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Why Can’t Hummingbirds Have Brown Sugar?

Why Can’t Hummingbirds Have Brown Sugar?

Sugar is an important component of a hummingbird’s diet. You must add sugar to create the perfect nectar formula for these birds. But, can you add brown sugar to their feeder? Let’s understand right below. 

Hummingbirds can’t have brown sugar as it contains iron and molasses. Iron makes it hard to digest. Molasses is harmful to hummingbirds as it can create fatal fungi. Also, brown sugar is not good for hummingbirds as it is not a natural food item.

What do hummingbirds eat? 

Hummingbirds have a fast metabolism. So, they need high energy and protein consumption. They frequently feed on elements to maintain their rapidness and high wingbeat. Do you know? Hummers flap their wings about 60-80 times every second. So, hummingbirds feed every 10-20 minutes to balance their energy consumption. 

Hummingbirds eat small insects like mosquitoes, wasps, and crickets. These elements fulfill their protein content. However, hummers need energy-rich food sources to maintain their rapid metabolism. So, they consume sugary products to intake sufficient energy. Hummingbirds feed on flower nectar and plant sap. These liquids help them get enough energy to sustain their body requirements. 

Why can’t hummingbirds eat brown sugar? 

Hummingbird feeders provide a sugar solution to the creatures. They can use various types of sugars for the birds. However, using brown sugar in their diet isn’t recommended. You might be thinking why isn’t brown sugar a suitable diet ingredient for the hummers. Here are some reasons to help you understand the scenario:

1. Iron is hard to digest

Brown sugar contains a high iron composition. Hummingbirds need food that doesn’t consume enough time to get digested. However, brown sugar isn’t an easy-to-digest component. So, it can disrupt their raging metabolism creating a hard time for the birds. That’s why everyone suggests keeping brown sugar away from artificial hummer nectar.

Hummingbirds must eat a lot of food to survive because they are little birds with rapid metabolisms. They are sensitive to high dietary iron buildup in their system due to their small size. The excess iron in the body is retained in the liver, which is harmful to liver cells. Since brown sugar has a high iron content, it can create such a disaster among hummingbirds. So, it’s best if you avoid adding brown sugars to a hummingbird’s diet.

2. Brown sugar creates fatal fungi

Like iron, brown sugar contains molasses. Do you know? Molasses are harmful to hummingbirds. These components can bring more threats to their lives leading them to fatal consequences. Many hummer carcasses have been detected with ingrown fungi in their intestines. Scientists believe these fungi are fatal and might be the reason behind the hummers’ death.

Honey and molasses (brown sugar contains molasses compounds) are too heavy for hummingbirds to digest efficiently, and they ferment more quickly, resulting in a mold that kills them. Sugar substitutes lack the caloric energy that hummingbirds require to survive. So, it’s recommended to avoid brown sugar in a hummingbird’s diet. You might consider it normal but it can create life threats for the hummingbirds.

3. It’s not natural

Brown sugar is not a natural element. You will never see a wild hummingbird finding a brown sugar source and feeding on it naturally. It’s an artificial entity that we use in our food items. However, it doesn’t harm our bodies. Can they affect a hummingbird’s digestive process? Yes! As you saw, it can even kill them.

You must understand that hummingbirds are small creatures with rapid metabolism. They cannot survive the entry of harsh elements into their bodies even in tiny compositions. Brown sugar is one such entity. It can kill a hummingbird if supplied to their man-made diets. Although sugar is a necessary element in a hummer’s diet, you cannot give them artificial sugars. So, animal experts prefer providing hummingbirds with natural sugar over brown ones.

These reasons make brown sugar an enemy for hummingbirds. It’s better to avoid brown sugar in a hummer’s diet. You can end up harming their bodies in the long haul. Instead, you can use natural sugars to produce hummingbird nectar. Let’s get a deeper dive into the diet of hummingbirds!

Which sugar to use for hummingbirds? 

Hummingbirds have a sensitive body mechanism. Brown sugar can easily kill them even in small compositions. So, brown sugar is not the best fit for hummingbirds. But, again, sugar is necessary for hummingbirds to survive.

Now, you might be thinking, which is the best sugar for hummingbirds? Honestly, honey is not the right pick for your birds. However, white sugar is the perfect ingredient in a hummer’s diet.

Always use white sugar that has been refined (regular table sugar). Honey, corn syrup and raw, unprocessed sugars should never be used. When making hummingbird food, use table sugar instead of honey because when honey is diluted with water, bacteria and fungus proliferate.

Powdered sugar (sometimes known as confectioners’ sugar) frequently contains additives like cornstarch. As a result, it’s not a good idea to use it to make hummingbird food.

So, table sugar is the best component to prepare hummingbird food. It can help you provide your birds with the required energy to maintain their normal metabolism. Those little creatures will thrive and enjoy their lives with your prepared diet mixed with love.

How to prepare sugar water for hummingbirds in the right way? 

The standard proportion is 1/4 cup sugar per cup of water, which is especially useful in hot or dry conditions. It’s good to create a mixture of 1/3 cup sugar per cup of water during chilly, rainy, or foggy weather when freshwater is plentiful but birds require extra energy. Sugar concentrations in natural nectar vary within that range.

There’s no requirement of boiling the water if you make little batches of sugar water every day or two. However, if you’re making larger amounts and plan to save some in the fridge for later use, it’s best to use boiling water.


Hummingbirds need regulated diets. They cannot tolerate the harmful consequences that occur after consuming brown sugar. Do you want to keep your birds healthy? Of course, you do! Keep away brown sugar from their food and give them a balanced diet they need to maintain their bubbly lifestyle.