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Recipe for Hummingbird Food

Who said sugar is bad for you? Hummingbirds would disagree! These small, high-energy birds flit from flower to flower looking for nectar. You can get a bird’s-eye view of them by adding a hummingbird feeder close to a window in your house.

Select your hummingbird feeder carefully. Make sure the feeder you choose: 

  • has sufficient capacity for the number of hummingbirds in your area. A dish feeder has limited capacity but may be enough if you have a small number of hummingbirds visiting you.
  • is made of heavy glass and sturdy plastic. You will want to test it’s sturdiness with the “drop test” … can it survive a 5-foot drop onto grass?
  • has replacement parts available. Hummingbird feeders are constantly exposed to the weather and parts will become brittle as they age. When this happens you’ll have to replace those parts or the whole feeder.
  • is easy to take apart for cleaning. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned frequently. This means every other day during hot summer days and at least every 5 days at other times of the year. Ideally, cleaning involves soaking all the feeder parts in a mild bleach solution (10 parts hot water to 1 part chlorine bleach). Be sure to rinse it thoroughly before filling it again.

Once you’ve made your selection, you are ready to make the sugar water that is the hummingbird’s food of choice. It’s quite simple:

Add 1/4 cup of white granulated cane sugar to each cup of boiling water.

You must boil water (stovetop or microwave) and then add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Boiling helps dissolve the sugar and kills off things that may make the sugar water spoil faster. It must be cool before you add it to your hummingbird feeders! The sugar water can remain in your refrigerator for 2 weeks. However, it spoils rather quickly outside in the hummingbird feeders. This is why it is important that you replace it (and clean the feeder) every 2 days throughout warm weather and at least every 5 days the rest of the year. You can usually tell when you’ve waited too long and the sugar is becoming spoiled; it will start to cloud.

Why do you usually see a red liquid in hummingbird feeders? Some people like to add a touch of food coloring to the sugar water. It is not necessary to do this and is more for your pleasure than the hummingbird’s.

What you do NOT want to do is use any other form of sugar in the hummingbird food: not molasses, not brown sugar, not honey, not artificial sugars. These do not provide the same resemblance to nectar that white granulated cane sugar does.

If you decide to put hummingbird feeders in your yard, please keep them full and clean. The hummingbirds will get used to finding a food source in your yard and, when natural nectar resources are hard to find (e.g. frost has killed off the flowers), they will come to you for food. Think of them as one more mouth to feed from now on.

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