What Do Hummingbirds Eat?

Category: Birds.

Flower nectar is the favorite diet of hummingbirds. In addition to this, they satisfy their protein requirements by consuming small sized insects, bugs, ants, aphids, mosquitoes, spiders, caterpillars, flying ants, small beetles, gnats, midgets, weevils, whiteflies and also different types of insect eggs. Some species of hummingbirds are known to feed on the tree saps. For this purpose, they make use of the holes that other birds, including yellow bellied sapsuckers, have made. Interestingly, the tree holes made by a sapsucker will doubly benefit the hummingbirds by attracting insects too.

A female Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) feeding on nectar. © Matthew Field.

Hummingbirds are very fast animals

On account of their unique flying habits, hummingbirds require a lot of energy. While in flight, they are known to make the fastest wing beats of any other bird, measuring up to 70 beats per second during normal flight and 200 beats per second during dives done in high speed. Not surprisingly, the heart of a hummingbird beats up to 1,260 times in a minute.

How do they feed their chicks?

The female hummingbirds feed their chicks with a specially-made diet mixture. This food contains tiny insects and spiders mixed in nectar. The female bird prepares this mixture by collecting the ingredients in its crop and then regurgitating it into the mouths of its young ones. Scientifically, it is found out that this is the ideal diet for the hummingbird chicks because it effectively meets their protein needs while they are at their growth phase.

A booted racket-tail feeding from a banana flower at Tandayapa Bird Lodge, Ecuador. © Andy M.

How often do they eat?

The flight of hummingbirds consume lot of energy. Therefore, it is necessary for hummingbirds to keep feeding continuously during their waking hours. In addition, hummingbirds are discovered to have the highest metabolic rate of any animal found on earth. On every typical day, hummingbirds have to eat several times the total weight of their bodies. Generally, hummingbirds consume food every 10 to 15 minutes.

A hummingbirds tongue

The nectar requirements of hummingbirds are met by flower blossoms. Most times, hummingbirds pick insects that are found in flowers and also those found trapped in spider webs. About one third of the hummingbird’s diet is made of insects and spiders. Sometimes, they catch insects in mid air. In order to help hummingbirds lap up the nectar from flowers, their tongues have grooveson either side. The crop is a highly elastic, sac like organ found in the neck of hummingbirds in which they store their food. The crop functions like that of a stomach to send small amounts of food periodically into their intestines.

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