Can you give hummingbirds just water?

Hummingbirds get most of their nutrition from flower nectar and tree sap in the wild. While they do need some water, giving them plain water instead of nectar is not recommended. Here are some quick answers about giving hummingbirds just water:

Should you only give hummingbirds water?

No, you should not only give hummingbirds plain water. Hummingbirds need more than just water to survive. They get most of their key nutrients from flower nectar and tree sap, including sugars for energy and some electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals. Plain water does not provide the nutrition they need.

What happens if you only give hummingbirds water?

If you only give hummingbirds plain water instead of nectar or sugar water, they can become malnourished over time. Without adequate nutrition, they may become lethargic, stop visiting feeders, lose weight, or even die. Providing just water deprives them of the energy and nutrients they need.

When is it ok to give hummingbirds water?

It’s fine to give hummingbirds plain water in small amounts in addition to nectar or sugar water, especially in hot weather. The water can help them avoid dehydration. You can add a second feeder with just water near your main nectar feeder. But the water should not completely replace nectar/sugar water as their main food source.

What do hummingbirds need in their water?

Hummingbirds have higher metabolisms and energy needs than other birds. Their nutrient requirements include:

  • Sugars – Usually sucrose, glucose, and fructose from nectar. They provide quick energy.
  • Electrolytes – Such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Help maintain fluid balance.
  • Amino acids – For building proteins and muscles.
  • Vitamins and minerals – Such as vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, and more. Support metabolic processes.

Plain water does not contain these essential nutrients. Only nectar or sugar water can provide what hummingbirds need in their liquid diet.

What is the best homemade nectar for hummingbirds?

The best homemade nectar for hummingbirds is:

  • 1 part white granulated sugar
  • 4 parts water

Do not use honey, artificial sweeteners, or brown sugar. Boil the water first and let it cool before mixing. Store unused nectar in the refrigerator for up to a week. Clean feeders every few days to prevent mold.


While hummingbirds do need some plain water at times, relying solely on water deprives them of the essential sugars, electrolytes, and nutrients they require. Water should always be supplemental to nectar or sugar water, not replace it entirely. Offer a properly balanced nectar solution to provide the energy and nutrition hummingbirds need to stay healthy.

Hummingbird Diet and Nutrition Needs

Hummingbirds have very high metabolisms and unique nutritional requirements. Here is some more detail on why nectar is so important to their diet:

High Energy Needs

Hummingbirds must eat very frequently, up to every 10-15 minutes in some cases. Their wings flap up to 70 times per second, requiring immense energy output. The sugars in nectar give them the carbohydrate fuel they need to keep their metabolic motors running.

Sugar Composition

Natural flower nectar is typically 25-40% sugar, a higher concentration than most fruits. It contains three key sugars:

  • Sucrose – The main disaccharide sugar that provides efficient energy.
  • Glucose – A simple sugar also used for quick energy.
  • Fructose – The sweetest simple sugar that also supplies energy.

Recreational feeders try to approximate this balance in homemade nectars. Plain water contains none of these critical energizing sugars.

Electrolyte Needs

In addition to sugars, hummingbirds rely on some electrolytes in nectar for key functions:

  • Sodium – Helps maintain proper fluid balance and is tied to appetite.
  • Potassium – Supports nerve transmission and muscle contractions.
  • Calcium – Needed for bone health and metabolic processes.
  • Magnesium – Involved in protein synthesis and energy production.

Water alone does not provide any electrolyte nutrition. Lack of electrolytes can lead to muscle weakness, appetite loss, and autres issues.

Micronutrient Needs

Hummingbirds also get essential vitamins and minerals from nectar, including:

  • Vitamin A – Supports vision, immune function, and cell growth.
  • B Vitamins – Help convert food into energy.
  • Vitamin C – Boosts collagen production and immunity.
  • Iron – Required to produce hemoglobin in red blood cells.

Minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are covered in electrolytes. Again, plain water has none of these micronutrients that are vital to hummingbird health and function.

Tips for Feeding Hummingbirds

Follow these tips to meet hummingbirds’ needs and attract them to your feeders:

  • Use 1 part sugar to 4 parts water for homemade nectar.
  • Avoid honey, artificial sweeteners, and brown sugar.
  • Change nectar every 2-3 days to avoid spoilage.
  • Clean feeders thoroughly with hot water and no soap.
  • Also provide a shallow dish of fresh water for drinking and bathing.
  • Supplement with a hummingbird feeder made for mealworms or nuts to add protein.
  • Choose red feeders which attract hummingbirds.
  • Avoid disturbing busy feeders until hummingbirds leave for the day.

With the right balance of nutritious nectar and clean feeding practices, you can create an ideal environment to feed and observe hummingbirds safely.


While hummingbirds do consume some plain water from rain, leaves, ponds, and bird baths in nature, water alone does not meet their nutritional needs. They rely primarily on the sugars, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals found in flower nectar and tree sap. Offering just water in feeders can lead to malnutrition over time. Water should always be supplemental, not a replacement for proper, balanced nectar. With a diet of adequate nectar and small amounts of water, hummingbirds can thrive.

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