Best Hummingbird Food: 5 Healthy Nectars + DIY Nectar Recipe

by Monika
Best hummingbird food

Imagine resting in the yard while hummingbirds fly around and sip their delicious nectar. Their song is relaxing every tension in your body and you enjoy this meditative state.  Luckily, you can easily attract hummingbirds to your yard by offering them their favorite food.

Hummingbirds can eat a lot. They consume 1/2 of their weight in food per day! To attract these birds to your yard or garden, you can simply put hummingbird food in the bird feeder. But if you want to make sure that you are giving these beautiful birds the best quality nectar, then continue reading about the ingredients you should avoid and tips on how to choose the best hummingbird food.

If you want to make nectar by yourself, I have a recipe waiting for you below!

BTW you can also take a look at my list of recommended hummingbird feeders to put the nectar in.

Ingredients to avoid in hummingbird food

When I was looking for some high-quality hummingbird food products on Amazon, I came upon many different nectars. And they look great at first sight. They have great reviews, affordable prices etc. But my detective personality always has to research further. I always want to make sure I choose high-quality products that are as natural and healthy as possible.

Finally, I came up with the list of 5 products, that are in my opinion, the best ones I could find on Amazon – they don’t contain unhealthy ingredients and work at attracting the hummingbirds. I encourage you to do your own research if you want too, before making a purchase.

Here are the ingredients that are best to avoid when buying hummingbird nectar.

Red Dye

Many of hummingbird nectar products available to buy contain red dye which is added because hummingbirds are attracted to red color. But, there have been suspicions that red dye is not healthy for the birds, so it is better not to risk it and just avoid buying the hummingbird food that has a dye in it.

Let me explain it in more detail.

The red dye, called Red Dye No. 40, is approved by the FDA and it can be added to food and cosmetics but there are still some concerns about the safety of that chemical. The dye is actually illegal in Europe where the rules are more strict.

Also, no one ever made a study on how the red dye affects birds so being approved for human consumption is, in my opinion, not evidence enough that it won’t harm the birds. After all, the birds are a lot smaller and if they consume plenty of nectar with added artificial colors, it makes a large portion of their diet and it has a direct effect on their health.

There are numerous products on the market that do not contain dyes and work great in attracting hummingbirds, so there’s really no need to have a red dye in the nectar.

Preservatives

Another thing added to many hummingbird nectars is preservatives. Of course, preservatives have to be added to some products that could otherwise spoil and make more harm than good to the birds that way. But there are also products available that don’t need any preservatives because they can’t spoil due to the way they are packaged or what ingredients are in it. I prefer the products that don’t require preservatives.

Are electrolytes necessary?

The ingredient that you might often notice in hummingbird food products is electrolytes. While hummingbirds do need electrolytes, they are perfectly capable of getting enough of it with their regular food. So, while this is not something that would harm the birds, electrolytes are not something you absolutely need in your nectar either. After all, if you make the nectar yourself, you won’t be adding electrolytes either.

The electrolytes would be required if the birds would feed only from your feeder, but as hummingbirds eat from hundreds of flowers a day, they will get plenty of electrolytes from those flowers.

Best hummingbird food you can buy

When I was looking for the best hummingbird food on Amazon I came upon these 5 products. They work good at attracting hummingbirds and they don’t have any unhealthy ingredients.

Songbird Essentials Clear Hummingbird Nectar

Songbird Essentials hummingbird food

Songbird Essentials Hummingbird Nectar – check current price on Amazon

This easy mix is made with 100% finely ground sucrose. You only have to mix it with water and that is it. You put that nectar in the feeder, and the birds will come.

EZNectar

Eznectar hummingbird food

EZ Nectar – check current price on Amazon

This hummingbird nectar is sealed aseptically so it needs no preservatives. But once you open it, you’ll need to keep it in the refrigerator to keep it from spoiling. According to the seller, it can last for 2 weeks after it has been opened (it must be in the refrigerator). This nectar uses filtered water.

