10 Irresistible Temptations: What Can I Feed Hummingbirds Besides Sugar Water

Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures that bring joy and beauty to any garden. If you’re a bird enthusiast or just someone who loves to see these tiny wonders fluttering around your yard, you might be wondering, “What Can I Feed Hummingbirds Besides Sugar Water?” In this article, we will explore various alternative foods that can supplement their diet and attract more of these delightful birds to your backyard.

What Can I Feed Hummingbird Besides Sugar Water?

Hummingbirds are amazing little creatures. Their fast wings, iridescent colors, and interesting behaviors make them a joy to watch. An important part of attracting hummingbirds to your yard is offering them nutritious food. This article will explore the best foods you can provide for hummingbirds besides standard sugar water.

How Hummingbirds Build Energy

Hummingbirds have extremely high metabolisms and must consume a lot of food to fuel their bodies. Their wings beat around 70 times per second, meaning they use up calories rapidly just to hover in place. Hummingbirds must consume a huge amount of sugary food on a daily basis just to avoid starving or losing body mass.

The standard recommendation is to use a mixture of one part table sugar dissolved in four parts water. However, there are reasons why you may want to offer hummingbirds additional food sources beyond this traditional nectar replacement. Understanding a bit about hummingbird nutritional needs will clarify the benefits of providing alternative foods.

Why Hummingbirds Need More than Sugar Water

Sugar water offers simple carbohydrates which provide hummingbirds energy and Calories. Hummingbirds can quickly process this sugar water into energy powering fast heartbeats and wing beats. However, sugar water alone doesn’t meet all nutritional requirements for these active creatures.

Hummingbirds also require certain essential amino acids and proteins, as well as nutrients and fat only obtained by consuming insects and tree sap. Offering additional food sources helps provide a balanced diet that supports hummingbird growth, reproduction, and healthy feathers.

Plant Nectar

What Can I Feed Hummingbirds Besides Sugar Water

One alternative to artificial nectar is allowing hummingbirds to acquire nectar straight from flowers. Hummingbirds rely heavily on flower nectar in the wild to meet their nutritional needs. Offering flower gardens specifically designed to attract hummingbirds will result in less reliance on store-bought nectars.

Best Plants for Feeding Hummingbirds

Some plants are better than others when it comes to feeding hungry hummingbirds. Native flowering plants adapted to pollination by hummingbirds tend to be their favorites. Good choices include:

  • Trumpet Creeper
  • Native Holly
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Columbine
  • Bee Balm

It helps to offer a range of flower types and make sure something is blooming continually throughout warmer months. Consult a local nursery for help selecting the best native plants for your climate and gardening conditions. Consider using heirloom varieties of plants known to attract these feathered visitors.

Tips for Feeding with Flowers

Here are some tips for utilizing flowers to nourish hummingbirds:

  • Place flowering plants close to areas hummingbirds frequent, like feeders or resting spots. Make accessing the nectar easy for them.
  • To encourage more visits to flowers, consider temporarily removing commercial feeders which require less effort.
  • Choose flowers with suitable shapes matching the curve of hummingbird beaks and containing adequate amounts of nectar to make flower visits rewarding. Trumpet-shaped blossoms or hanging flowers tend to be preferable.
  • Avoid spraying pesticides and herbicides which could be harmful if hummingbirds ingest nectar containing traces of chemicals.


Insects represent a natural component of hummingbird diets in the wild. Providing insects offers essential amino acids, protein, nutrients, and fat to balance out the mostly sugar diet hummingbirds would otherwise subsist on. Baby hummingbirds in particular require significant amounts of protein-rich insects to ensure proper growth.

Catching Insects Naturally

Hummingbirds obtain insects in a few different ways when out of your direct control:

Approaching swarms and hatches: Hummingbirds can spot emerging hatches of mosquitos, gnats, and other small insects and swiftly pick them off as they fly by.

Stealing from spiderwebs: Spiders end up unintentionally feeding hummingbirds when the clever birds spot trapped insects and carefully harvest them from webs.

Gleaning crawling insects: Slow-moving ants, beetles, caterpillars and other crawling insects get snatched directly off leaves and branches.

You can provide additional opportunities by being mindful of existing insects on your property. Avoid eliminating all spider webs, for example, since they essentially serve as insect traps. Consider tolerating some aphids and other sap-sucking insects that attract hummingbirds when the swollen insects get penetrated by sharp beaks. Refrain from removing all caterpillars which get readily consumed by birds raising young.

