I was in the local hardware store and spotted some hummingbird nectar for sale. Bottles of red stuff and bottles of white stuff. Odd that they would have it in two colors. What is the difference, and is one better than the other?
The label on the bottle was interesting. This was a bottle of Perky-Pet Hummingbird Nectar Concentrate and the label clearly says it is ‘100% High Energy Sucrose’. Is that different from regular sucrose? I did not know that pure sucrose was a liquid! My myth busting antennae went up and I had to have a closer look.
Do you need to buy this product? I have been using a DIY solution for a couple of years and it seems to be working. Maybe I am short changing my hummingbirds? Should I fork out $7 for a better product?
Hummingbird Nectar – Marketing Scam
Lets start with the label. It is ‘100% High Energy Sucrose’ – that is what it says in the large gold sticker.
There is no such thing as ‘high energy’ sucrose. All sucrose is the same or it would not be sucrose. That is just pure marketing hype.
Is it 100% sucrose? In small print at the bottom of the label the ingredient list is; water, sucrose, FD&C #40, citric acid and sodium benzoate. In Canada the ingredients are listed in order of quantity so the major ingredient is water, not sucrose. Even if we exclude the presence of water, it is not pure sucrose.
The label is clearly lying about the product. For this reason alone you should not buy this product. But there are even better reasons for not buying this product – read on.
Red Colored Hummingbird Nectar
The FD&C #40 is probably the red dye. This ingredient is not in the bottle of clear hummingbird food. Everyone knows hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, so is the red color important?
I spoke to a hummingbird expert at the Ontario Hummingbird Project and they say the red color is not important for the nectar. Having red on the feeder does attract hummingbirds, but the color of the nectar does not matter.
Since it is never a good idea to buy chemicals you do not need – it makes no sense to buy the red colored product. And it is just possible the red dye might hurt the humming birds.
Should You Buy Hummingbird Nectar Food?
Flower nectar is 21% to 23% sucrose. Sucrose is regular table sugar. For $7.00 you can buy a big bag of table sugar, enough to feed thousands of birds. It makes absolutely no sense to buy a commercial hummingbird nectar when you can make it yourself, easily, and for a fraction of the price.
Take 1 part sugar and 4 parts water, and mix them together. For example, I use 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water.
Just stir it – you do not need to heat it.
You are done – it is that simple.
This is not my recipe. This is the mixture that is recommended by most hummingbird and wildlife associations. This link will provide more information about feeding hummingbirds.
If you care about the environment – you will stop buying products you do not need. Hummingbird nectar is clearly one of those products.