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.

What happens if you don t 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 much syrup in ounces is needed to make 27 ounces of hummingbird nectar? ›

Final answer: To make 27 ounces of hummingbird nectar with a 1:4 syrup-to-water ratio, one needs 5.4 ounces of syrup.

Is it better to buy hummingbird food or make it? ›

Q: Do I need to buy special food for my hummingbirds? A: No. The best (and least expensive) solution for your feeder is a 1:4 solution of refined white sugar to tap water. That's ¼ cup of sugar in 1 cup of water.

Do I need to boil sugar water for hummingbirds? ›

While boiling will help slow the fermentation of the nectar initially, the nectar in hummingbird feeders is contaminated as soon as a bird sips it. Therefore, you do not need to boil the nectar once the sugar has been dissolved.

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).

How much sugar do I put in 2 cups of water for hummingbirds? ›

mix in half a cup of sugar into 2 cups of boiling water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and once it's cooled, pour the mixture into the hummingbird feeder. Place outside and enjoy.

Is it OK to give hummingbirds cold sugar water? ›

Yes. Cold nectar seems to be favored by hummingbirds on a hot day. Of course, it doesn't stay cold very long. Of course, in very early spring or late fall, if your nectar is frozen, you need to replace it with liquid nectar.

Can you put too much sugar in hummingbird water? ›

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.

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.

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.

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.

Does homemade hummingbird nectar need to be refrigerated? ›

You can make extra and store it in the fridge to make the next few fill ups quick and easy. Clean the feeder and replace the nectar every three to five days – sooner if the nectar gets a little cloudy. As tempting as it may be, you should never put anything other than sugar and water into a hummingbird feeder.

What is the healthiest thing to put in a hummingbird feeder? ›

The best nectar to use in hummingbird feeders is a 1:4 mixture of pure cane sugar (white) and water. Do not use honey, brown sugar or commercial mixes. Also, do not add food coloring. Just use cane sugar and water—period.

Why do you boil water for hummingbird food? ›

They say "to kill any mold" but there is mold even in the air. As long as you're using clean drinking water for your hummingbird nectar, it isn't necessary to heat or boil the water.

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

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. Most feeders are designed with red parts to attract the notice of hummingbirds. Never add red food color to sugar water.

Can too much sugar hurt a hummingbird? ›

Don't ever use brown sugar, honey, or any other type of sweetener, which can harm a hummingbird. For example, brown sugar has too much iron in it. Try not to make it too much sweeter than a 4:1 ratio because it is harder for them to digest. There is such a thing as too sweet, even for a hummingbird.

Is hummingbird food 3 to 1 or 4 to 1? ›

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.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Last Updated:

Views: 6087

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Cheryll Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-12-23

Address: 4653 O'Kon Hill, Lake Juanstad, AR 65469

Phone: +494124489301

Job: Marketing Representative

Hobby: Reading, Ice skating, Foraging, BASE jumping, Hiking, Skateboarding, Kayaking

Introduction: My name is Cheryll Lueilwitz, I am a sparkling, clean, super, lucky, joyous, outstanding, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.