What do Hummingbirds Eat? Here’s all you need to know


Are you like me who enjoys the sound of hummingbirds waking me up in the morning? Does the sight of these lovely birds delight you and your family? If it does, then you should put out a bird feeder to attract more hummingbirds to your place.

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However, it’s important to note that the taste of hummingbirds differs from other wild birds. While the diet of other birds is mostly seeds, hummingbirds are different. So if you want to attract these colorful little avian friends and keep them coming back for more, read on.

Diet Requirements of Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds lead highly active lifestyles, which is why they need something that is easy to digest and will give them loads of energy fast. The following items are part of a hummingbird’s diet:

1. Nectar

This is the most well-known hummingbird food. It is actually this wild bird’s favorite because it is easy to consume and it comes with water. The sugar in it serves as food that the birds need for energy. If you would notice, hummingbirds fly swiftly, with their wings beating super-fast. They can flap their wings for up to seventy flaps per second. With this much activity, they really need a high amount of energy that the sucrose in nectar can provide.

Another useful content in nectar that hummingbirds make full use of is water. Hummingbirds don’t usually search for water sources since the fluid in nectar is enough for them. Although nectar provides this specific bird’s energy and water needs, it does not include other nutrients necessary for growth and development.

To provide nectar for these wild birds, just mix four parts water to one part sugar. You can also use a nectar concentrate sold by bird feeding brands in the market. Make sure to check the recommended mix for the nectar concentrate that you purchase, as some products require more water, while others can immediately be used without the need for mixing. Place the nectar in an open bowl and put it out. It would be best to use a hummingbird bird feeder, though.

During bird migration, make sure to provide nectar with higher sugar content as the birds need more energy for their long-distance travel. A three to one ratio would be good. Never use molasses, corn syrup, soda, and other artificially sweetened drinks. The processed chemicals in such drinks can be harmful to the hummingbirds.

2. Insects

This food group fills up a hummingbird’s other dietary needs. Insects supply protein, fat, fiber, salts and other micronutrients which are important for the bird’s balanced diet. These are also necessary for the growth and development of hatchlings.

Although we usually just see hummingbirds sipping nectar, they also spend a lot of their time throughout the day hunting insects and foraging for larvae. The most common insects that hummingbirds eat are spiders, ants, aphids, mites, mosquitoes, gnats, fruit flies, weevils, beetles and more. They are said to eat anywhere between a hundred to a thousand insects a day, depending on the size and availability of the insect.

Hummingbirds don’t feed on mealworms though, so providing insects in a platter won’t help them much. What you can do is put out cuts of fruits such as grapefruits, watermelons, and even blood oranges. The color of these fruits not only attracts the hummingbirds but also gnats and fruit flies, which these birds can feed on. Also, when hummingbirds couldn’t find nectar anywhere, they sometimes take a sip on the fruit juice, albeit it is usually their last choice.

3. Ash and sand

While nectar provides the sugar for the energy and the insects provide protein and fats, grits, sand, and ashes provide salts and minerals. The most important nutrient they get from these is calcium. Female hummingbirds need a huge supply of calcium, especially when laying eggs. Likewise, grit aids digestion.

You can place some ash and sand in a small dish near your hummingbird bird feeder, especially during the nesting season. This ensures the hummingbird mom and hatchlings stay healthy and develop strong bones.

4. Tree sap

Hummingbirds can sometimes be seen hovering around trees with holes drilled by other birds (most likely by woodpeckers). They usually partake on the fresh sap still available, as it can be their alternative to nectar. When the tree sap dries up a bit and becomes sticky, it attracts insects, which we know is also a part of a hummingbird’s diet.

Attracting More Hummingbirds in Your Area

In order to attract more hummingbirds, aside from putting out a bird feeder and other recommendations above, you should also make your place a safe space for birds. This means you ought to:

  1. Keep feeders out of your cat’s reach. Cats are notoriously known for playing with birds, wounding them, and even killing them eventually. It is in their natural instinct. To prevent your cat from harming the birds, just make sure to place your hummingbird feeder away from where these feral animals can reach.
  2. Grow flowering plants. The hummingbirds’ natural sources of nectar are flowers. Having these would attract from wild birds in your area, and they will eventually notice your feeder and eat there. Having tall plants would also give the birds a feeling of safety while at your place.
  3. Don’t use insecticides in your garden. Not only can insecticides be harmful to the birds, but using this would also deplete their food. Remember that these birds can eat a hundred or more insects a day, so let them be your natural way to keep insects out. Also, don’t fret when your hummingbird nectar feeder attracts ants; hummingbirds eat them, after all.
  4. Use brightly colored hummingbird feeders. The most attractive color for hummingbirds is red, so make sure you choose this color when buying a feeder.

Even if you can’t provide all of the hummingbirds’ food requirements (like the insects and tree sap), you can still make sure that your place encourages the production of these items. Utilize natural food sources to encourage more birds to come to your place and keep them healthy. When you follow these tips, hummingbirds will definitely consider your garden their home.

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