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Keep Your Summer Hummers Happy: Know How Often to Change Hummingbird Food

Hummingbirds are ethereal creatures with wings that flutter faster than the human eye can comprehend. If you want your best chance at spotting a hummingbird this summer, making hummingbird food can entice them into your garden. Today, we are taking a closer look at how to make hummingbird food and how often you should change your hummingbird feeder. Let’s dive in!

FAST EASY Hummingbird Recipe Nectar feeding Hundreds of Birds Hummingbirds Feed in Feeders All Year

Hummingbirds Have Made a Long Journey to Your Garden

Before a hummingbird arrives at your feeder, it must travel a great distance. Hummingbirds are little avian acrobats, famous for their agility and hovering abilities. Their wings are capable of beating up to 80 times per second and their hearts beat up to 1,260 times a minute. Hummingbirds’ physical frames allow them to hover mid-air while extracting nectar through their long, narrow bills.

Their appetite for nectar propels these fluttery little birds on their migration. Keen instincts, like their ability to sense daylight duration changes, are crucial in their migration as they track blooming flowers across vast distances. After spending the winter in Central America and Mexico, in the spring hummingbirds make their migration up to the southern states of the US. Regardless of their age, hummingbirds make their migration completely alone.

While most hummingbirds travel around twenty-three miles a day to reach their final destination, some will travel longer. When you think about the distance, physical exertion, and necessary instincts hummingbirds have, it makes it more impressive when one arrives in your garden.

Pro Tip: Do you love looking at wildlife? Find out more about What Is a National Wildlife Refuge?

Hummingbird sitting on deck
Hummingbirds travel a long distance to enjoy nectar from your feeder.

What Do Hummingbirds Eat?

Hummingbirds have a special diet primarily consisting of nectar. Nectar is a sugary liquid in flowers. With their slender bills and long tongues, hummingbirds can reach deep into the flower blooms to extract nectar. 

While nectar is their primary source of nutrition, hummingbirds also consume small insects and spiders, which provide essential protein and nutrients to their diets. Hummingbirds can capture tiny critters mid-flight, from leaf piles, and even from spider webs, ensuring they get the balanced diet they need.

How to Make Hummingbird Food

Making hummingbird food requires a few ingredients and is a simple and cost-effective way to attract these enchanting birds to your garden. Mix one part white granulated sugar with four parts boiling water. Stir constantly until the sugar completely dissolves. Stirring is crucial so the sugar does not burn. 

Before you fill your hummingbird feeder, allow the sugar water mixture to cool to room temperature. Hot or boiling liquid can be harmful to hummingbirds. After the liquid cools, fill your hummingbird feeder with the homemade nectar and grab your bird-watching binoculars. 

Hummingbird flying to hummingbird feeder
Hummingbird food is made from one part white sugar and four parts water.

How Often Should You Change Hummingbird Food?

To ensure the health and well-being of hummingbirds, it is vital to change your homemade hummingbird food on a regular basis. In cooler weather, change the nectar every 4 to 6 days. Hummingbirds will consume less nectar during colder periods, so it will take longer for the feeder to be empty. During warmer weather, change the nectar every 2 to 3 days. High temperatures can cause a fermentation process in your homemade hummingbird food and spoil the nectar. 

If you notice any signs of mold, discoloration, or floating debris in your hummingbird food, you will want to change the nectar immediately. Additionally, clean the feeder each time before refilling. Don’t use harsh chemicals or soap when cleaning the hummingbird feeder. Instead, use hot water to scrub any residue. 

Pro Tip: While you can feed birds at home, you shouldn’t feed them when out in the wild. Check out these 5 Reasons to Not Feed the Wildlife While Camping.

Close up of hummingbird eating nectar
Change your hummingbird feeder every 2 to 3 days.

What Not to Feed Hummingbirds?

As much as you may want to attract and nourish hummingbirds, it’s essential to be aware of what not to feed them. While hummingbirds thrive on nectar and insects, certain ingredients are harmful to their health. Please avoid filling your hummingbird feeder with the following treats. 


Despite its natural sweetness, honey should not be a substitute for hummingbird food. Honey can promote the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi in hummingbird feeders. This could potentially cause illness or even death for hummingbirds. 


Molasses is another ingredient that you should avoid. Its thick consistency can clog hummingbird feeders, making it difficult for the hummingbirds to access the nectar. Additionally, molasses lacks the necessary nutrients in flower nectar and won’t provide sufficient sustenance for hummingbirds. 

Brown or Raw Sugar

While white granulated sugar is the recommended choice for making your own hummingbird food, you should avoid brown or raw sugar. These sugars contain higher levels of impurities and can ferment quicker than white sugar. This could lead to spoilage and potential harm to hummingbirds. 

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners contain aspartame and sucralose, which you should never use in hummingbird food. These substances do not provide any nutritional value to hummingbirds and are toxic to their systems. It’s best to stick with the simple and natural sweetness of white granulated sugar when making hummingbird food.

Old Hummingbird Food

Frequent changing of hummingbird food is really important. Letting it go too long between changes will result in the growth of mold or bacteria, or the food mixture may ferment. Your feed should be transparent and free of floating debris. Failure to change it often enough will ensure your summer hummers will skip your feeders.

Hummingbird on a feeder drinking changed food
Sit back and watch hummingbirds flock to your yard after you hang your hummingbird feeder.

Where to Hang a Hummingbird Feeder

Finding the perfect spot to hang your hummingbird feeder is crucial for attracting and ensuring the safety of the hummingbirds. When deciding where to hang your homemade hummingbird food, consider the following factors. 

Hang It Where You Can See It

One of the joys of making your own hummingbird food is watching the little birds flit about. Choose a spot where you can easily observe the birds. This allows you to appreciate their beauty and monitor the level of hummingbird food in your feeder. 

Consider Easy Refill Locations 

As you will frequently need to refill your hummingbird food, select an easily accessible location for refilling the feeder. This will make the maintenance process more convenient and encourage you to keep the hummingbird food fresh.

Take Sunlight Into Account

Hummingbirds prefer feeders to be partially in the shade. Additionally, excessive sunlight can cause the nectar to spoil quickly. Find a spot that receives some shade during the day, especially during the hotter hours.

Hang Multiple Feeders

If possible, hang multiple hummingbird feeders in different areas of your garden. This helps to reduce competition and territorial disputes among the birds, providing more opportunities for them to eat your homemade hummingbird food peacefully. 

Hang It Near Flowers

Birds and bees love sweet treats. To eliminate the potential for bees hovering around your feeder, hang your hummingbird food close to flowers. Furthermore, hummingbirds are naturally attracted to flowers. Having your feeder near flowering plants creates a more enticing and natural environment for the birds.

Predator-Free Zone 

Ensure that the feeder is in an area relatively safe from predators like cats or squirrels. Ideally, place it at a height and location challenging for predators to access. 

Keeping Ants, Bees, Hornets & Wasps off of Hummingbird Feeders

Welcome Hummingbirds Into Your Yard

Making hummingbird food at home is not only a nice way to give the remarkable birds extra nutrients. It’s also an excellent way to fill your yard with entertainment and a unique ecosystem. The sight of vibrant hummingbirds darting around your feeders will fill your garden with excitement. Making hummingbird food transforms your yard into a haven of wonder. 

Will you make your own hummingbird food this summer? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

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