What Do Hummingbirds Eat? [Their 5 Favourite Foods!]

what do hummingbirds eat

As you may or may not know, Hummingbirds are voracious eaters. In fact, they will consume half of their body weight each and every day due to their high metabolism. Hummingbirds eat a variety of foods including; nectar, small insects, tree sap, pollen, fruit and even grit, to assist with digestion.

Most of you would know that hummers love sweet nectar. Not only does it provide them with the energy they need for their daily activities, but it also provides them with the liquid they need.

But, you might be surprised to learn that there are many other things that hummingbirds will eat as part of a balanced diet.

We’ll discuss these in more detail. But first, let’s look at why hummingbirds love nectar so much.

Why Do Hummingbirds Love Nectar?

The nectar that you have in your hummingbird feeders is an excellent food source for the birds as it provides them with a fast burst of energy. Plus, the water in the nectar helps to hydrate them. You might be surprised to learn that generally, hummingbirds don’t drink from other water sources. This is because they get all the liquid they need from the nectar.

While the nectar in your feeders is ideal for a hummingbird’s diet, they also enjoy the nectar from many different flowers. In fact, a hummingbird can visit 1,000 to 2,000 flowers in just a single day.

We’ll look into what flowers are preferred a little later, so you can plant out your garden to attract more of these tiny visitors.

But, nectar does not make up the entire diet of the hummingbird. It also needs food sources to provide it with protein and amino acids. Plus, there are different minerals and vitamins that a hummingbird needs to remain healthy.

So, what else do hummingbirds eat?

5 Hummingbird Food Favourites

Small Insects

To get enough protein in their diet, hummingbirds love to feast on small insects including larvae, insect eggs and spiders. These insects also provide necessary fats and minerals that the birds will not get from just ingesting nectar.

Hummingbirds cleverly forage for insects on flowers, under loose bark or from other foliage. They will even raid a spider’s web and can often be seen just plucking flying insects from the air.

In a normal day, adult humming birds will eat a few dozen insects every single day. However, this increases when a bird is feeding its young or while it’s migrating.

It’s interesting to note though, that hummingbirds will not eat mealworms from a feeder. Therefore, you should encourage natural insects to your garden so the hummers will get a good feast when they come to visit.

Tree Sap

The sap from trees can provide a nectar for hummingbirds to consume if there’s no other type of nectar available. This sap is not as sweet as nectar but it still provides the hummers with enough energy to get through the day.

If you have woodpeckers in your garden, observe the wells that they drill in the trunks of your trees. You might just see a hummingbird drinking the nectar from it.

You’ll also find hummers foraging among the sap that has dripped down the trunk and hardened. This sap can stay sticky for quite some time and insects will get stuck to it. This makes easy pickings for hummingbirds.

Pollen

While hummingbirds don’t naturally consume pollen, they do ingest it when they take nectar from flowers. This may provide the hummers with a little extra protein in their diet. Although, the birds generally only digest around ten percent of the pollen that they actually consume.

Ripe Fruit

Because hummingbirds like anything that’s sweet, they love to drink the juice from soft, ripe fruit. This is especially true if the fruit is overripe or has previously been pecked by other birds.

If you place ripe fruit out in your yard, it will also attract insects. This is great for the hummers as an easy food source for them. Even better if the fruit is red. It’s a well known fact that hummingbirds are highly attracted to the color red.

Grit In The Form Of Ash And Sand

Hummingbirds use a small amount of grit to digest the insects that they eat. Commonly, they prefer fine sand, ash or even very fine gravel. In addition, the grit also provides the birds with some other minerals that are critical for their diet.

To help the hummers visiting your garden, consider putting a small dish containing some grit near your feeders. You’ll find that other birds will also enjoy it too.

What You Can Do In Your Garden

Here’s what you can do to ensure that the hummingbirds visiting your garden get a healthy balanced diet.

Make Sure Your Feeders Are Full

  • Fill your feeders with sweet nectar to satisfy the energy needs of your little visitors. You can either make up your own mixture or use a commercial one.
  • If making up your own sugar water, a ratio of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar is best. This closely resembles the natural nectar that hummers get from flowers.
  • During hummingbird migration, you might like to change this to 3 parts water to 1 part sugar. This will give the birds extra energy for the long journey ahead.
  • Also ensure that you clean the feeders regularly so the nectar doesn’t fill with insects. This will allow bacteria to grow which is bad for the little birds and can even kill them.
  • If using a commercial nectar, ensure that it contains no artificial colors or dyes. These are also not good for the birds.
  • Never use molasses, honey, artificial sweeteners or fruit juice in your feeders. These will not provide the required nutrients and can even be harmful to the hummers because they contain added chemicals.
  • It’s also a good idea to place your hummingbird feeders away from other bird feeders. This means that your hummers can feed in peace without worrying about other, larger birds.
  • Consider using a few different feeders, placed around your yard. This will allow you to accommodate more birds who may have different feeding preferences.

Plant Lots Of Nectar Producing Flowers

  • If you fill your garden with nectar producing flowers, you’ll not only attract the hummers, but also the insects that they like to feed on.
  • Consider red, tubular flowers as these will attract the most birds to your garden. Popular species include Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), Zinnia, Salvia, Buddleia davidii (butterfly bush) and Columbines.

Avoid Using Insecticides In Your Garden

  • Let the hummingbirds provide the insect control for your garden.
  • Don’t be tempted to remove spider webs. These will attract and catch insects that the hummers will happily steal. Just be aware though, that large webs can trap hummers as well and they could become food for the spiders. So, be vigilant and check these often.

Consider Hanging Some Ripe Fruit Near Your Feeders

  • Hanging ripe pieces of fruit such as watermelon or blood orange near your feeders will attract more hummers. They will not only enjoy the juice from the fruit but also the insects that are attracted to it.

Attract Woodpeckers To Your Garden

  • Remember that hummers will feed on the sap from trees when other food sources are scarce. However, they need the woodpeckers to create the wells first. Therefore, if you have woodpeckers in your garden, the hummers will have access to this supplementary food source when they need it.

Keep A Small Dish Of Grit Near Your Feeders

  • Hummingbirds need some grit in their diet. So, having some near your feeders will provide the birds with all that they need.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a hummingbird’s favorite food?

Hummingbirds are mainly nectar eaters, so their favorite food is the nectar from flowers.

Why won’t hummingbirds drink from my feeder?

There can be a number of reasons. These include that it may be the wrong time of year, that you’re using the wrong nectar recipe or that your feeders are not in a good location.

Do hummingbirds eat fruit?

Hummingbirds especially enjoy the sweetness of fruit and will happily drink the juice.

How often should you change hummingbird sugar water?

You should change this regularly, even if the feeder is still full. When the weather is hot, it’s necessary to change the sugar water every two days.

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing quite like watching hummingbirds hovering around your feeders or flitting from flower to flower as they replenish their energy.

Having a variety of food sources for them to enjoy is the best way to attract more of them into your private paradise. So, avoid using insecticides and plant lots of nectar producing flowers to make sure that these delightful visitors will keep coming back year after year.

Not only do you get to enjoy their antics, but you’ll also be helping to keep them fortified for their long migratory journeys.

Do you have a variety of hummingbirds visit your garden every year? Please feel free to share your stories with us in the comments below.

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