Feeding Our Tiny Feathered Friends

Many people feed birds of all types in feeders outside their homes but, unlike the various seeds larger birds eat, hummingbird food (nectar) can be easily made with just two ingredients: water and sugar.

Multiple species of hummingbirds can be found in Oregon, some fairly common and some much more rare and unlikely to be seen in the Western part of the state. Most of them migrate, with the exception of Anna’s Hummingbird, the only one that remains here all year. 

Hummingbirds have speedy metabolisms, consuming half of their body weight in bugs and nectar and visiting 1,000-2,000 flowers per day according to the National Audubon Society. As flowers become more scarce during the winter months, people can help them get the calories they need by making their favorite meal – nectar.

Their recipe below should be followed as written, avoiding substituting another type of sugar for refined white sugar. Honey can promote dangerous fungal growth that can germinate on the tongue and/or gullet of the hummingbird, preventing them from retracting their tongues. When they are unable to retract their tongues, they become unable to feed and will likely die.

Organic, natural and raw sugars should also be avoided as they contain levels of iron that could be harmful to hummingbirds. Plain white table sugar (sucrose) when mixed with water, very closely mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar.

If you’ve seen hummingbird nectar sold in stores it is often colored with red dye. Red coloring is unnecessary and the chemicals in the dye could be harmful to them. Store-bought hummingbird food also contains preservatives.

Beyond providing nectar, planting native flowers, shrubs and trees that provide essential food sources and shelter for hummingbirds  will also attract them. 

The Audubon Society recommends evergreen perennial, the California Figwort (also known as the California Bee Plant); the Crimson Columbine, perennial wildflower the Narrow-Leaf Fireweed; perennial climbing vine, Orange Honeysuckle; Red Elder and Salmon Raspberry shrubs and the Pacific Madrone tree (also known as Oregon Laurel and Laurelwood), a broadleaf evergreen.

Hummingbird Nectar

1/4 cup refined white sugar*

1 cup boiling water

Mix sugar and boiling water until sugar is dissolved.

Cool and fill your feeder.

Hang your feeder outside and wait for the hummingbirds to come.


Photo by Elena Illescas

Feeding Our Tiny Feathered Friends

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