Hummer’s Galore

Hummers Galore hummingbird food

Hummer’s Galore – check current price on Amazon

I like this one because it is conveniently packed so you can make nectar in small batches. It comes in 4 packs with 4 ounce of nectar which you mix with 16 ounces of water to make the final product.

Sweet-Nectar Premium Hummingbird Food

Sweet-Nectar hummingbird food

Sweet-Nectar Premium Hummingbird Food – check current price on Amazon

This one has electrolytes added in it. It is infused with wildflower waters and made with pure cane sugar which will work great to attract birds. Hot packed bottle makes preservatives unnecessary, but you will need to keep it in the refrigerator after opening.

Audubon Hummingbird Concentrate Food

Audubon hummingbird food

Audubon Hummingbird Food – check current price on Amazon

This one is also individually packed so it is more convenient. Each package makes 15 ounces of nectar.

Things to know about feeding hummingbirds to nectar

  • Avoid putting the feeder in the direct sunlight because the nectar will spoil faster.
  • Clean the old nectar from the feeder before putting the new one.
  • Do not add any ingredients other than what is written in the instructions (water).
  • Put a piece of fruit near the feeder because the hummingbirds love fruit flies.

How often do you need to change hummingbird nectar?

The nectar should be changed often to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. If it is really hot outside, the bacteria will grow faster so it is best to replace it every 2 days. In the colder weather, you can change it every 4 days.

Make DIY Hummingbird nectar

If you want to make hummingbird nectar by yourself, the process is really simple.

The perfect nectar mixture would be:

  • 1 part granulated sugar (eg. 1/2 cup sugar)
  • 4 parts water (eg. 2 cups water)

All you need to do is boil the water, and then add the sugar until it is melted. Now you have your homemade hummingbird nectar! You can see it in this video too.

Cane or beet sugar?

There are many recipes out there, some of them preferring cane sugar to beet sugar, but as far as I researched, there is no notable difference in the quality of those too so you can use either.

Spring water, distilled water, well water, tap water?

Some recipes recommend spring water, some recommend distilled water, well water, tap water… Something that seemed so easy like mixing two ingredients, turned up complicated, with a bunch of different advice on different websites. Well, I did my research and this is what I concluded…

Distilled water doesn’t have some of the minerals that the hummingbirds would benefit from, so it is not recommended. I am not sure about the well water as it can contain microorganisms and chemicals according to Livestrong. I would go for tap water from what I read. The water that goes into the nectar will be boiled anyway, so all the potential nasties will disappear from the water.

Important notes and tips for DIY hummingbird nectar:

  • Wait until the nectar cools off before putting it in the feeder.
  • Before putting the nectar in the feeder, make sure the feeder is thoroughly cleaned.
  • If you made some extra nectar, you can store it in the refrigerator for a maximum of 2 weeks.
  • Do not add honey, red dye or artificial sweeteners.

Hummingbird food FAQs

Hummingbird food FAQs

What is hummingbird’s favorite flower to sip the nectar from?

Hummingbird’s main food is nectar that they get from the flowers. Some of the hummingbird’s favorite flowers to get the nectar from are:

  • bee balm
  • red columbine
  • Catawba rhododendron
  • Cardinal vine
  • hollyhocks
  • Delphinium

The nectar gives them required energy while also providing the water. They get enough of water from the nectar alone.

What do hummingbirds eat other than nectar?

While the nectar provides them with the energy, they need other types of food too, to get all the other nutrients not present in the nectar.

Most importantly, they also need insects which will provide them with the protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

The insects that hummingbirds most commonly eat are:

  • ants
  • beetles
  • mites
  • spiders
  • aphids
  • gnats
  • fruit flies

Hummingbirds also eat mosquitos so they can save you from annoying itches!

Other things they eat:

  • tree sap
  • pollen

Do hummingbirds eat worms?

Mealworms are too big for the hummingbirds. These birds prefer small insects such as the ones I listed above.

What do baby hummingbirds eat?

