Hummingbirds are the smallest bird in the world having 361 species. These birds are known for their delicate forms and colorful plumage.
Hummingbirds weigh around 1.8g (0.06oz) and they have a specialized diet. Primarily, these birds eat nectar but they also need additional protein that comes from insects.
And In this article, I’ve explained all the facts related to the diet of the hummingbirds in detail.
Why Do Hummingbirds Eat Nectar?
The metabolism of the hummingbirds is turbocharged and their heartbeat thousands of times a minute and flaps the wings at a speed of 60 to 80 times a second.
These birds require an enormous amount of force to create lift and fly because of their small size and low weight.
The nectar act as an energy diet for these birds. These birds are evolved for a specialized high-sugar diet that can provide energy to the birds.
Nectar can provide energy in abundance but they still need to consume double their own body weight in food each day. The hummingbirds can easily digest all the sugar without any harm.
These birds have a combination of ultra-efficient muscles and powerful liver enzymes that can break down the sugar elements.
Are Hummingbirds Omnivores?
There are over 360 species of hummingbirds and it is difficult to generalize about the role of nectar in their diets. It is because many of these species are largely not researched.
These birds are omnivorous and they consume a vast array of small insects and arthropods including gnats, flies, mosquitos, spiders, and aphids. Spiders are a crucial part of the diet of hummingbirds.
However, one conception challenged how important nectar is for the hummingbirds. It is so because the flowers don’t bloom all year round.
The broad-tailed hummingbirds have been observed to feed only on insects for two weeks when the flowers don’t bloom.
A study observed that out of the 140 species of tropical hummingbirds, almost 79% of them had arthropod remains in the stomach.
The nectar undoubtedly plays an important role in the diet of hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are more flexible and they can catch arthropods.
What do hummingbirds eat besides nectar?
Besides the nectar, the hummingbirds consume a range of small arthropods like small larvae, aphids, spiders, flies, and gnats.
They can also consume plant matter that includes the sweet excretions of some non-flowering plants. They are even observed to forage amongst lichens, and mosses and drink tree sap.
These birds also prefer mosquitoes. The diets of hummingbirds are quite flexible and not all species gorge entirely on nectar.
These birds can also eat fruits but they usually drink their sugary secretions. They can eat watermelons and grapefruit jelly as a part of their diet. However, fruits like bananas and tomatoes are often not preferred by hummingbirds.
What flowers do hummingbirds eat?
Hummingbirds consume the nectar from the vast range of annual and perennial flowers.
Some hummingbirds like the Sword-billed hummingbirds have the high-specialized bills for accessing the flowers with their long corollas and some hummingbirds are content feeding from flowers.
The notable flowers that attract the hummingbirds include the lilies, columbines, bee balms, lupines, foxgloves, hollyhocks, impatiens, cleaomes, passion flowers, honeysuckles, petunias, and fuchsias.
What do hummingbirds eat in the winter?
During the winter season, the food source gets limited for these birds. They have less access to their nectar-abundant diet as flowers don’t bloom in this season.
This is especially true in the case of North America as in Central and Southern America the winters are less harsh and the flowers in the tropical regions bloom throughout the year.
For this food gap, the hummingbirds prefer to eat the insects that can be found during this season and they often dig under leaves and bark in pursuit of spiders and other insects.
How do hummingbirds eat?
Hummingbirds usually drink rather than eat. Some species of hummingbirds have long tongues which can get coiled back into their skulls and even wraps around their eyes and brains.
These birds extend their tongue through their beaks into the flower and flick in and out at a pace of some 18 times a second.
Some species of hummingbirds have extremely specialized bills to direct their tongue into the sugary depths of flowers.
For instance, the Sword-billed hummingbirds have a bill that is longer than their body while the White-tipped sicklebill has a curved sickle-shaped bill.
What time of day do hummingbirds feed?
Generally, the hummingbirds feed at both dawn and dusk. During the nighttime, the flowers mat close but they came out again in the morning which makes the hummingbirds try and feed nice at this time.
They generally don’t feed at night especially in winters as during the winters they need to roost and maintain their warmth. Feeding makes them exposed to the cold which usually they avoid.
Is it good to feed sugar water to hummingbirds?
Yes, it is good to feed sugar water to the hummingbirds as it helps them to gain energy in the winter season. These birds love sugar water.
It is recommended to make a mixture of 1:4 refined sugar or white cane sugar with water. Boil the water and mix it with the sugar thoroughly before making it cool.
You can add this mixture to a special bird feeder to attract these birds but it is important to clean the feeder and replace the mixture on regular basis.
How do hummingbirds help flowers?
Hummingbirds help in pollination which is similar to that of bees and other flying insects. They move from flower to flower by carrying them and they move pollen from one to another flower.
The transferred pollen gets moved from the male part of the flower to the female part of the flower. This helps the flowers to create seeds.
The hummingbird species like the Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Black-chinned hummingbirds, and Anna’s hummingbirds play a key role in pollinating flowers in North America.
The hummingbirds have even co-evolved with certain flowers which means that they have a mutual or symbiotic relationship with each other.
For instance, the Sword-billed hummingbirds are thought to have co-evolved with a specific species of passionflower.
Being bird lovers, many of us feed these birds with the help of bird feeders. But some bird species require a special diet. For instance, hummingbirds require nectar for gaining energy for flying.
Sugar water is best for feeding these birds but they also require an insect diet for better growth.
At last, I hope this article may have helped you in some way. Thank You For Reading!
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