirds do not live on sugar water and flower nectar alone. They are primarily carnivores. Sugar merely provides them with the energy they need to get to the tiny bugs they adore. Store-bought nectar is unnecessary. You can easily make it yourself at home. Follow these tips for making hummingbird nectar that will keep the little birds coming back for more.


Do make your own hummingbird nectar. It’s safer for the birds than the dye-infused, store-bought kind and much cheaper. The 4-to-1 water to sugar ratio is close to the average sucrose content in the flowers that they like.

Do not buy the hummingbird nectar sold in stores with the vitamins, protein and red food coloring. Hummingbirds are mainly insect eaters. They get all the nutrients they need from soft-bodied insects and spiders.

Hang a red feeder like this one to attract them. The color of the liquid is irrelevant.



Do use regular white cane sugar. It’s a cheap, readily available source of sucrose which happens to be the main type of sugar found in the nectar of the plants hummingbirds visit, and they seem to prefer it. Read this blog post for a list of their favorite flowers.

Do not use alternative sugars: Honey ferments rapidly when mixed with water; raw sugar can harbor molds and bacteria; and turbinado sugar is a less-pure form of sucrose that contains as much as five times the amount of iron as white sugar, and can poison hummingbirds.


Do use tap water. It’s perfectly fine. Using distilled or filtered probably won’t hurt, but it’s not really necessary.

Do not boil the water (unless you want the sugar to dissolve faster). Hummingbird experts agree that boiling is a waste of time since the microorganisms that cause the food to go bad aren’t in the water; they’re on the beaks of the hummingbirds themselves.

Click here for an easy hummingbird food recipe.