Mom hummingbirds feed their babies with tiny insects and spiders as well as nectar and pollen. Momma bird squirts the food in the mouth of her young.

What do hummingbirds eat in the winter?

During the cold winter days, when there are not as many flowers blossoming, the hummingbirds feed with the usual insects, sap from the trees and the nectar from the flowers that withstand the winter.

Do you get hummingbirds to your yard or garden?

Let me know in the comments!

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8 comments

Carmen Rodriguez March 24, 2019 - 2:05 pm

Can you make Hummingbird nectar with Blue Agave Organic Nectar? The ingredients read: Organic Agave Nectar only…

Reply
Monika March 26, 2019 - 10:20 am

Hi. I wasn’t sure about the correct answer so I researched it and although there isn’t a lot of info about using agave nectar for hummingbirds, I did find a few resources that say agave nectar should be avoided. So I would stick with hummingbird nectar made of sugar to be on the safe side.

Reply
Bob June 24, 2019 - 3:22 pm

I have never before seen such skillful mixing of sugar and water!! Did you get a degree in hummingbird science?

Reply
Monika June 29, 2019 - 11:34 am

Lol, yeah it’s pretty straightforward but some people prefer watching a video instead of reading so it doesn’t hurt to include both in the post 🙂

Reply
Kevin October 18, 2019 - 7:34 pm

What is meant by the nectar “spoiling”? Sugar is a preservative. It can possibly ferment, though unlikely in this concentration. Commercial, pre-prepared nectar says nothing about spoilage nor refrigeration. Once put outside and exposed to bugs, birds dipping their tongues into it, etc., I understand that it needs to be regularly changed. ??

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Monika October 19, 2019 - 9:21 am

The sugar solution breaks down over time so if you have large quantities that you can’t spend in a few days, it’s important to keep the nectar in the fridge to keep it fresh. Perhaps the commercial nectar you are talking about has added preservatives so it won’t spoil easily as homemade nectar would. Here’s an interesting post on hummingbird nectar and spoiling: https://www.thespruce.com/does-hummingbird-nectar-spoil-4137325

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Erich Hayner November 5, 2019 - 11:51 pm

I would very much like to know how to make up nectar using a kitchen scale. I’d put the saucepan on my scale and zero it, I could then weigh the water (in grams), then zero the scale and pour in the appropriate amount of sugar. Then it’s on to the stove without measuring cups.
The trouble is, that every recipe I’ve ever found relies on volume measurement, which messes up the equation.
1 part sugar to 4 parts water is imprecise. If you weigh a cup of water, you’ll find that it is much heavier than a cup of sugar.

Also, a tiny pinch of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) might help neutralize the chloramine found in most city waters. Boiling alone does not remove it. I fear that chloranated water is, at least, distasteful to hummingbirds, and at worst unhealthful for them. After all, hummys consume huge quantities of nectar.
It may not harm humans, but in a tiny creature it might be different. I’ve noticed that, here in California where we must irrigate throughout the summer using city water, that our plants fail to thrive. As soon as the winter rains arrive, every plant in my yard starts thriving. I’ve found that nectar treated with pure vitamin C has helped immensely with our hummy’s appetite. I have no science to back this up other than the fact is that vitamin C filters are available for chloramine reduction.
So, nectar by weight, and the addition of vitamin C.
What do you think?

Reply
Monika November 9, 2019 - 11:29 am

Well, you can’t go wrong if you use 1 part sugar to 4 parts water… If you want to use volume measurements, it’ll just make things more complicated for you. If you really want to use volume then that would be 236.59 grams of water (that’s how much 1 cup of water weights) and 200 grams of sugar (4 cups of granulated sugar). Boiling water for minimum of 20 minutes will remove the chloramine from water. Here’s an interesting document on that topic: https://www.sfwater.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentID=6920 . I couldn’t find any info on the effects of using vitamin C in hummingbird nectar, especially if the birds are consuming it on a daily basis so I can’t say anything on that topic. I normally just use water and sugar.

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