Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar

To read about Carson’s hummingbirds look at the back pages of this issue of Carson O Piñon.

Male Black-chinned Hummingbird at a feeder in Carson.


We should be ready for the return of our hummingbirds from April 1st each year, an arrival date that is getting earlier each year as our climate warms. It’s a great idea to have your hummingbird feeders out by April 1st even if there are no obvious signs of hummingbirds around.

To feed the hummingbirds around your house, first buy a hummingbird feeder!

Then mix the food yourself. Don’t buy expensive and colored food from the store. All you need is regular white sugar and water. Don’t use brown sugar, organic sugar, or honey. All of these may kill your hummingbirds, partly because of traces of iron in those sugars which hummingbirds are unable to metabolize. The coloring added to commercial hummingbird food, whether you buy commercial hummingbird food as powder or as a liquid, can be harmful to hummingbirds. It is there for our benefit, not for the benefit of the hummingbirds.

Make hummingbird nectar by dissolving a known quantity of white sugar into three to four times the volume of water. Heat the water and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Allow the sugar solution to cool, and then pour it into your feeder. To avoid waste, measure the volume of water that will fill your hummingbird feeder and put that into a pan or kettle to heat. Divide that quantity by three or four, and measure that volume of white sugar in your measuring jug. Add to the hot water and dissolve. Allow to cool.

There is no need to boil the water for nectar, just warm it enough to make the sugar dissolve more quickly. Some people will say you need to boil the water to sterilize the sugar but the fact is that most of the bacteria that end up spoiling the food comes from the tongues of the hummingbirds and not from the water or sugar.

If you add more sugar (one part sugar to three parts water) the hummingbirds will visit less often. If you add less sugar (one part sugar to four parts water) the hummingbirds will visit more often. If there is a great deal of competition for access to your feeder, a stronger solution may be better.

You should replace unused hummingbird nectar about once a week during cooler weather, and once every couple of days once the days are hot. Keep an eye on your feeders and if the food begins to turn cloudy replace it with fresh food.

To see progress of any birds on migration, take a look at the maps at

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