People love to put out hummingbird food to attract these enchanting feathered garden friends. A hummingbird food recipe is super simple, and will go a long way toward attracting hummingbirds to your yard.
If you’re the cut-to-the-chase type, here’s our favorite on Amazon. If you like more story, details, lots of photos and also videos, you may wish to enjoy a sip of your favorite brew and enjoy reading and viewing.
Why We Love Hummingbirds So
Standing in the garden, a hummingbird hovered right in front of me and it felt like a blessing.
And then I wondered… why is it that we’re so enchanted with hummingbirds?
They give us no thought and yet we’re enchanted by them.
Many of us devote time and money into attracting, feeding, housing, watching, filming, photographing and sharing about hummingbirds. Of course we also love and appreciate so many of nature’s creatures, (though not the Japanese beetles, squash vine borers or ticks… YUK)!
But for this conversation… hummingbirds hold a special place. So I wondered…
Why do you love hummingbirds?
Send us a note if you’d like to share. And now… onto more about these creatures, beginning with the practical reasons for attracting hummingbirds to your yard and garden.
- Beautiful to see
- Eat lots of bugs
- Pollinate your plants
And don’t worry. Hummers will still eat plenty of insects even if you feed them. So go ahead and give them some hummingbird food to attract—and keep them—as residents. You can be sure they’ll help out with mosquitoes and other insects while there.
Audio Article – Hummingbird Food:
Dazzling Hummingbird Facts
In appearance, many hummingbirds sparkle like jewels of ruby, emerald, and sapphire. Here are some cool facts on these winged garden jewels.
- Smallest warm-blooded creatures on earth, averaging between .05-.16 oz, (the weight of a standard envelope is .169 oz)
- Named for the sound from its wings rotating an average 60 x per second
- Incredibly Fast – Hummingbird’s top airspeed approaches 50 MPH (in a dive)1
- Extremely agile flyers able to fly in any direction in an instant or hover in place
- So tiny, they’re prey to large spiders, lizards, frogs, bass fish, and an assortment of predatory birds. https://www.audubon.org/news/which-animals-prey-hummingbirds
- Eats insects – hummers can ingest several hundred fruit flies, mosquitoes and other insects per day
- Drink nectar – around half their body weight in nectar/sugar water each day
Though dainty in appearance, hummers are voracious insect eaters.
Hummingbirds consume about half of their body weight in nectar (sugar) daily and can eat as frequently as every 10 minutes. So, for an eight hour period, that’s up to 48 feedings. Also, one little hummer may ingest several hundred fruit flies in just one day! We’re all for that! https://askabiologist.asu.edu/hummingbird-foraging
Nectar water for hummingbirds is like rocket fuel, giving them more energy for pollinating your plants and scooping up more insects. Plus, they may become seasonal visitors.
Within a minute, hummingbirds feed on multiple flowers. Their total daily intake ranges from three to seven calories. That number of calories sounds trivial, yet, if converted to human scale by body weight, that’s about 155,000 calories per day.
Hummers Are Territorial
For hummingbirds, it’s literally eat or die. Given this compelling need, they are quite territorial as they lay claim to flowers and feeders, vigorously defending their food territory. As such hummers rarely socialize.2https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/hummingbird
Hummingbirds require the human equivalent (by weight to calorie ratio) of 155,000 calories per day!!
What Insects do Hummingbirds Eat?
- Small spiders
- True bugs
- Many more…
Hummers devour small spiders, (reportedly their favorite), as well as beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, true bugs, aphids, flies, and many other insects. They’re also known to tipple a little tree sap now and then.
I’ve seen hummingbirds pick captive insects from a spider’s web and also bust through a swarm of gnats like a shark through a bait ball.
~Coleman Alderson, GardensAll.com
2 Female Hummingbirds – Feeder Truce – 15 seconds
It was so much fun watching these two ruby red throated females first approach, scratch at and then bounce off each other. Then both backed off, and engaged in a seeming truce of being okay with feeding at the same time from opposite sides of the feeder.
Watch at 1/2 Speed
The entire video clip is a fast 15 seconds with the quick tussle at the beginning, followed by a feeding truce, so you may want to watch it on half speed.
