Use this simple recipe to make homemade hummingbird nectar. It is easy and inexpensive to make and free of chemicals and dyes often found in store-bought hummingbird nectar. Plus, get essential tips to help keep your hummers happy.

Nectar Ingredients

Hummingbird nectar is a 4:1 (4-to-1) ratio of water to sugar.

  • 4 parts hot water
  • 1 part white sugar

Example Amounts of 4:1 Water and Sugar

  • 1 cup hot water + 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups hot water + 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 cups hot water + 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 cups hot water + 1 cup white sugar

Hummingbirds like fresh nectar, so make only enough to last 4 – 5 days.


  1. Measure 4 parts hot water into a clean jar or container for mixing
  2. Add 1 part white sugar to the hot water
  3. Mix sugar and water well until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  4. Let the nectar cool to room temperature
  5. While your nectar cools, wash your hummingbird feeder in hot water and rinse thoroughly.
  6. Pour the cooled nectar into your hummingbird feeder
  7. Reassemble and hang your feeder

Water Tips

  • It is fine to use tap water without boiling it as long as your tap water is safe for you to drink without boiling it.
  • If you use well water or chlorinated water, I recommend boiling it.
  • If your tap water has a strong or unpleasant odor or taste, it would be better to use purified or bottled water.
  • Never use distilled water.

Sugar Tips

  • Use regular refined white sugar.
  • Do not use honey, molasses, brown sugar, raw sugar, other sugar products, or artificial sweeteners – these can be difficult for hummingbirds to digest.

Nectar Tips

  • Do not add red food coloring to the nectar. It is unnecessary and may be harmful. The hummingbirds will find your feeder.
  • Do not add vitamins. Many wildlife and bird specialists advise that supplements could be harmful to the hummingbird’s health.
  • Use a brush when you clean your feeder; ideally, use this brush only for cleaning your feeder.
  • If you notice the nectar in your feeder is not going down, assume it has gone bad, and the birds are avoiding it. I have read that a hummingbird will starve before drinking soured nectar.
  • If the nectar is cloudy, it’s spoiled.
  • Keep track of how quickly your feeders get emptied and only make enough for 4 or 5 days.
  • As a rule, do not leave nectar in a feeder for more than a week. 

Nectar Ratio – 4:1 (4-to-1)

Avoid the temptation to alter the nectar recipe ratio. Some folks ask about making the nectar more concentrated in the winter, for example, 3:1 (3-to-1), to lower the nectar’s freezing temperature. My understanding is this is a bad idea. The nectar is the hummer’s only water source when everything is frozen. Hummers need a specific ratio of water to food for digestion and other bodily functions; a 3-to-1 mix does not give them enough water. A 4-to-1 mix gives the right balance of calories and water. A higher sugar concentration (3-to-1) can potently dehydrate the bird. Always use the 4-to-1 ratio in the recipe.

How Long Nectar Stays Fresh

Because nectar has so much sugar, it is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. Bugs, bees, and the hummer’s beaks and tongues constantly introduce new bacteria into the nectar. Temperature plays a significant role in how fast the bacteria grows. Hummer nectar will spoil faster when the weather is warm and if you use a hummingbird feeder heater

Enjoy! Hummingbirds are entertaining to watch, and it is rewarding to help them survive and thrive when there are not enough flowers in bloom. With your hummer nectar recipe and nectar tips, you have an easy and inexpensive way to keep your hummer’s nectar fresh year-round.

Hummer Resources

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