What You Should or Should Not
Feed Hummingbirds

By Richard Worden

While you can feed hummingbirds at home, you must be extra careful as not all foods are good for these cute little birds. Due to their tiny size, hummingbirds often struggle to digest many foods. As such, it is important to know what you should or should not feed hummingbirds. 

You should feed hummingbirds nectar, which is a combination of sugar and water. It can be made at home and is found naturally in flowers. It is not advisable to feed them artificially colored nectar or any alternatives to plain white sugar, as these things can be toxic to hummingbirds.

Although hummingbirds will benefit from the food you leave out in the garden, it is essential that you do it carefully. Here is a helpful guide on what you should and shouldn't feed hummingbirds.

What you should or should not feed a hummingbird

What You Should Feed Hummingbirds

A Homemade Solution of Sugar and Water

Hummingbirds like to drink nectar to keep their energy up throughout the day. Many advertised hummingbird nectars will overcomplicate this, adding all sorts of chemicals and colorings designed to attract hummingbirds to your garden. However, you can create much better nectar from your own kitchen at a fraction of the cost.

The only essential ingredients are plain white sugar and water. Additions like colorings and flavors are ill-advised as they can end up harming the hummingbirds that flock to your garden. 

The homemade nectar will give the hummingbirds the glucose required to maintain their energy levels. There’s no need to add anything extra to the sugar-water solution as hummingbirds get their other dietary needs from insects. Plain sugar and water will best imitate what they would have gotten from a flower.

Here is a simple YouTube tutorial on making cheap and effective hummingbird nectar that will keep Hummingbirds coming back...

Learn More Hummingbird 2

Hummingbirds can be fussy eaters, that's why it's important to choose just the right feeder. Here's a helpful article of mine that reviews the feeders Hummingbirds like the most...

A Biodiverse Flower Garden

While you can't put this in a feeder, the best thing for hummingbirds to eat is nectar straight from a flower. If you have the space for a wildflower garden, your hummingbird friends will thank you for it. Choose a bright array of flowers that are native to your area to ensure that the hummingbirds keep coming back for more. 

Hummingbirds will love almost any flowers you put in your garden, but just in case you are at a loss, here are a few of the most common flowers that hummingbirds love. As a bonus, they are easy to look after and look great in your garden.

  • Azalea
  • Buddleia
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Columbine
  • Fireweed
  • Hardy Fuchsia
  • Lungwort
  • Lupine
  • Petunia

One of the most important things you can do for hummingbirds is to keep your garden natural and chemical-free.

Using all sorts of pesticides can be tempting to keep your garden in good shape. However, pesticides tend to put off hummingbirds, meaning they’re highly likely to ditch your garden in favor of a more natural one.

Hummingbirds also love to eat small insects, so having life in your flower bed provides a perfect environment for the birds to thrive.

Learn More Hummingbird 2

Can you ever have too many Hummingbirds in your garden? I think not! Want more? This helpful article of mine about attracting Hummingbirds to your garden is a must read!

Natural Store-Bought Hummingbird Nectar

If you would prefer to buy your nectar instead of making it, there are plenty of options that won't harm the hummingbirds. You need to be careful because some commercial nectars contain artificial colorings. 

The good news is that the simpler the mixture, the better it is for hummingbirds. This means that some of the best hummingbird nectars on the market are reasonably priced.

There are lots of great options available on Amazon. This Pennington ElectroNectar Hummingbird Food has no artificial colorings and is designed to mimic the nutritional value of regular flowers. It is filled with electrolytes to give as much energy to the hummingbirds as possible.

When buying hummingbird nectar from Amazon, it is important to pay attention to the packaging. Check the ingredients to ensure there are no artificial sweeteners and flavors, as these can stress a hummingbird’s digestive system and even lead to death. 

Learn More Hummingbird 3

We felt this topic was important enough to dedicate a whole page dealing exclusively with What Do Hummingbirds Like To Drink...it's a must read!

What You Should Not Feed Hummingbirds

Artificially Made Nectar Products

Many options available online claim to be good for hummingbirds, but you need to be careful about what you choose to put in your feeders. Some hummingbird nectars contain artificial sweeteners and colorings that do more harm than good. And since hummingbirds are tiny birds, even the smallest amount of a toxic substance can do them serious damage.

Lots of artificially made hummingbird nectars come in red to attract the tiny birds. However, a bright-colored feeder should suffice. Bright red nectar is unnecessary, and the coloring can be one of the most toxic elements of store-bought feed for a hummingbird. The main components of your hummingbird feed should be sugar and water.

Buying artificially made nectar products isn’t recommended. But if you must, it’s best to go for products from reputable brands. And as mentioned earlier, you should check the ingredients to ensure you don’t give the hummingbirds anything harmful. 

Traditional Bird Seed

Put simply, hummingbirds just don't eat traditional bird seed. If you are looking to attract hummingbirds, the classic bird feed in your feeders will be of no interest to them. As such, you’ll need to get a separate feeder filled with nectar to attract them to your garden. 

Hummingbird-specific feeders allow hummingbirds to have their own space away from the bigger birds that may scare them off. Win-win for everybody.

You can get hold of these hummingbird feeders easily on Amazon for a low price. This MEKKAPRO Outdoor Hummingbird Feeder comes in a bright color to attract these beautiful birds and easily dispenses nectar to keep them coming back. 

Any Alternative to Plain White Sugar

If it is the glucose content of sugar that hummingbirds crave, many people wonder if the other sugary components in their homes will be a good substitute. A common replacement for sugar can be honey, but this is extremely dangerous for hummingbirds.

If coated with the sticky substance in honey, the hummingbird will be unable to fly or eat. The same goes for any sticky substance, so syrup is also wrong.

You should also be careful with the sugar you feed hummingbirds. To humans, these all seem very similar. However, to a bird as small as a hummingbird, the variations in iron levels can be fatal. Choosing brown sugar, raw sugar, honey, and molasses instead of plain white sugar can subject the birds to toxic levels of iron. This can cause severe ailments and even death. what you should or should not feed hummingbirds

If you’re not sure about what you are currently feeding the hummingbirds, play it safe and get rid of it. Check that the sugar you use is safe for hummingbird consumption and then put a fresh batch out. 

And Since We're On The Topic Of Food...

Learn More Hummingbird 1

Do the dietary needs of Hummingbirds differ in the winter?...Yep! Here's an informative article of ours that deals with what Hummingbirds eat in the winter.

Learn More Hummingbird 2

Hummingbird chicks have their own dietary considerations and our interesting article What Do Baby Hummingbirds Eat? will answer all questions!

What You Should Or Should Not Feed Hummingbirds...Final Thoughts

It is essential to know what you should and shouldn't feed hummingbirds for their safety. However, the simplest options are the safest in this case, so it should be easy to look after these beautiful birds without causing them any harm. 

If you are incorrectly feeding them, don't worry. Just change the contents of your feeder as soon as possible to stop causing any further damage. You are doing a great thing by feeding these birds, and they are indeed grateful for that.

Back To The TOP Of This What You Should Or Should Not Feed Hummingbirds Page

About Me

About the Author...

Richard Worden, a dedicated bird lover for over 20 years, I love to share my in-depth knowledge and passion for birds. Read more About Me and my expertise in this field.

  1. We Know Birds HOME
  2. Hummingbird Facts and Information
  3. What You Should or Should Not Feed Hummingbirds