Hummingbird Heart Rate and Metabolism
Hummingbirds have the highest rate of calorie burn of any other warm-blooded creature. They can’t even get a normal period of sleep. Instead, every night, they enter a form of suspended animation called “torpor” as their heart rate decreases dramatically and their body temps plummet to about 1/15 their waking state.3
Hummers do rest, periodically perching on whatever’s handy to conserve energy. It’s estimated hummingbirds spend a surprising 75–80% of their time sitting and digesting, and just 10–15% of their time feeding.4
Hummingbirds have the highest rate of calorie burn of any other warm-blooded creature.
Hummingbirds are Good for Gardens
So much more than the dazzling miniature Cirque de Soleil aerial performers, hummingbirds are super beneficial yard and garden workers. These gone-in-a-flash beauties consume lots of insects (including many garden pests and mosquitoes), and are also prolific pollinators.
How to attract hummingbirds to set up residence in your yard? There are a number of ways to do so.
Plants that Attract Hummingbirds
One way to attract hummingbirds is to plant a mix of inviting flowers, both annual and perennial types. Hummers especially like red flowers, and favor those with trumpet-like blooms.
- Cardinal flowers
- Day lilies
- Bee balm
Annual Plants that Attract Hummingbirds
- Red salvia
- Scarlet runner beans
And while hummers love red flowers, they also visit many other varieties including shrubs.
Shrub Flowers for Hummingbirds
- Butterfly bush
- Mock orange
There are also many trees that attract hummingbirds.
Tree Flowers that Attract Hummingbirds
- Tulip poplar
- Redbud trees
- Silk trees
- Red buckeyehttps://www.thespruce.com/ten-trees-that-attract-hummingbirds-3269646
These are just a handful of examples. Check our references below for more extensive listings. One general observation of hummingbird behavior in our garden is that hummingbirds go where the nectar is. So provide them flowers and nectar food and they will hang out in your garden.
Seed companies often carry seed selections specifically for hummingbirds. Mail order and local garden centers can advise and pick out the right plants as well. There is no apparent shortage of hummingbird enthusiasts on-line.
Hummingbirds go where the nectar is, so plant flowers and hang hummingbird feeders with fresh sugar water and hummingbirds will find you.
What’s the Best Hummingbird Feeder?
Are Red Hummingbird Feeders the Best?
You’ve probably heard that red attracts hummingbirds. So some feeders are red colored glass or plastic. When the feeders are clear, people have tended to use red dye instead. But we’d rather not use anything that could be potentially harm them.
So now, you can buy red hummingbird feeders. We have both, the clear and the red feeders. However, our observation is that our hummingbirds favor the clear glass feeder twice as much as they do our red glass feeder.
The Myth of the Red Hummingbird Feeders~GardensAll.com
Our resident hummingbirds, favor the clear glass feeder approximately twice as much as the red glass feeder.
There’s lots of advice in regard to not using the prepackaged red nectar due to concerns about red coloring. Though the hazards of red coloring are not fully vetted as safe. So red food coloring is not necessary to have red liquid anyway.
We include our simple hummingbird food recipe below.
Best Hummingbird Feeders
- Hummingbird feeders with bee guards and ant moats are best.
- Glass and brass feeders are easier to clean and more durable than plastic
Our first feeder did not come with an ant and bee moat and we ended up needing to install one, as you can see in the photo below.
Hummingbird Feeder with Ant Moat
Ants can quickly became a nuisance clamoring all up, down, and inside the feeder. No matter where we hung it, they always managed to get up there.
Some ants went so deep that they drowned and could be seen floating in the glass bottle. The dead and dying insects appeared to degrade the quality of the mix, so we found this handy device that blocks bees and ants from hummingbird feeders without a built-in moat.
Hummingbirds are Very Territorial
Speaking of blocking, we had one particular female lay claim to our first feeder. She would not only chase all newcomers away but you could hear them collide in mid-air. We get that this is natural behavior.
I don’t speak their language, but when this little avian feeds, she occasionally chitters and chatters as if broadcasting the message, “Buzz off! This is my nectar bar.“
Such exclusivity prompted us to procure another feeder. We like to try different products so we can share with you what works best for us. The next feeder we bought is called a pinched-waist type already pre-fitted with an ant moat and bee guards.
