How to Make Hummingbird Food (Sugar Water Recipe) (2024)

Share on FacebookShare on PinterestShare on EmailShare on X (Twitter)

Love hummingbirds? This sugar water recipe has the correct ratio to match the nectar hummingbirds find in the wild. We’ve also simplified it so you can make any size batch from small to large to avoid spoilage.

Waiting for the annual migration? We havea spring hummingbird migration map heretracking their journey through the United States and Canada.

How to Make Hummingbird Food (Sugar Water Recipe) (1)

Hummingbird Sugar Water

How to Make Hummingbird Food (Sugar Water Recipe) (2)

The best hummingbird food recipe is simply white granulated table sugar dissolved in boiling water (and cooled).

It is very important to get the ratio right (listed below) so it mimics the amount of sugar found in the flower nectar hummingbirds have co-evolved with.

As noted below, do not add red dye or other additives.

If you’re looking for a good, easy-to-clean feeder that provides a perch, this is the feeder I like at Amazon.


  • Sugar Water Recipe
    • Ingredients
      • Different Batch Sizes
    • Steps
  • Frequently-Asked Questions
  • Free Tip Sheet

Hummingbird Sugar Water Recipe

How to Make Hummingbird Food (Sugar Water Recipe) (3)

Video Instructions


1) Sugar

What is the ratio of sugar to water for hummingbird food?

  • 1-part white granulated sugar | 4 parts clean, boiled water

How to make different size batches of hummingbird food

Batch SizeSugar AmountWater Amount
Tiny batch1/8 cup sugar (30 ml)1/2 cup water (118 ml)
Small batch1/4 cup sugar (60 ml)1 cup water (236 ml)
Medium batch1/2 cup sugar (118 ml)2 cups water (472 ml)
Large batch1 cups sugar (236 ml)4 cups water (944 ml)
Extra large batch2 cups sugar (472 ml)8 cups water (1.9 L)


  • White granulated sugar (the same kind you use for baking)

Do NOT Use:

  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Sugar powders
  • Red dye or red food coloring
  • Organic, natural, and raw sugars (can be too high in iron)
  • Artificial sweetener

These items can cause a range of problems including bird illness, rapid bacteria and fungi growth, and the potential spread of disease.

2) Water

Is tap water safe for hummingbirds? It depends on your water quality.

To be safe:

  • Use clean, boiled water.

Boiling is recommended to help reduce the chance of any contaminants in the water and to dissolve the sugar.

Avoid using softened water.


1Clean Your Feeder

Have hummingbird feeders clean and ready. There is more info on this below.

2Boil Sugar and Water

Add 1-part sugar and 4-parts water to saucepan and bring to a boil.

  • Tiny batch:1/8 cup sugar: 1/2 cup water
  • Small batch:1/4 cup sugar: 1 cup water
  • Medium batch:1/2 cup sugar: 2 cups water
  • Large batch:1 cup sugar: 4 cups water
  • Extra Large batch: 2 cups sugar: 8 cups water

If you want to save this recipe, grab a copy of the tip sheet here.

3Dissolve Sugar

How long do I boil sugar water for hummingbirds?

Allow mixture to gently boil for at least 5 minutes to completely dissolve sugar.

4Cool and Fill Feeder

Leave mixture to cool to room temperature before adding to feeder.

5Store Leftovers in Fridge

Place any leftover mixture in jar with tight lid and store in fridge up to 5 days. Mark expiry date on jar.

Frequently-Asked Questions

How to Make Hummingbird Food (Sugar Water Recipe) (4)

What do hummingbirds eat?

Hummingbirds eat insects including spiders and various larvae and consume natural nectar from flowering plants.

They do not require the sugar water we provide to survive but it can help to supplement their diets.

Any tips for choosing a hummingbird feeder?

This is the style of hummingbird feeder I recommend:

How to Make Hummingbird Food (Sugar Water Recipe) (5)

Hummingbird Feeder | Amazon

When choosing a feeder look for:

  • Small sugar water sugar water storage area.
    Sugar water spoils quickly—the hotter the weather, the faster it spoils. It’s best to provide small batches in small feeders and clean them frequently. Large bottle feeders end up wasting a lot of food.
  • Easy to clean: can everything come apart and be scrubbed clean?
  • Perch for hummingbirds to rest while dining (to conserve energy).
  • Durability: if the feeder has a dispenser bottle, I prefer glass to plastic which tends to be short-lived and fades in the sun. But saucer style are better for deterring bees.
  • Hook for hanging.
  • Built-in ant moat (bonus!).

Also, if you find a feeder you really like, buy a few! I rarely see my favorites year after year so I stock up when I can.

How do hummingbirds find feeders?

  • Hummingbirds find feeders by sight and that is why red feeders—the same color as some of their favorite nectar flowers— are a helpful signal to them that nectar may be available.
  • Hummingbirds have minimal or no sense of smell so, as far as we know, it’s a myth that they smell the sugar.

