Recipe: Hummingbird Feeder Nectar

By , April 27, 2013

My recent post on setting up the hummingbird feeder prompted reader questions about the nectar we use.

First, let me say that while I thought it very neighborly of me to fill and hang our hummingbird feeder just as we got hit with a late April snow, the hummingbirds don’t necessarily agree. This morning I watched a hummingbird land on the mound that will soon be our rhubarb patch. From there it swooped over to look at our feeder, but zipped off without even hesitating an instant.

That seems a reminder that while they may like our feeder, they don’t really need it, even in a snow storm. These delicate, ephemeral little beings are actually tough little S.O.B.s!

So, here’s Michelle’s recipe for hummingbird nectar:

Heat 1 cup of water hot enough to dissolve 1½ cups white sugar. Add enough cool rain water to make 4 cups total. This is enough to fill two feeders. Wait until cooler than body temperature to put out for the birds.

As you see, it’s really too simple to bother buying nectar mix, no matter what their advertising departments say to tempt you.

Note that Michelle specifies rain water. Our water has no chlorine or other chemicals in it; rain water lacks even the tannins our water tends to collect as it percolates through the ground. If you’re using tap water, set it out for a day or so to evaporate the chlorine. Hummingbirds will no doubt survive chlorine, but they surely don’t need it.

Another tidbit I’ve picked up is a bit counter-intuitive: don’t use honey as a sweetener. There’s something in it that’s bad for hummingbirds, which is odd, since you’re basically trying to give them bee- or manmade flower nectar.

Change the nectar about twice a week. If it gets cloudy, replace it. Usually, the birds will stop drinking it if it passes pull date.

Finally, we don’t color our nectar red, as many people do. We doubt the birds need the food coloring; the red “spouts” of our feeder seem to attract them just fine—as long as they’re in the mood for a drink, that is.

2 Responses to “Recipe: Hummingbird Feeder Nectar”

  1. Linn Hartman says:

    Don’t know about tough, but ours are mean little buggers when a couple of them get around the feeder. They will buzz in and try to drive another bird away.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Believe it, Linn! Once they get going, they’ll do their best to drive other birds out of the yard as well. They’re even ready to take on ravens and eagles!

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