The hummingbird feeder I’ve hung on the porch is one of my unexpected joys in life. I originally hung it because hummingbirds kept checking out a certain spot—I’m convinced my house’s previous owners hung a feeder there—and every summer they show up again and demand I feed them. So I do.
The garden store sells bottles of hummingbird food next to the feeders, both clear and red. (Red flowers are known to attract hummingbirds.) But you don’t need either kind. It’s easier, cheaper, and better for the birds to make your own.
Even the Audubon society recommends a homemade syrup instead of the bottled stuff, and they also point out that the red coloring is not necessary. There has been speculation that red dye may be bad for hummingbirds, and in any case it hasn’t been specifically tested for its long-term effects on hummingbirds.
People must have tried to make hummingbird food out of all kinds of other substances, because the Audubon page advises against making it with honey, molasses, artificial sweeteners. Just sugar water. So, okay, let’s make some sugar water.
Here’s how you do it:
- Add 1/4 cup of sugar to a pint sized Mason jar, or a similar container.
- Add 1 cup of cold or room temperature water.
- Screw on the lid and shake.
That’s it—no need to heat it or add any other ingredients. The sugar will dissolve with just a bit of shaking or stirring. (If you’re familiar with making simple syrup, that uses more sugar relative to the water and needs a little more help to get it all to dissolve.)
Once I’ve made the syrup, I bring the hummingbird feeder inside and wash it with hot water. Then I pour in about half the batch—which is about half a cup of liquid—and pop the rest in the fridge for later in the week. Make sure to wash and refill the feeder twice a week to keep your tiny friends healthy.