How To Make Hummingbird Food in the Microwave

Featured image for an article about How To Make Hummingbird Food in the Microwave

Hummingbirds are some of the most beloved backyard birds. Their bright colors, energetic movements, and ability to hover in midair make them a joy to watch.

Attracting hummingbirds to your yard or garden is easy with homemade hummingbird food, also known as nectar. While you can purchase pre-made nectar, making your own is simple and allows you to control the quality of ingredients. This article will teach you how to make hummingbird food in the microwave for fast, easy homemade nectar the hummingbirds will love.

Why Make Your Own Hummingbird Food?

There are a few key reasons to make DIY hummingbird nectar rather than buying it pre-made:

  • Control the ingredients: By making it yourself, you can ensure only pure cane sugar and water are used, without any harmful additives.
  • Customize the recipe: You can tweak the ratio of sugar to water based on your climate and the hummingbirds’ preferences.
  • Save money: Homemade nectar is significantly cheaper than store-bought.
  • Avoid spoilage: The nectar you make will be fresh, unlike nectar that’s been sitting on a shelf.

Making your own hummingbird food at home takes just a few minutes and minimal ingredients. Read on to learn how!

Hummingbird Food Ingredients

The basic hummingbird food recipe requires just two ingredients:

  • White cane sugar – This provides the energy hummingbirds need. Only use plain white cane sugar with no additives. Never use honey, artificial sweeteners, brown sugar, or raw sugar, as these can harm hummers.
  • Water – Use plain fresh water. Tap water is fine in most cases if you drink it yourself. Avoid water with chemical additives like fluoride.

That’s it! The nectar does not require anything else added for nutrition, flavor, or color. Do not add red dye, as it can be harmful to hummingbirds over time.

Recipe Ratio for Hummingbird Nectar

The ideal ratio for homemade hummingbird food is:

  • 1 part white cane sugar
  • 4 parts water

This creates a 20% sugar solution that provides sufficient calories for hummingbirds in most climates.

If you live in an especially hot region, you can increase the ratio to 1 part sugar and 3 parts water for a slightly higher calorie nectar. This helps meet the hummingbirds’ needs in extreme heat.

Always use a 1:4 ratio of sugar to water as your base and tweak from there as needed. Too little sugar doesn’t provide enough energy, while too much can harm hummingbird kidneys.

Step-by-Step Microwave Instructions

Making hummingbird nectar on the stove requires constantly watching a pot to prevent boiling over. The microwave provides an easier, safer, and faster option.

Follow these simple steps:

Supplies Needed

  • 1-cup measuring cup
  • Microwave-safe container with lid
  • Large spoon for stirring


  1. Measure 1 cup of white cane sugar into a microwave-safe container. Glass or ceramic work best.
  2. Add 4 cups of water to the container.
  3. Microwave the solution on high for 2-3 minutes until boiling.
  4. Carefully remove the hot container from the microwave.
  5. Stir the solution vigorously until all the sugar fully dissolves.
  6. Cover the container and let the nectar cool to room temperature.
  7. Refrigerate unused portions.

And you’re done! The nectar can now be poured into your hummingbird feeders.


  • Microwave times vary based on wattage. Watch closely to prevent boiling over.
  • Make sure no undissolved sugar grains remain before using.
  • Never microwave nectar in plastic containers, as hot liquids can leach harmful chemicals.
  • Consider doubling the recipe and refrigerating half for later to reduce repeated boiling.

Does Hummingbird Nectar Need to Be Boiled?

Boiling the nectar mixture is highly recommended, but not strictly required in all cases. Here are the main benefits of boiling:

  • Dissolves sugar quickly: Boiling allows the sugar to fully incorporate into the water for a smooth, homogeneous nectar.
  • Inactivates bacteria: The high heat of boiling kills bacteria, yeasts, and molds that could cause the nectar to spoil quickly. This prolongs shelf life.
  • Removes chlorine: Boiling drives off chlorine from tap water, eliminating an unpleasant taste.

If your tap water is purified or you use natural spring water, boiling is less critical. You can try just stirring vigorously while microwaving to dissolve the sugar.

However, boiling is best practice to maximize safety and minimize spoilage of the nectar. It only takes a few extra minutes.