We placed our second hummingbird feeder some distance from the original. With our second feeder we attracted more hummingbird visitors.
Whatever hummingbird feeder you select, make sure the feeder is easy to clean, because it needs to be cleaned with each refill.
Feeders need regular change-outs, even when there’s still mixture inside. As temperatures climb, the nectar mix degrades more rapidly. You may need to replace it once a week or even more frequently.
With every nectar refill, a good hand washing with warm water and soap is recommended. Then, rinse repeatedly to make sure there’s no soapy residue.
It makes sense. Hummingbirds drinking flower nectar don’t have the threat of contaminants that comes with supplemental manmade foods. But of course none of us want to make these precious birds sick, so better to exercise extra care and diligence.
Hummingbirds are sensitive to molds, bacteria, and other contaminants that can spawn in unclean feeders and old sugar water, so keep them safe by keeping it clean.
The Best Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
We use organic white sugar and water made into a syrup of 25% sugar and 75% water.
- 1 part sugar
- 4 parts water
Recipe for the Best Hummingbird Nectar
Excerpted from The Hummingbird Societyhttps://www.hummingbirdsociety.org/feeding-hummingbirds/
INGREDIENTS — and 1-to-4 SUGAR-TO-WATER RATIO:
- 1 cup of cane sugar
- 4 cups of water
- If bees crowd the feeder, increase the sugar-to-water ratio to 1 and 5 cups water.
- Dissolve the sugar in the water.
- No red food coloring!
- Store unused mixture in the refrigerator for up to a week.
HUMMINGBIRD FOOD – RECIPE TIPS:
- SUGAR FOR HUMMINGBIRDS?
- Beet sugar is okay.
- Refined cane sugar is best.
- We use organic cane sugar.
- Never use honey (it can lead to fungus)
- Do not use any other sweetener like brown sugars, molasses or artificial sweeteners.
- WATER FOR HUMMINGBIRDS?
- Spring water is best
- Most tap water is acceptable
- Some recommend boiling the water for a sterile and chlorine-free syrup.
A bee problem has more to do with the feeder’s design, so you might try a hummingbird feeder with built in bee guards.
When to Stop Feeding Humming Birds?
When fall arrives, and you’ve not seen a hummer for three weeks, then it’s time to take down your hummingbird feeder. Leaving it up even after yours have departed will allow passing migrants an opportunity to drop in for a feeding. 6
It’s safe to take down your feeder in fall, three weeks after no hummingbird sightings.
What About Pre-Packaged Hummingbird Food?
Yes, you can buy pre-packaged hummingbird food mixes ready to pour into feeders. Some even tout added vitamins and minerals (which hummers likely get already from the insects, spiders, and tree sap they consume.
The commonsense economics are such that homemade nectar works out to about 90 cents a gallon, whereas you might pay more than $20 dollars per gallon equivalent for the “store-bought”.
Hummingbird Food Costs
- Homemade ~90¢ / gallon
- Store bought ~$20 / gallon
Homemade hummingbird food is much cheaper than store bought.
While researching this article, we came upon a very helpful guide to attracting and feeding hummingbirds. It’s a free download packed full of information.
Learning Increases Our Fascination
There’s so much to learn about the 356 different species of the enchanting hummingbirds. They adapt to so many different habitats, migrate vast distances, have intriguing feeding habits and incredible flying and maneuvering abilities.7
The more we learn, the more fascinated we become and the more grateful we are to have these dazzling, daring creatures adorn our garden!
If you love birds, you’ll want to also check out this article on good garden birds to your garden.
Send us your comments, questions and hummingbird photos. We read them all!
Here’s another hummingbird video captured at night via trail cam with infrared light. We’ve tried several different brands of trail cameras.
All of our trail cameras work fairly well but the one we like the most so far is the Rexing brand from Amazon.
Raccoon Drinking Hummingbird Food
We have a little friend … “friend” … who’s enjoy our hummingbird food as well.
Ruby Throated Hummingbird Migration
Here’s a GREAT chart by on the migration dates of the common North American ruby throated hummingbird.
And here’s a link for tracking migration patterns with past and present migration maps.
GardensAll, your garden gathering place.
G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it’s always interesting because those lessons never end!” Coleman Alderson