As mentioned in the section on the Basics of Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds Hummingbirds have some very specific preferences and needs. While store bought nectars will likely meet your requirements, they can also contain additives that aren’t ideal.
My early experiments with hummingbird feeding involved using a commercial nectar. The product did the job of bringing in the birds but I worry to this day that the red coloring may have been harmful. Though I haven’t found any literature proving conclussively that artificial coloring presents a risk to fragile hummingbirds, it is perhaps best to er on the side of caution and avoid such solutions entirely.
If you choose to use a commercial product for your hummingbird feeding needs, consider avoiding products containing artificial coloring, additives and nutrients. Remember that a hummingbird consumes nectar to fuel its engine for hunting real food. Nectar produced with nutrition in mind might be more harmful than useful (though there’s no proof to back that up, just the perhaps overly-cautious concern of a bird lover).
Any powder nectar mix you might buy is going to require preparation including mixing (and probably boiling) in water. As hummingbird feeding with homemade nectar requires the same steps, you could consider the diy approach as a more economic and more involved way of meeting your hummingbird feeding needs.
To produce a homemade nectar, use only cane table sugar. As noted in Special Hummingbird Feeding Needs you want to use a mixture of about 1 part cane sugar for every 4 parts water but can intensify the mix to 1 part cane sugar for every 3 parts water during migration periods. Those who wish to use other sweetner options should be warned that you might risk driving off your hummingbirds or harming them.
Feeding hummingbirds should never include the use of powdered sugar. Also avoid raw sugar as it contains iron which can, over time, prove harmful or fatal to hummingbirds. As mentioned in Basics of Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds, never use honey as a sweetner. Honey can lead to fungal an microbeal infestations that are fatal to hummingbirds.
Finally, don’t put your hummingbirds on a diet. A hummingbird is always hours away from starvation. They feed on copious amounts of nectar, far in excess of their own body mass, during the day just to provide the energy they need to hunt for the food that keeps them alive. Artificial sweetners such as sacarine may fool the birds into visiting your hummingbird feeding station but will provide absolutely zero calories of burnable energy. A bird fooled into consuming nectar made from an artificial sweetner will likely burn energy it doesn’t have and be unable to hunt for the sustenance it desperately needs to stay alive. So I’ll say it again - NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETNERS!
[…] bag and more. Hang on guys, while I go fill out the form for my free bag… Dave Hobbs presents The Right Nectar for Hummingbird Feeding posted at Hummingbird Feeding Guide. Dave says, “Hummingbirds add a fleeting touch of beauty to any […]
Thanks for the information. I may be dumb but how do you mix a ratio of i part cane sugar to 4 parts water when the water is liquid measured in volume and the sugar is solid measured in ounces? Do you disregard the units of measurement and just make the final solution with the 4:1 ration?
You’re not dumb, Lewis, as evidenced by the fact that you’ve correctly answered your own question! If you used 4 cups to measure your water, use 1 of the same cups to measure your sugar. Or, 4 teaspoons water, 1 teaspoon sugar. 4 shotglasses of water, 1 shotglass of sugar.
Don’t forget the 3:1 extra-sweet hummingbird feeding solution for migrating birds and apply the same rule. 3 (container) water, 1 (container) sugar.
What about for winter feeding in below freezing temperatures? Would this be a good time to use the sweeter mixture? I’ve been thawing feeders all day and notice that the birds never leave the yard. I don’t think they are eating anthing else(we had a snowstorm today). Also, might the sweeter mixture take longer to freeze?
Judi - It isn’t really a good or bad idea to elevate the sweetness at your feeder during colder temperatures. It’s simply that, in colder times, hummingbirds may have a preference. Absent natural nectar, they’ll be perfectly content to drink from your feeder at a 4:1 ratio. But, yes, you can increase the ratio to 3:1 if you’re so inclined.
As for how long it takes to freeze, yes. Both salt and sweet water have lower freezing temperatures than plain water. Give or take 27 degrees Farenheit depending on the sugar content.
[…] remember that the sugar water you are feeding hummingbirds is a supplemental food source for energy and not for nutrition. Hummingbirds will also feed on […]
I live in Indianapolis IN and was told that hummingbirds in my area leave here in September. Is this true or do they live here all year long?
finally I had the chance to get the Topsy Turvy hummingbird hangout planter…..my question is if I have to buy the plant separete or if u include some plant seeds or some…..if I have to buy the plantflower separete….wich plant is for hummingbirds….thanks
I read everywhere on the web that you shouldn’t use what in the US is called ‘raw’ sugar, due to potential iron toxicity (iron and many other nutrients are much more abundant in raw sugar than refined white sugar). But I question whether, like so many things on the web, this is an unsupported hypothesis that has been recycled over and over again. I am an environmental science, so I place a lot of value in primary information. When it comes to iron toxicity in hummingbirds, I can only find one scientific article, in which hummingbirds were believed to have died due to HIGH iron content in some food (like in the hundreds of mg of iron per kg of food). Google for “Frederick 2003 hummingbird”. Raw sugar only has ~11 mg of iron per kg (based on a single nutrition table I could find; this is well below what the Frederick article I mentioned earlier considers a low-iron food for hummingbirds (< 20 mg/kg). So, based on limited primary evidence I can find, it would not seem that raw sugar needs to be avoided. But perhaps someone knows of other info?