Using Tap Water for Hummingbird Food

Tap water from most municipal water systems can be used to make hummingbird nectar, provided the water is safe for human consumption.

The key advantages of tap water are:

  • Readily available: Tap water provides an easy, convenient nectar base.
  • Cost-effective: Using tap avoids the expense of buying bottled water.
  • Environmentally friendly: You avoid plastic waste from water bottles.
  • Adds minerals: Tap water contains traces of nutrients like calcium and magnesium that may benefit hummingbirds.

However, there are some situations when tap water may not be ideal:

  • If your tap water has an offensive taste, odor, or chemical taint, consider using natural spring water.
  • In regions with heavy water treatment, bottled spring water may have fewer additives.
  • If your tap water contains high levels of chlorine, fluorine, calcium, or iron that leaves residue, try filtered or bottled water.

The bottom line is, if you drink your tap water, it’s fine for hummingbirds. Just take taste and quality into account. And remember – boiling helps remove undesirable tap water chemicals.

How Often to Change Hummingbird Food

To keep your backyard hummingbirds healthy, you need to change their nectar regularly. Here are some general guidelines on frequency:

  • In cooler climates, change every 5-7 days.
  • In hot climates, change every 2-3 days.
  • In very hot weather above 90°F, change every 1-2 days.
  • Change more frequently if using an un-refrigerated nectar or in direct sunlight.

The warmer the temperature, the quicker bacteria multiply. In extreme heat, nectar can spoil in under 24 hours.

Here are signs it’s time for a change:

  • Cloudiness in clear nectar.
  • White, cotton-like mold floating on the surface.
  • Slimy texture.
  • Darkening in color.
  • Sour or rotten smell.

Rinse feeders thoroughly with hot water before refilling. Discard any nectar that shows signs of spoilage.

Storing Leftover Hummingbird Food

When making homemade hummingbird nectar, you’ll usually end up with some leftover after filling your feeders. It’s important to properly store the unused portions to prevent waste and spoilage. The best method is to refrigerate leftover nectar in a sealed jar or bottle. This will keep the nectar fresh for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.

Another option is to freeze extra nectar in ice cube trays, then pop out the cubes and store them in freezer bags. The nectar cubes can be thawed before use as needed.

For long-term storage up to 3 months, consider canning freshly made nectar in sterilized jars using proper canning methods. This allows you to preserve large batches of nectar.

No matter which storage method you use, be sure to keep the homemade nectar refrigerated or frozen within 8 hours of making it. Leaving it out at room temperature will allow bacteria to grow rapidly. And always use very clean containers to prevent contaminating the nectar. Proper storage keeps homemade hummingbird food safe and nutritious for the birds to enjoy.

FAQs About Making Hummingbird Food

Should you use brown sugar, honey, or other sweeteners?

No. Only plain white cane sugar has the proper nutritional profile. Other sugars and sweeteners can cause digestive issues in hummingbirds.

Can you use artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes?

Avoid artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal. They provide no nutritional value.

Do you need to add red food coloring?

Adding red dye is unnecessary and can be harmful. Skip the dye and let the red feeder be the visual attractant.

What is the best type of water?

Use plain fresh water – tap, filtered, or non-carbonated spring water. Avoidwell water high in minerals.

Can you use raw sugar or organic sugar?

No, stick with refined white cane sugar. Raw and organic sugars have higher iron content that can be unhealthy for hummers.

Is it safe to microwave plastic?

Never microwave nectar in plastic containers, as the heat can cause harmful chemicals to leach into the nectar.

Should you adjust the ratio in winter?

No, the 1:4 ratio works year-round. Hummingbirds do not truly hibernate and require the same energy source.

How long does nectar last refrigerated?

Refrigerated nectar stays fresh 1-2 weeks. Discard any that smells sour or shows signs of mold.

The Bottom Line

Whipping up a batch of homemade hummingbird nectar in the microwave is easy and only takes a few minutes.

Use a ratio of 1 part white cane sugar to 4 parts water. Make sure the sugar fully dissolves and boil the mixture to increase safety.

Change the nectar in your feeders frequently, especially in hot weather. With this simple process, you can conveniently provide your local hummingbirds with the energy they need to thrive.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!

Leave a comment