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:


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19 Comments on “How to Make Hummingbird Nectar and Refill a Feeder Fast”

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  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    April 3rd, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    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!

  • Robin may Says:
    March 28th, 2019 at 7:59 am

    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?

  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    March 20th, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    Hi, George!
    For clarification, do you want to subscribe to our Tips for Today’s Homeowner newsletter?

  • George Stiller Says:
    March 19th, 2019 at 11:25 pm

    Put me on your contact list for info.

  • Jims3D Says:
    July 19th, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    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.

  • Pat Smith Says:
    April 14th, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    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!

  • Gloria Says:
    December 11th, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    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!!

  • sue provencher Says:
    May 26th, 2017 at 6:28 am

    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

  • fred stark-CT. Says:
    August 3rd, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    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?

  • Ruth Hatfield Says:
    July 19th, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    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?

  • Judy Says:
    June 10th, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    If I have pinwheels near the feeder will it scare away the birds? I have only seen one humming bird this season.

  • Cor Says:
    June 10th, 2015 at 1:00 am

    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.

  • Terri Layden Says:
    June 9th, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    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.

  • Steven Lynch Says:
    April 24th, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    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

  • Sallie Krebs Says:
    April 30th, 2012 at 7:07 am

    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.

  • Linda Finale, Sunnyvale,CA Says:
    January 15th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    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

  • Waltman Says:
    July 30th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    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.

  • Official Comment:

    Julie Day Says:
    March 24th, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    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.

  • Sheri L. Williamson Says:
    March 24th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    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:

    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.

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How to Make Hummingbird Nectar and Refill a Feeder Fast