Should hummingbird feeders be in sun or shade?

The feeder needs to be somewhere the hummingbirds will see it and feel safe using it.

Because sugar water can spoil quickly in heat, it’s ideal if the feeder is located in a shady spot. Be mindful though that surrounding trees and shrubs give predators cover so it may not be the best choice in your garden.

How can I attract hummingbirds?

  • First, be sure they do live in your area. There are parts of Canada and the United States where they do not visit. This map shows hummingbird sightings.
  • Create a hummingbird-friendly garden.
    This includes:
    • Garden organically without pesticides, herbicides, and any other harmful chemicals.
    • Grow plants hummingbirds like.
    • Provide nesting and resting habitat with trees and shrubs.
    • Make your hummingbird feeders visible from above: don’t place them on a covered patio where the birds might never discover them.
    • Keep cats and dogs out of garden (if you can).

How long does sugar water last in the fridge?

Sugar water lasts a maximum of approximately five days maximum in the fridge in a container with a tight lid. As it starts to spoil, you will see little things floating in it which is mold forming. Never use any mixture you have doubts about.

How often should I change the sugar water?

  • Sugar water does not stay fresh very long.
    It lasts just 4-5 days in the refrigerator and can spoil quickly outside depending on how hot it is.
  • I find it needs changing every second day in moderate weather (70°F | 21°C) and twice daily on hot days (90°F | 32°C).
    If we have a heat wave, I take the feeders down because they will go moldy.

How can I keep ants off my hummingbird feeder?

  • Suspend your hummingbird feeder from a hook so the only physical way to for ant to reach it is via the hook.
  • And, use an ant moat. These are little cups of water that suspend a hook, with a hanger on the underside to suspend the feeder.

The ants will stop at the hook because they cannot swim across the cup of water to continue their journey.

How do you keep bees away from hummingbird feeders?

  • Along with growing a diverse selection of flowering native plants that bees love in a pesticide and herbicide-free garden, you can use these tips to bee-proof your feeder.

How do you clean and disinfect a hummingbird feeder?

Start with feeders that are easy to clean. Some of them are terrible!

There are two steps to cleaning a feeder after emptying it:

  1. Wash in mild soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Then disinfect in a solution of bleach and water using the bird feeder cleaning instructions here).
  3. Rinse and dry thoroughly before reuse.

Free Tip Sheet

Empress of Dirt

Hummingbird Food Recipe & Care Tips

How to Make Hummingbird Food (Sugar Water Recipe) (6)

Get Free Tip Sheet

To save the file, please provide your email address for this purpose only.
We do not spam.

Enjoy those dear little birds and be sure to clean your feeders regularly to keep it safe and healthy for them.

~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛

How to Make Hummingbird Food (Sugar Water Recipe) (7)

Print Instructions Pin It

5 from 6 votes

Hummingbird Sugar Water

This recipe mimics the nectar in flowers so hummingbirds get the right sugar ratio.

Prep Time5 minutes mins

Steps15 minutes mins

Total Time20 minutes mins

Makes: 1 cup

Author: Melissa J. Will

Cost: $5

Supplies & Materials

  • ¼ cup Sugar, white granulated white, granulated
  • 1 cup Water boiled, not softened


  • Combine sugar and water in saucepan and bring to boil for 5 minutes.

  • Cool thoroughly.

  • Fill hummingbird feeder.

  • Hang feeder outside.

    Store leftovers in airtight container in fridge for 5 days. Note expiry date.


  1. Sugar: do NOT use brown sugar, honey, sugar powders, artificial sweeteners.
    These items can cause a range of problems including bird illness, rapid bacteria and fungi growth, and the potential spread of disease.
  2. Do not use red food coloring or red dye.
  3. Make small batches as needed: clean and refill feeder frequently on warm days. You may need to remove feeder on hot days to avoid mold.
Batch SizeSugar AmountWater Amount
Tiny batch1/8 cup sugar (30 ml)1/2 cup water (118 ml)
Small batch1/4 cup sugar (60 ml)1 cup water (236 ml)
Medium batch1/2 cup sugar (118 ml)2 cups water (472 ml)
Large batch1 cups sugar (236 ml)4 cups water (944 ml)
Extra large batch2 cups sugar (472 ml)8 cups water (1.9 L)

Want More?Get your free Empress of Dirt Creative Newsletter

Share on FacebookShare on PinterestShare on EmailShare on X (Twitter)

How to Make Hummingbird Food (Sugar Water Recipe) (2024)


What is the correct ratio of sugar to water for hummingbirds? ›

Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water (for example, 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water) until the sugar is dissolved. Do not add red dye. Fill your hummingbird feeders with the sugar water and place outside. Extra sugar water can be stored in a refrigerator.