With a little thought towards symbiotic relationships already at play, you can leverage natural food sources hummingbirds have tapped into for millennia. The more native vegetation present and the less pesticide used, the more insects available to benefit hummingbirds during critical development periods.

Supplementing with Captured Insects

If adequate flying and crawling insects aren’t available naturally on your property, you may wish to collect additional bugs to offer specifically to hummingbirds.

Good insect options include:

  • Fruit flies
  • Small moths
  • Mosquitos
  • Gnats
  • Aphids
  • Spider mites

Avoid offering insects which have been exposed to pesticides. It helps enrich the diet further by providing a mixture of insects rather than just one specific type.

Here are tips for providing live insects:

  • Put them in a special feeder designed for live insects to prevent escape and allow easy access while flying.
  • Time the release of insects to coincide with peak hummingbird activity and while young may be present.
  • Introduce insects directly into flight paths near natural foraging areas and concentrations around feeders.
  • Pay attention to when insects run out and need replenishing to continually provide this key food source.


In the wild, hummingbirds will supplement their diet with tree sap and fruit in addition to flower nectar and insects. Offer sliced fruit near feeders or in a special compartment to provide essential nutrients.

Good fruits to try include:

-Oranges -Grapes -Berries -Apples -Papaya -Watermelon -Bananas

These fruits provide carbohydrates along with many needed vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients beneficial for hummingbird health and development. The natural sweetness appeals to their taste preferences as well.

Here are some tips for feeding sliced fruit:

  • Replace fruit at least twice daily to prevent spoilage in warm weather.
  • Mist fruit with water to provide some extra hydration.
  • Ensure fruit has been thoroughly washed and cut to expose juicy interior portions.
  • Monitor to see which specific fruits get visited most often and respond with increased offerings.

Store-Bought Nectar

When flowers are not in season and to bridge nutritional gaps, commercial nectars remain a good option for attracting hummingbirds. The convenience and ability to control sugar ratios precisely makes store-bought products popular among birders.

There are a few considerations when selecting a commercial nectar product:

Sugar ratio – As mentioned previously, a 1:4 ratio of sugar to water matches natural concentrations in nectar and best supplies energy for hummingbirds. Some commercial mixes specify a ratio, while for others you’ll need to mix to hit this optimal balance.

Ingredients – You want a product containing just basic ingredients – sugar and colorings. Avoid anything listing preservatives, artificial sweeteners or other additives which may harm hummingbird health.

Colors – Colorings like Red 40 are added primarily for human enjoyment rather than bird preference. Clear nectar is perfectly fine for attracting hummingbirds, though colored varieties can also work. Just avoid dark colors straying too far from a flower-like appearance.

Cost – Given the very high metabolism of hummingbirds, you may go through a fair amount of commercial nectar. Compare pricing across different products with the 1:4 ratio to find more economical options for frequent use.

Convenience – Consider if you want to deal with mixing up batches by hand or would prefer the simplicity of ready-made solutions. Just ensure pre-mixed varieties still have acceptable sugar ratios.

No matter if you select powder packets or convenient premade liquid, inspect labels closely to ensure a proper nutritional profile.

Hummingbird Diet

To keep hummingbirds coming back again and again, you need to understand a bit about their dietary adaptations and offer a diverse menu. While sugar-rich floral nectars power their engines, hummingbirds still require a balanced diet. Making an effort to provide additional food sources like fruit and insects better approximates their complete nutritional needs.

How Hummingbird Diet Differs from Songbirds

Hummingbirds dine very differently than traditional backyard songbirds like finches and chickadees. Here’s how things diverge:

  • Energy needs – Hummingbirds burn through vastly more calories and thus require more carb-and sugar-dense food per ounce of body weight.
  • Taste preferences – These specialized nectar feeders gravitate towards sweeter foods along with some fruits, while other birds may reject overly sugary substances or need a higher percentage of insects and fats.
  • Tongue adaptations – Forked hummingbird tongues efficiently lap up nectar, making them naturals for accessing sweet liquids. Songbirds tend to prefer solid foods.
  • Behavior – Blazing fast dive bombing right onto feeder ports allows hummingbirds to power up quickly. Other backyard birds feed more cautiously and often prefer platforms.

