Is It OK To Feed Hummingbirds Sugar Water?

hummingbirds sugar water

Is it ok to feed hummingbirds sugar water? It sure is. They love sugar and sugar water, and setting up a feeder in your back yard is easy to do, however, it must be done properly. Too much sugar water isn’t good for birds, a varied diet is essential so it’s important to keep the balance right.

So, Is It Ok To Feed Hummingbirds Sugar Water?

Like all birds, hummingbirds love insects and nectar, and these are found in every garden and field all over the country. They are also attracted to sugar water, as it tastes like flower nectar, so putting this in a feeder can help attract them to your garden.

Your garden will already contain lots of things which will attract hummingbirds to feed. Insects and spiders, which are in every garden, provide hummingbirds with a good supply of protein and they love hovering and feeding on tree sap.

Another way of attracting birds is to make sure that any flowers you grow are rich in nectar. This also provides them with essential minerals and nutrients to keep them healthy.

Some people believe that growing red flowers is a good way to attract hummers. While it is true that some red flowers can provide excellent nectar, not all of them do. Hummingbirds are very intelligent when it comes to remembering the best sources of food. They will soon learn where the best feeders are and they are attracted to flowers which provide the best nectar regardless of color.

Creating A Healthy Environment

There are things to remember before you set up a feeder so here are a few things to think about so you can start attracting them to feed.

Hummingbirds soon get used to where they find the best nectar and sugar water so always make sure your feeder is topped up ready for them to enjoy (click here to view our recommended feeders). Here are just a few tips to help you choose the best feeder so you can enjoy watching the Hummers as they feed.

Hummingbirds love sugar water and as long as your feeder makes it easy for them to get to it, they will continue to come back!

Easy To Clean and Maintain

  • It’s very important that the feeder you buy should be easy to clean. A good feeder will come apart allowing you to wash all the components separately.
  • As the name suggests, sugar water contains sugar. If this is left unattended for a few days in hot weather it will soon grow mold or bacteria, which can be very harmful to such small birds. It can also encourage the growth of yeasts and fermentation which is also harmful.
  • Changing the water regularly and keeping the feeder clean means that the hummingbirds are far more likely to keep coming back. They won’t be attracted by a dirty feeder or stale water.
  • You don’t have to replace the sugar water every day but obviously in warmer weather you will have to change it more regularly. Never be tempted to simply top up the feeder without emptying any remaining sugar water and cleaning it first. If you see white strings or black spots developing in the water, or the water itself is becoming cloudy, then it’s definitely time to change it.
  • To clean your feeder take it apart and rinse each individual component. You can use a mild detergent but don’t use anything too strong because not only will the smell and strong detergent put the hummers off, any residue could be harmful. Rinse all the components very thoroughly with hot water and allow to dry before putting the feeder back together and topping up with sugar water.
  • Once a month take the time to give your feeder a good clean and soak. Check the instructions that came with your feeder and if you can put them in your dishwasher that’s a great way to get them clean. Any glass or metal components can be boiled but don’t try to boil the plastic ones. You can use a very mild solution of bleach (1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 quart of water) but make sure it is thoroughly rinsed before putting it back together. Even a small amount of bleach in a very small quantity can have serious consequences to a small hummingbird.

Good Design and Size

We’ve already seen that it’s important to buy a feeder which comes apart, but that’s not all you need to look for.

  • Don’t be tempted to buy a big feeder to try to attract lots of hummers. It won’t work. It’s best to place smaller ones at good intervals as they can be territorial about their food.
  • If you notice that there is a lot of sugar water left when you go to fill it, then you’re feeder may be too big. Put less in it so it stays fresher.
  • Hummingbirds must be able to get to the sugar water so make sure the design makes this easy for them.
  • You want to try to eliminate any drips as these can attract ants. Make sure your feeder has ports which are above the level of the water.

feed hummingbirds sugar water

Location and Placement

It’s no use tucking your feeder away at the back of your garden, you need to make sure you put it in the best location.

  • Put your feeder close to your window, so you can see the hummingbirds when they come to feed. At first they may be scared away if you move to the window, but after a while they will lose their fear and you will be able to stand in the window to watch them feed.
  • If you plan to put out more than one feeder, make sure you place them far enough apart so that the hummers will not fight each other to feed.
  • While you’re trying to attract hummers, you don’t want cats to be attracted to them. Your feeder should be at least four feet high and don’t place it close to a wall or any other object that a cat could jump on to.
  • If you can, find a shady spot for the feeder. The sugar water will keep fresher for longer if it’s out of the sun. If you do place it in the sun, be prepared to change the water more often.

Prepare Your Sugar Water

Now you’re all set up, you can get to work on your sugar water. There are many recipes out there but you must use the right sugar. The best sugars to use are cane sugar or beet sugar, as they contain about the same amount of sucrose as nectar from flowers. If you make your sugar water too sweet or not sweet enough it may not attract the hummingbirds. Don’t use honey, raw sugar, corn syrup molasses, brown sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Use 1 cup of sugar to 3-4 cups of water. If you have spring water, use this, though tap water is just fine. Mix the two together in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as it boils and stir until all of the sugar has been dissolved. If you leave it boiling for too long some of the water will boil off and the mixture may become too syrupy.

Cover the mixture while it cools. You can then pour it in to a storage bottle, as it will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Some recipes say to add red food coloring, but this can be harmful to the birds. It’s best to tie a red ribbon to the outside of the feeder, but they should be attracted to your lovely fresh nectar.

Take a look at the YouTube video below for some extra help for making hummingbirds your own sugar water!

Fill Your Feeder

Now it’s time to fill the feeder and wait for the hummingbirds to come. You can’t leave the feeder filled all year round, so it’s best to just leave it out when you know the hummers will be around. You may find that hummers are less attracted to your feeder from late May to June. This is their nesting season and during this time they are busy mixing nectar to feed their young. The best time to attract them to your feeder is mid July to early September and then they will start to migrate the winter. During the fall, when you’ve not seen a hummingbird for at least 3 weeks, you can take the feeder down and store it, ready to be used again in spring.

The mixture should be changed, and the feeder cleaned every few days or if the water show signs of being moldy.

If you find it’s attracting ants, you can add a moat to the feeder or an AntGuard. Hummingbirds will not drink water if there are ants in it, so it’s important to keep them away. Bees can also be a problem as they will fight the hummingbirds for the nectar. They are attracted by drips so if you have the right design of feeder, they shouldn’t be a problem.

2 Comments

  1. D Brimberry

    From reading the post and comments on another site, I gather that beet sugar is not harmful to hummingbirds as long as it is white, not brownish. I had heard that beet sugar was harmful to the hummingbirds and not as sweet as cane sugar. It is getting harder to find cane sugar, granulated sugar is becoming the norm and could be a mixture of beet and cane sugar. I do not color the sugar water as the red feeders seem to be enough to attract the birds, but I am concerned about the difference between beet sugar and cane sugar and the adverse effects beet sugar may have.

    • James Morgan

      Thanks for stopping by and thank you very much for the additional information. I’ll look into the difference between beet and cane sugar for you!

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