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An easy hummingbird food recipe that’s easy to make at home. But it’s not as simple as filling the feeder. You’ll need to follow a few tips.
If your diet consists of nothing but hummingbird food, you’ll likely have lots of cavities. You’ll also become overweight, diabetic and prone to mood swings.
You see, hummingbirds are the ultimate sugar junkies. Yet they have such petite, slender figures. That’s because hummingbirds have one of the fastest metabolisms on the planet.
In fact, the ruby-throated hummingbird is thought to have the highest rate of metabolism. They can flap their wings over 70 times per second. And their pulse would induce a heart attack in a human in seconds: over 1,000 beats per minute.
But before you envy the metabolic rate of the hummingbird, consider this. Let’s say you weigh 100 pounds. If your metabolism equals that of a hummingbird, you would need to eat up to 300 pounds of sugar a day.
The next best thing to eating like a hummingbird is learning how to make hummingbird food. Hummingbird food recipes are simple. Within a short time of learning how to make hummingbird food, your backyard will be an oasis for these frenetic miniature winged miracles.
Hummingbird food recipe rule #1: no dye or else little birdy dies
If you love hummingbirds and want to see them thrive in your backyard, let’s get something out of the way right up front.
Some people, in order to attract hummingbirds, will add red dye to homemade hummingbird nectar. But red dye is unnatural and can potentially harm the hummingbirds.
Instead of trying to use red to attract a hummingbird, think like a bull matador. A matador uses a red cape to get the bull’s attention. You don’t need a large cape for a hummingbird. Just use a red flag or bandana and tie it by the hummingbird feeder.
Hummingbird food recipe rule #2: don’t use fake sugars
If you’re going to make your own hummingbird food and all you have is “pink” sugar in your pantry, don’t use it! Don’t use corn syrup. And definitely do not use high fructose corn syrup.
Fake sugars have zero calories. Hummingbirds need real sugar to fuel their insanely high metabolism. Furthermore, who knows what effect artificial sugar has on delicate and tiny hummingbird organs.
But just because a sweetener is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. For example, honey can be fatal to hummingbirds. That’s because honey can quickly break down while exposed to heat. The honey ferments. While fermented foods are good for the human gut, for hummingbirds, the bacteria can kill them.
While you might think honey is more nutritious than white table sugar, hummingbirds don’t care. They just want the sucrose to be able to flap their wings a mind-boggling 4,000-plus beats per minute.
Another example of an alternative sugar some people use to feed hummingbirds is beet sugar. But beet sugar can contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).
Remember, hummingbirds don’t need special sugar. Regular white sugar or cane sugar is just fine for hummingbird food.
Hummingbird food recipe rule #3: change it up!
According to a Facebook page devoted to all things hummingbird, change the nectar (sugar plus water) every few days. Definitely no more than 5 days, especially in the dog days of summer. The reason for this is the same reason honey is bad for hummingbirds: sugar water quickly breaks down in the heat. The bacteria and mold can sicken the birds.
Hummingbird food recipe no boil
If you want to keep it simple, there’s no more basic hummingbird nectar recipe than The Hummingbird Guide on Facebook’s recipe.
The recipe’s goal is to mimic the nutritional content of the highest-yielding nectar plants. A few examples of nectar-rich flowering plants include yellow water iris, blackberry and comfrey.
It’s these top nectar plants that provide hummingbirds with quick-burning fuel.
Remember, hummingbird nutrition is opposite of optimal human nutrition. For most people, the goal is to eat slow-burning foods. But if you want to feed a hummingbird community in your own backyard, here’s what you will need to mimic top-yielding nectar plants:
- Pure water (not tap, if you have city water)
- Plain white table sugar
That’s it! The simplest hummingbird food recipe.
To make it, simply add the sugar and water in a ratio of 1:4. In other words, one part sugar, four parts sugar. You can microwave this homemade nectar for 30 seconds. This will help break down the sugar while slowing down the chemical breakdown that produces harmful bacteria for the birds.
It’s very important, though, to allow the nectar to cool to room temperature before you add it to your bird feeder.
If you only have access to city water, you might consider boiling the water to purify it. However, if you boil the water, the water to nectar proportion will change. The process of boiling leads to water evaporation. This could result in the hottest days of summer with too little water in the nectar formula. The hummingbirds, as a result, will eat at a neighbor’s house instead.
Hummingbird food and ants
Sugar attracts ants. And sometimes, hummingbird food will attract colonies of ants or other insects. Some people recommend an ant moat. Ant moats contain water. This won’t prevent ants from colonizing near your home. But an ant moat will at least keep ants away from the hummingbird feeder.
Make sure not to spray any insecticide on a bird feeder. And don’t apply any foreign substance that can damage hummingbird wings.
Hummingbird drink recipe
Take a look at the recipe for hummingbird food above. It calls for a 1:4 ratio of sugar to pure water. However, there are a couple times when you might want to have less water. When attracting the hummingbirds for the first time, lower the ratio to 1:3. And then, about a month or so before the cold season starts, also lower the amount of water. The purpose of lowering the ratio before the birds take off for the winter is to help them fatten up.
However, keep in mind that the less you dilute the mixture, the less often you’ll see the birds. That’s because the more calories the hummingbirds consume per visit to your feeder, the less frequent they’ll have to return. In other words, if you want to see the hummingbirds more often, add more water. But for their best interest, remember to scale the ratio back to 1:3 by the end of fall.
If you have any leftovers, store in a pitcher in the fridge. Also, keep in mind that unless you have the most attractive birdfeeder—in the eyes of hummingbirds, not your neighbors—in the area, you don’t need a large birdfeeder. Remember, in the warmest months, you should be changing the hummingbird food. So if you have a very large feeder but relatively few birds are eating from it, you’ll be wasting the hummingbird food.
Hummingbirds are sensitive eaters in one sense. While they may not require diversity in their menu, they do insist on freshness of the ingredients. Therefore, if you don’t replace the hummingbird nectar frequently, they’ll take their business elsewhere.