Because of their singular characteristics as tiny torpedoes that live life in the fast lane, taking steps to understand and provide for the hummingbird diet correctly ensures better success at attracting them.

Importance of a Balanced Diet

Hummingbirds have developed highly specialized adaptations for taking advantage of flower nectar as an energy source. This nectar allowed them to access a food source untouched by other birds, propelling evolutionary innovations like hovering flight, color vision, slender beaks, forked tongues and a craving for sweets.

However, sole reliance on simple sugars found in nectar overtime can lead to dietary deficiencies or health issues. Lack of essential dietary components like proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals creates problems especially for developing young.

That’s why hummingbirds still chase down insects for essential amino acids absent in floral nectars. They’ve also retained ancestral tastes for tree sap, juices and fruit pulp to secure vital nutrients despite their typical focus on readily utilizing sweet suspensions.

As a steward of backyard habitats relied upon by hummingbirds, strive to understand all their dietary requirements rather than just their affinity for sugary water. Provide a diverse spread of food replicating complete nutrition, not just empty Calories from a single source.

Attracting Hummingbirds with Food

What Can I Feed Hummingbirds Besides Sugar Water

Hummingbirds get quite territorial over reliable food sources and will return frequently once your feeder location proves itself as a dependable source of rapid energy. Use a range of different feeding techniques and food options specially geared towards hummingbird preferences for the best response.

Feeder Type

The design of feeders can make a big difference in whether hummingbirds choose to stop by and sample your offerings. Consider aspects like:

  • Color – Vibrant red is typical to attract these visual creatures, but other bright colors can also work.
  • Reservoir size – Larger capacity allows longer intervals between needing to be refilled.
  • Number of feeding ports – Having multiply flower-like ports prevents one dominant bird from monopolizing the food source.
  • Positioning – Hummingbirds prefer feeders positioned high with unobstructed access for fast flying approaches.
  • Visibility – Placing feeders near flowering gardens, woodlands and other natural visual cues increases appeal.
  • Shelter – Incorporate drones or overhangs to provide shade and protection from elements.

The easier and more enticing you make it for hummingbirds to spot feeders and quickly tank up on energy, the more reliably they’ll work your habitat into daily feeding routines.

Food Options

Rather than just offering the one standard food – diluted white sugar water – consider expanding your buffet line-up to hit all dietary preferences.

Try incorporating:

  • Flower Nectar – Sugar ratios closer to natural concentrations along with micronutrients not found in table sugar
  • Fruit – Nutrients and carbohydrates important for health
  • Insects – Protein and fat especially crucial for young birds
  • Specialty Nectars – Pre-mixed commercial powders tailored for these species

Catering to diverse nutritional needs and taste preferences improves both quantity and variety of hummingbirds attracted.

Strategic Timing

You can apply a bit of strategy in terms of when and how different foods get offered to encourage more consistent visits.

  • Consistent daily feeding – Have sugar water available from first light through dusk when hummingbirds are active. Maintain optimal sugar ratios.
  • Insect supplementation – Time extra protein boosts for key development phases like when young fledge and require excess nutrients.
  • Fruit offerings – Switch out fresh 2-3 times daily before spoiled to capture more interest.
  • Nectar diversity – Alternate between flower nectar, tree sap and commercial nectars so novel tastes stimulate feeding.
  • Seasonal adjustments – Cater to needs during energy-intensive portions of yearly migration cycles and high metabolic phases.

Hummingbirds closely track reliable food sources and by keeping their tastes and schedules in mind, you can make your feeders ones they return to frequently.

Tips for Feeding Hummingbirds

What Can I Feed Hummingbirds Besides Sugar Water

Attracting these energetic birds is one thing, but keeping them returning frequently requires optimal feeding practices tailored to unique hummingbird characteristics and nutritional requirements.

Feeder Placement Tips

Where and how feeders get positioned makes a major difference in hummingbird engagement and activity levels.

  • Near shelter and refuge where hummingbirds congregate naturally
  • High up with aerial unobstructed access preferred
  • Visible from distance to serve as visual cue
  • Avoid dense cover impeding fast diving approaches
  • Include multiple dispersed feeders to reduce territorial conflicts

Focus less on human observing ease and more on characteristics appealing specifically to hummingbirds.

