What Do Hummingbirds Eat | Feeding & Diet Behavior

The first thing you need to know about hummingbirds is that they eat a lot. Although hummingbirds rely heavily on nectar for their consumption but they also feed on arthropods which is the essential food component in bird’s diet. They are small birds weighing up to 4 grams which might leave you to wonder that they don’t need too much intake to take a flight. However the opposite of it is true in that hummingbirds burn calories ten times faster than a morning dove and three times faster than a wren. This explains why these tiny birds need to feed every ten minutes. Moreover they have the fastest metabolism of any creature on this earth.

What Do Hummingbirds Eat

Hummingbirds fly at an enormous speed of up to 50 miles per hour. Nectar is by far the major food source for all hummingbird species.

They have long been thought to rely solely on nectar (a mixture of sucrose, glucose, and fructose) but this is not quite true. Hummingbirds do supplement their diet with some arthropods.

As it takes a considerable amount of energy to fly hummingbirds spend most of the time perching or sitting. They consume 10 – 15% of their daily time feeding. Hummingbirds consume 25% sugar content nectar that equals to their body weight.

Purple-crowned Fairy hummingbird does not insert its bill and draw out the nectar in fact it punctures at the base of the corolla and then drinks the sweet syrup.

A female Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) feeds her young in a nest (Los Osos, California). (Photo by George D. Lepp. Photo Researchers, Inc.)
A female Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna) feeds her young in a nest (Los Osos, California). (Photo by George D. Lepp. Photo Researchers, Inc.)

Ruby throated hummingbirds are miniature fly-catchers as they often eat bugs but they are also required to have sucrose in their diet which they get from nectar. Not ever flower offers the same concentration of sugar and thus ruby throated hummingbirds are going to feed only on those flowers which offer wide range of sugar concentrations. Ideally the sugar concentration must contain 20% sucrose.

One thing to keep in mind is that never feed your hummingbird ‘honey’ for it has the potential to harm these tiny creatures.

In the wild, hummingbirds will try to get the required minerals, proteins, and vitamins from the food they feed on.

In the early spring, ruby throated hummers typically feed on both nectar and insects in the wells which are drilled by Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. There are different animals in these drillings; animals such as spiders, wasps, and bees offer a sweet sap of spring while the hummer travels northward.

They are able to determine the amount of sugar in the nectar.

As the hummers make it to the breeding grounds, one finds a significant difference in their diet pattern. Males will search territories that are abundant in food in order attract females. They settle down in territory which provides a good nectar source. Nonetheless, male hummingbirds are going to eat poorly during the breeding season and as such they also feed on insects within the territories.

In the wild ruby throated hummers drink nectar on the wing. They employ their hovering skills to steadily feed on wild flowers and drink nectar, one blossom at a time. Thanks to the long slender bill of ruby throated hummers with the help of which they drink nectar while using its long forked tongue.

While the hummingbird feeds gradually on the flower it always keeps its eyes open for any tiny bugs. Sometimes the insects are also attached to these flowers but then if it’s edible the bird quickly devours it.

The ruby throated hummingbirds are blessed with a crop where they store some extra food until it is finally processed by the digestive system.

Hummingbirds for most part of their lives rely on soft-bodied insects for their daily consumption.

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