There’s nothing as magical as catching a little flutter of a garden visitor as it enjoys nectar from your favorite blooms. Many Gardners eager to attract hummingbirds and support them on their migration have turned to feeders to supplement the nectar naturally available in the garden. Although a well meaning act, many gardeners are unwittingly doing more harm than good with sugar substitutes that actually kill hummingbirds.
How Sugar Substitutes Harm Hummingbirds
White sugar has come under attack over recent years as a source of many health problems in humans. As a result, many pantries are now stocked with a number of substitutes, both natural and manufactured. Many folks assume that because sugar substitutes are better fro humans, they must be better for the birds too.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
Many manufactured sugar substitutes contain chemicals as well as added levels of iron and other nutrients that kill hummingbirds. Honey and syrup, on the other hand, harbor fungi that can also kill hummingbirds, or at least make them very sick. Good old fashioned white sugar is actually the best nectar substitute for hummingbirds and most closely resembles the chemical structure of flower nectar.
The Issue with Red Food Coloring
Another misconception is that in order for hummingbirds to want the nectar it must be red. Unfortunately, red dye is another chemical that is harmful to hummingbirds. Yes, hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, but it’s more important that the dispenser outlet, where the hummingbird will extract the nectar, be colorful and that it be a structure that resembles the flowers hummingbirds love most. If you look at nectar in a flower, it isn’t red. It’s clear. Hummingbirds are guided by both sight and the smell of nectar, and don’t rely on color alone to locate food sources.
Audubon Approved Recipe for Hummingbird Food
Below is the recipe recommended by the Audubon society. Remember to use regular white sugar and to avoid food coloring. Also, make sure that you change the nectar often to ensure a clean and bacteria free food source.
- 1/4 cup refined white sugar
- 1 cup boiling water
Mix sugar and boiling water until sugar is dissolved. Cool and fill feeder. Hang up your feeder outside and wait for the hummingbirds to come. Send us pictures!!