Sugar Water Tips

Properly formulating sugar water makes up the bulk of hummingbird diet. Follow these best practices:

  • One part sugar to four parts water for ideal approximation of flower nectar sugar ratios
  • Boiled or distilled water preferred over tap waterpossibly containing minerals, chlorides and other contaminants
  • No food dyes, sweeteners or other unnecessary additives
  • Change nectar every two days before microbial contamination

Precision and care with primary energy source encourages feeder loyalty and prevents health issues.

Caution Against Loose Sugars

It’s best not to put out open containers of liquid sweeteners like honey or syrups. Hummingbirds can be prone to swarming these uncovered sugars. This leads to aggressive fighting and exposes them to parasite transmission from crowding.

Instead stick with specialized feeders designed to dispense sugar water safely without enabling loose swarms. This reduces disease risk and stressful altercations.

Maintaining Cleanliness

Hummingbirds rely heavily on senses beyond visual sight like smell and taste when foraging. Dirty or contaminated feeders can repel them from visiting even reliable energy hotspots.

Follow these cleanliness tips:

  • Every 2-3 days replace sugar water
  • Weekly deep cleaning with mild soap solution by hand or dishwasher
  • Rinse fully with water before refilling
  • Allow drying fully in air rather than towel drying

Establish a fixed cleaning routine allowing fresh tastes, scents and adequate supply.

Conclusion: What Can I Feed Hummingbirds Besides Sugar Water

In conclusion, there are several alternatives to sugar water that can provide a more balanced and natural diet for hummingbirds. By incorporating a mix of nectar-producing plants, insects, fruit nectar, and other safe options, you can create a hummingbird-friendly environment that encourages these lovely creatures to visit regularly. What Can I Feed Hummingbirds Besides Sugar Water? Remember to always prioritize the well-being of the birds and offer them the healthiest and safest food choices possible.


What is the best and healthiest diet for a hummingbird?

The healthiest diet for hummingbirds contains both plant-based nectars for carbohydrate energy along with essential proteins and nutrients obtained from insects. This combination approximates their diverse wild diet before reliance on backyard feeders supplemented with basic sugar water alone. For optimal health include both flowering plants to access nectar along with efforts to provide insects.

What is the best sugar-to-water ratio for homemade nectar?

The ideal proportion of sugar dissolved in water for homemade nectar is one part regular white sugar to four parts water. This achieves sugar measurements close to concentrations found in natural flower nectar best suited to hummingbird digestive needs.

Why do hummingbirds prefer red feeders?

Hummingbirds gravitate towards reddish feeders likely because the color mimics typical tubular flower shapes from which they access nectar. The color red as observed by humans is also extremely visible to birds who see shifted color spectrums, so the tone serves as an eye-catching visual signal.

Can I use artificial sweeteners in nectar?

Avoid artificial sweeteners in homemade nectar. While these may taste sweet to human perceptions, artificial substances may not provide actual food energy usable by hummingbirds. Components in chemical sweeteners also could possibly negatively impact delicate hummingbird health optimized for pure flower nectars.

Do hummingbirds eat insects?

Yes, hummingbirds actively consume small insects to acquire essential proteins absent in flower nectars. Consumption of insects aids development in nestlings and supplements energy needs during metabolically-intense periods like migration. Catering to this dietary requirement can encourage more hummingbirds by providing a balanced menu.

What fruits can hummingbirds eat?

Good fruits to offer hummingbirds include sliced oranges, berries, grapes, bananas, apples, melon, papaya, and other juicy, sweet varieties. Change out cut fruit frequently to ensure freshness. Mist fruit with water to provide supplemental hydration in addition to nutritional benefits from vitamins and carbohydrates.

What are some flowering plants that attract hummingbirds?

Great flowering plants to attract hungry hummingbirds to your gardens include native honeysuckles, bee balm, trumpet vines, fuchsias, lantana, petunias, morning glory, columbine, lobelia and gladiolas along with wildflowers like firepink, jewelweed and violets. Consult local nurseries for the best regional varieties to try.

When should I take down hummingbird feeders?

In temperate climates, most experts recommend taking down feeders or disabling them by early-to-mid autumn once natural food sources decline and migration cues stimulate preparation for long journeys. Leave feeders up too long into cooling weather risks birds delaying travel to wintering grounds.

About the Author: Hudaibia

My name is Hudaibia with the profound passion for our feathered friends. Birds have captivated my heart and mind since childhood. Now I share my avian devotion through my website, mybirdfeed.com.