Why do you have to boil sugar water for hummingbirds? ›

While boiling the water will help slow the fermentation of the nectar initially, the nectar in hummingbird feeders is contaminated as soon as it is sipped by a bird. Therefore, it is not necessary to boil the nectar once the sugar has been dissolved. If you use extra fine sugar, no boiling or heating may be needed.

How long can sugar water sit out for hummingbirds? ›

How often should Hummingbird Feeder Nectar be changed? If the weather is cooler, 60 degrees, then leaving the nectar for two or three days is acceptable. However, on a 90? + day, the possibility of spoilage would require that you change the nectar after one day.

Can hummingbirds eat maple syrup? ›

Hummingbirds may be drawn to these holes to forage for insects, which provide a valuable source of protein in their diet. But save the maple syrup for your pancakes, not for your hummingbird mixture.

What happens if you put too much sugar in hummingbird water? ›

Too much sugar is hard on their liver and kidneys, and too little sugar will not provide the needed calories and may cause them to lose interest in your feeder. Do not use red dye in the nectar.

Is a 3 to 1 ratio OK for hummingbirds? ›

Hummingbirds thrive on sugar water that matches, roughly, the sweetness level of natural nectar, which is from about 1:5 to 1:3. Ornithologist Laura Erickson personally recommends using 1:4 during normal conditions, 1:3 when it's cold and wet, and 1:5 when it's hot and dry (to help protect the birds from dehydration).

Why you shouldn't feed hummingbirds sugar water? ›

Sugar water can become contaminated by bacteria, mold, fungus, and even dead bugs which can harm and possibly kill a hummingbird. As the nectar spoils, and all nectar spoils, it can be harder to digest and less nutritious for the hummingbirds.

How often should I change hummingbird sugar water? ›

Keep Sugar Water for Hummingbirds Clean

You should be in the habit of changing it every few days or even sooner if it's really hot outside.

Is it OK to give hummingbirds cold sugar water? ›

In areas where the nighttime temperatures only dip slightly below freezing your hummingbird nectar may not freeze as the sugar solution has a lower freezing point than plain water. However, it's better not to have your hummingbirds drink very cold nectar; this can actually cold-stun them.

Where should you not hang a hummingbird feeder? ›

Feeders should be either far away from windows or very close to windows to help avoid the risk of collisions. Consider a feeder with suction cups, like this Jewel Box Window Hummingbird Feeder, to help keep your hummingbirds safe.

Can you put too much sugar in a hummingbird feeder? ›

Nectar with more sugar is more difficult to digest, and it is possible that if hummingbirds are only drinking very sweet nectar, it could cause liver or kidney damage, especially as the birds will be ingesting less water at the same time.

What is draining my hummingbird feeder overnight? ›

You probably have bats visiting!

Is Gatorade good for hummingbirds? ›

A: No, no, no. Please don't do that. All they want from us is sugar and water. Nothing else is proven safe.

Can you feed hummingbirds apple juice? ›

Fruit juice, including citrus juices, isn't a suitable substitute for hummingbird nectar. These juices can ferment quickly, leading to bacterial growth and potentially harming the hummingbirds. Stick to the recommended four parts water to one-part sugar ratio when making nectar.

Will hummingbirds eat watermelon? ›

"Watermelon and other natural juices are likely to ferment or spoil rapidly and are not recommended," birding experts and conservationists Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman told Birds & Blooms magazine. "For the health of the hummingbirds, it's best to stick with simple sugar water and avoid experimenting with other items."

Can you put too much sugar in hummingbird nectar? ›

During hot, dry weather, when hummingbirds risk dehydration, it's best to make your mixture no stronger than a quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. But during cold, rainy spells, making the mixture a bit stronger, up to about a third cup of sugar per cup of water, will not hurt your birds and may help them.

What does 4 parts water and 1 part sugar mean? ›

Through trail and error, hummingbird enthusiasts and biologists alike eventually learned that a simple mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part white sugar is the best food to offer hummingbirds in the wild. Making this energy-rich fuel is a cinch. Simply mix 4 parts of water to 1 part of sugar.

Can you make hummingbird food too sweet? ›

It is best to use one part plain white crystalline sugar dissolved in four parts water. That is close to the concentration in natural nectar from flowers. If you use too much sugar, the hummingbirds don't get enough water for the amount of sugar, and that is bad for them.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Last Updated:

Views: 6465

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Birthday: 2000-07-07

Address: 5050 Breitenberg Knoll, New Robert, MI 45409

Phone: +2556892639372

Job: Investor Mining Engineer

Hobby: Sketching, Cosplaying, Glassblowing, Genealogy, Crocheting, Archery, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is The Hon. Margery Christiansen, I am a bright, adorable, precious, inexpensive, gorgeous, comfortable, happy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.