How to Make Hummingbird Nectar and Refill a Feeder Fast

Hummingbird feeders have to be cleaned and refilled regularly, since the sugar solution ferments quickly outdoors. Some bird experts recommend going to extra lengths – such as boiling the solution – to make it last longer. But I find that during a hot summer, the stuff goes bad (or gets buggy) in 3-4 days no matter what.

Instead of spending time trying to make the perfect nectar, I set out to develop a system that gets fresh nectar to my birds in five minutes flat. And I don’t mean those tricks on TV, where it only takes five minutes if you’ve laid out and pre-measured everything beforehand. I mean FIVE MINUTES, from start to finish. And yes, I timed it! With this system, you can refresh the nectar as often as needed.

Got your stopwatch ready? It’s as simple as:

19 COMMENTS

  1. Good instructions *except* about using hot tap water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend against using hot tap water for drinking or cooking because it can contain much higher concentrations of lead from pipes and fixtures:

    http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips/water.htm

    Hummingbirds can drink 2 to 5 times their weight in sugar water in a day, so the risks from lead-contaminated water are much greater for them than for us.

    Water from a lead-free instant hot water dispenser should be okay, but a minute to a minute and a half in the microwave is usually enough to get the sugar dissolve, even starting with ice-cold water, and would still keep your prep time at 5 minutes or less.

    It’s also not necessary to make the solution extra strong to attract the birds in the first place. They won’t know what’s in the feeder until they take the first sip anyway, and a solution that’s too strong may not provide them with adequate water during hot, dry weather. If you keep the solution on the weak side, the birds will need to visit more often to get the same number of calories, and the feeder will be less attractive to bees.

  2. Thanks for your insights, Sheri. Good point on the lead in the water! You’re right, a minute in the microwave would dissolve the sugar and not add much time. I’m not a real fan of microwaves, but it’s just as easy to put the teakettle on while you’re measuring the sugar.

    People sometimes use a stronger solution during the early migration season, hoping to make a good impression on a traveling male – perhaps entice him to stick around. But in my yard, the hummingbirds don’t need any special favors (in fact, they’re downright greedy and demanding!) so I just use the 1:4 ratio all season long. If you do start out stronger, make sure to reduce the concentration by late spring. The lower 1:4 concentration is closer to the natural sugar content of plant nectar, and it’s always better to follow nature’s lead.

  3. My home has no lead in its lines or fixtures. I also have a glass-lined heater. Hot water from the tap is perfectly safe on a reasonably new house.

  4. Thanks all, I’m a new comer to this kinda stuff. I love the fact that I can help the birds everyday. I am a property manager and I live there. There are many beautiful flowers and trees. The flowers don’t grow year round, so I wanted to help the birds. Thanks again to all, Best to everyone. LF

  5. We keep a Britta water filter container in the fridge. I use water from that to make up a quart of nectar, which is enough to partially fill my 6 feeders. I also warm part of the water first in the microwave.

  6. Hi I use the kurig that I use for coffee for hot water to make food I use the same amount sugar to water but the coffee maker get filtered water and its fast just let cool or add ice they seem to love it

  7. I use distilled water instead of tap water and the nectar is good for a few more days. Also, I would suggest using white vinegar instead of dish soap, as it kills mold, is non-toxic, and it rinses clean.

  8. Why all the hassle with hot water and ice? Sugar dissolves perfectly in cold water, you just need to stir for half a minute. I start with a clean drinking glass, put 1/5 to 1/4 of the volume that I want to put in the feeder for 2 days as sugar, then add cold water from the tap and stir with a clean spoon.
    Then clean the feeder, give the fresh sugarwater a last swirl and refill the feeder. Done in 2 or 3 minutes and the birds are happy as long as you keep refreshing it every 2 days. Since there are not that many birds here, I often fill only 1/2 full or whatever I expect that they will consume in 2 days and prepare not more than needed.

  9. I live in hot Mississippi and it has been unusually hot. Will the nectar in my feeders get too hot for the little birds? Any advice or suggestions?

  10. My feeders in front of house (south) the nectar turned cloudy. I dumped the nectar and cleaned them with vinegar and Dawn soap. Any answers?

  11. Each year I have only one humming bird come to my feeder ,,It is a female,,and I hang it on the tree limb,in the middle of my flower garden,,,why is it that I can only get one hummer,any suggestions

  12. Dave Brandt and Bob Pogue of Wild Birds Unlimited in Mission Viejo recommend that you refill and clean ( use an enzyme and never soaps or detergents) your hummingbird feeders based on the outside temperature: 60-70 degrees — clean and refill every 4-5 days, 70-80 degrees — clean and refill every 3-4 days, 80 degrees and hotter — clean and refill every 2 days.

    Happy Birding!!

  13. Going to try this quick method. I have 10-15 hummingbirds and three feeders. They are going through 1/2 gallon of nectar a DAY. I’m getting harried just trying to keep up. If I go out and they are empty, they buzz me until I refill the feeders! I use the old method of 2 c. sugar to 8 c. water, boil, cool and fill clean feeders. Thanks for the tips!

  14. I make lots and store some in clean gallon milk jugs in the fridge till needed. Keeping feeders in shade will extend nectar life. Have not tried freezing nectar yet. Or sleeving the feeder to kerp it cooler.

  15. I have put out 3 feeders but live in an rv park not many flowers here have planted moon flowers around our lot will the hummingbirds still come?

    • Hi, Robin! That’s hard to say without knowing your location and other factors.
      But if you follow these tips and just wait and see, we think that’s half the fun! 🙂
      Good luck!

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