Feeding Nature
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hummingbirds

What Do Hummingbirds Eat?

Hummingbirds are some of the smallest and most delicate bird species found in our beautiful world.  These tiny birds belong to the Trochilidae family and most species will only reach a maximum size of 13 cm in length.  The smallest hummingbird species is the bee hummingbird which is only 5cm long and weighs less than 2 grams.  The biggest hummingbird is the giant hummingbird which is 23cm long and weighs only 24 grams.

These birds are not just tiny and delicate. They can be breathtakingly beautiful with their gorgeous metallic colors.  They are the only birds who can hover in mid-air thanks to their rapid wing-flapping rates.  These birds can flap their wings at up to 80 beats per second and some species can fly up to 54 kilometers per hour or have dive speeds of up to 79 kilometers per hour.

Because of the hummingbird’s extreme speed and fast wing flap rate, it does eat surprisingly much considering its size.

What Do Hummingbirds Eat?

These birds have the highest mass-specific metabolic rate of any animal.  They need to constantly feed to stay full of energy.

In times when food is scarce or at night, their bodies will enter a torpor state.  A torpor state is quite similar to a hibernation state.  In this state, the hummingbird’s metabolic rate reduces to 1/15th of its normal metabolic rate.

While awake, these birds will constantly seek out foods.  It can be tough for these birds to find the food they need because their natural foods are quite limited during winter seasons.  Here is a quick look at the main foods these birds love to eat;

Small insects

Their extreme speeds make the hummingbird the perfect hunter.  This omnivore bird loves to hunt and eat a variety of tiny insects except bees. The protein found in insects is especially important for helping hatchlings grow rapidly.

Hummingbirds will catch and eat a variety of insect types such as spiders, larvae, insect eggs, flies, moths, butterflies, crickets, and other small insects.

Tree Sap

In winter, it can be hard for hummingbirds to find nectar.  In this time, they might sip tree sup from the holes drilled by woodpeckers.  Tree sap is not as sweet as nectar but it does provide lots of sucrose to help the hummingbird stay full of energy.

Pollen

While hummingbirds visit flowers in search of nectar, they will also feed on pollen.  This pollen is not consumed directly.  They ingest it when pollen sticks to their tongues while sipping nectar.  Pollen is a good source of protein but these birds do consume very little pollen.

Nectar

As you may already know, hummingbirds love nectar.  Nectar is a sugary fluid that is secreted within flowers.  This nectar has a sweet fragrance that attracts hummingbirds and insects so they will pollinate the flowers to form fruits.  Pollen is rich in sugar and is a valuable source of energy for hummingbirds that require so much sucrose just to get through the day.

Ashes and sand

Some hummingbird species have been seen consuming small quantities of ash and sand.  They do this because ash and sand contain lots of minerals like salt.  Many do however believe that these tiny birds are not eating the sand but are rather looking for small insects in the sand or ash.

Sugar water

Sugar water is a good supplementary feed to offer hummingbirds in your garden.  This is an important food source in wintertime when flowers are limited and can help give hummingbirds the energy they need.  To make sugar water, you can simply dissolve some sugar in clean purified water and offer it to hummingbirds in your garden via a hummingbird feeder.

Diet Variations

Hummingbirds do not eat foods other than these listed.  The biggest diet variation they have is their ability to consume sugar water when there are few flowers around from which they can get nectar.

How to Feed Hummingbirds

The best way to feed hummingbirds is by growing lots of flowering plants in your garden.  Hummingbirds naturally feed on nectar and insects that are also attracted to flowers.  When you grow lots of flowers, you can help them stay full of energy and you are also offering them a good supply of small insects.

It is however important not to spray pesticides in your garden. Hummingbirds are extremely small and delicate and they will get poisoned when they consume poisoned insects.

What Do Hummingbirds Eat In The Wild?

In the wild, these tiny birds are constantly looking for foods like small insects, nectar, or tree sap.  They spend most of their day foraging for food because they need so much just to stay alive and even more when they are rearing chicks.

What Do Hummingbirds Eat Besides Nectar?

Besides nectar, hummingbirds also enjoy eating small insects or tree sap.  Small insects are a valuable source of protein.  While feeding on nectar, these birds also consume small amounts of pollen.

What Can You Feed Hummingbirds in Your Garden?

You can feed hummingbirds in your garden by growing flower plants.  Alternatively, you can invest in a hummingbird feeder and offer these birds sugar water.  It is however important to clean these feeders daily to prevent the water from becoming contaminated.

What Do Hummingbirds Feed Their Babies?

Hummingbird babies are called hatchlings or chicks.  They regurgitate all the foods they consume throughout the day back to their chicks.  Chicks are fed on digested nectar, pollen, and insects.  Insects are very important food for hatchlings because they need the protein to grow rapidly.

How Much Do Hummingbirds Eat?

Hummingbirds eat a lot considering their small size.  They will continuously feed on nectar found in flours and an adult hummingbird will eat several dozen insects every day.  Adult hummingbirds will eat even more when they are raising chicks.

How Often Do Hummingbirds Eat?

Hummingbirds need to feed all day just to survive.  They have an incredibly fast metabolic rate and require constant feedings to maintain high energy levels.

Do Hummingbirds Eat Bugs?

Yes, these birds do eat bugs but they stick to small insects that are also attracted to floral scents, insect eggs, and larval insects found in the water.

Do Hummingbirds Feed At Night?

These birds do not feed at night.  They enter a torpor state that is similar to hibernating during which their metabolic rate and breathing slow down until they can find food again the next morning.