How Often Should You Change Your Hummingbird Feeder? (Tips)


Have you recently bought a hummingbird feeder and intend to attract the smallest birds in the world to your yard?

You may then know that hummingbird feeders come with a lot of responsibility, and many tasks are needed to feed the little jewels safely.

One of your primary responsibilities is replacing old nectar and cleaning the feeder.

You may wonder how often you should clean your feeder and replace the nectar.

Unfortunately, there is no fixed schedule for how often you clean your hummingbird feeder. The number of times you should change the food in your feeder depends on the weather and season where you live.

That is because you’ll need to change the food differently in different weather conditions and seasons.

Cleaning Hummingbird Feeders Overview

There is no fixed rule to describe how frequently or infrequently you should clean your feeder and replace the nectar.

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A good rule of thumb is that in hot weather, you should empty and clean out your feeder at least twice each week.

In cool weather, you can get by, by cleaning the feeder once per week.

If your feeder attracts masses of hummingbirds and the nectar empties frequently, you should clean it every time it empties.

During summer, in many areas, dozens of hummingbirds can visit your feeders, meaning the feeder will need to be cleaned, and the food will have to be replaced very frequently.

At the end of the day, the number of times you have to clean the feeder and add new nectar comes down to your unique circumstances and weather conditions.

If you want to err on the side of caution, clean the feeder and replace the hummingbird nectar more frequently than suggested. This will ensure that the hummingbirds always have clean, healthy nectar.

At the end of the day, you wouldn’t want to eat out of a dirt bowl, would you? Neither do the hummingbirds.

How To Clean Hummingbird Feeders

Cleaning your hummingbird feeder is very easy. All you have to do is use warm water and a sponge to scrub the feeder.

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You can use a vinegar solution to ensure the feeder is perfectly clean. Vinegar may be smelly, but it does an excellent job of cleaning sticky surfaces.

Make sure not to leave any residue after cleaning, and wash the vinegar off properly before replacing the nectar.

Before you refill the feeder, make sure it is dry.

There are cleaning substances that you should avoid using to clean the feeder, including dishwashing liquids.

Avoiding Old Nectar Buildups

Hummingbird nectar can ferment or become rotten if you don’t replace it frequently enough.

A sure sign that the hummingbird nectar has fermented or spoiled is if you see discoloration or cloudiness in the nectar.

Old nectar that is left in the feeder can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. This could be a severe problem because infected nectar can be fatal for hummingbirds if they drink it and get sick.

Hummingbirds are intelligent creatures, so if the nectar spoils, they probably won’t drink it. They may come back to check if the nectar has been replaced. They may never return to your feeder if it is still rotten.

Therefore, it is imperative to change the nectar regularly, as not changing it can adversely affect your yard’s hummingbird abundance and health.

The hummingbird nectar in your feeder can become very hot if you place your feeder in direct sunlight or leave the nectar out for too long on warm days.

Hot nectar is also a problem for hummingbirds because they can be burnt from drinking it.

One way to know if the nectar is too hot is to touch the feeder. If you touch the feeder and feel that the nectar is hot, then you should clean the feeder and replace the nectar.

A solution for hot nectar is to move your feeder into an area with dappled light or replace the nectar more frequently during the day.

Moving the feeder into the shade isn’t a good idea as it may stop the hummingbirds from visiting the feeder. If they do visit, you won’t see them in their complete shining splendor.

What Is A Good Hummingbird Nectar Recipe?

Hummingbird nectar is extremely easy to make and cost-effective.

You can make your own nectar using just two ingredients that you can find at home: plain white table sugar and tap water.

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Hummingbird nectar is made by mixing sugar and water in a ratio of 1:4. That means for every cup of sugar, you need to mix four cups of water.

Keeping to a 1:4 ratio will create a solution of hummingbird nectar that most closely matches the sucrose concentration in natural nectar.

To make the solution, mix the sugar and water by stirring until the sugar is dissolved. You can use boiling water to speed up the dissolving process.

You may have seen that some hummingbird nectars contain red dye. This is not an essential ingredient and may even have a negative impact on hummingbird health. So don’t add it to your nectar.

Avoid replacing white sugar with honey, brown sugar, and artificial sweeteners.

How Long Does Hummingbird Nectar Last?

You’ll be pleased to know that you can safely store any excess hummingbird nectar you make at home for later use.

To store the nectar, place it in a sealed container to stop insects from getting inside.

If you can, store the nectar in a fridge to make it last longer.

You can store hummingbird nectar in the refrigerator for a maximum of two weeks before it starts spoiling.

If you store nectar in a refrigerator, it is essential to warm it up to room temperature before pouring it into the feeder.

Feeding Hummingbirds In Winter

In winter, you should continue to feed the hummingbirds like usual, but you can increase the sugar concentration.

Increasing the sugar concentration to a ratio of 1:3 will allow the hummingbirds to get more energy from the nectar. That can be essential to cold hummingbirds when they need to warm up their bodies.

Another tip for winter feeding is to bring your feeders in when it is too cold. A hummingbird can become cold-stunned or even die if it drinks cold nectar.

Tips For Choosing Hummingbird Feeders

Choosing the best hummingbird feeder can become complicated with all the choices on the market.

The first thing you should pay attention to when purchasing a feeder is the color. Red is the best color for attracting hummingbirds as it emulates their favorite red tubular flowers.

The entire feeder doesn’t have to be red, but as long as some parts are brightly colored, then it should work well.

Overall, the best hummingbird feeders are saucer-shaped feeders.

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Saucer-shaped feeders usually show lots of red and have multiple feeding ports to attract many hummingbirds.

The design of the feeder also allows removing and refilling the nectar to be effortless. Cleaning this type of feeder is also very simple.

Do Hummingbirds Like Warm or Cold Nectar?

Hummingbirds drink both warm and cold nectar.

Hummingbirds are more attracted to warm natural nectar because it releases a scent after being warmed up by the sun.

In the early morning, hummingbirds need to eat right after waking up, so they will drink cold nectar that they find in feeders.


Safely feeding hummingbirds requires dedication, especially when it comes to replacing nectar and cleaning the feeder.

The general rule is to clean your feeder at least twice per week when it is hot and at least once per week in cooler weather.

If the hummingbirds empty your feeder frequently, clean the feeder before each refill.

It becomes exceptionally crucial when the weather is hot, and the feeders need to be cleaned almost every day to stop the nectar from going rotten.

Keeping your feeders clean and not letting the nectar spoil is essential because it allows the hummingbirds to always have good quality nectar.

Spoilt or fermented nectar is bad for hummingbird health because it could contain bacteria and mold that make them sick and could be fatal.

It may seem like a chore to replace the nectar and clean the feeder multiple times a week, but the hummingbirds enjoy having the extra nutrition, and you should feel lucky to be in their presence.

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Tristan Silver

Tristan is a South African biologist, photographer, and birder. From a young age, he developed a passion for the outdoors, being taught basic biology and shown animals in their natural habitat. He picked up photography at age 11, and it led him into the world of birding and exploring. He has traveled throughout South Africa, documenting over 630 bird species. He is also interested in amphibians, reptiles, insects, and some plants. He uses photography to document his experiences and has had his photographs appear in African Birdlife magazine. Tristan holds an Advanced Scuba Diving qualification and has dived on many coral reefs. He completed his honours degree in Biological Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is also a writer, expressing and sharing his emotions from his experiences through his writing, combined with photographs.

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