What do hummingbirds eat? When it comes to their diet, these beautiful birds keep things pretty simple. Their most common food source is nectar — either from a mix of sucrose and water or directly from certain flowers. But like anyone else, they like a little variety in their diet.
If you’d like to draw these birds to your backyard oasis, you’ll want to have an ideal selection of food for them — one that not only includes hummingbird nectar but other treats that help meet their nutritional needs, too.
Are you hoping to turn your yard into a hub for hummingbirds? Here’s what to have on hand to keep them healthy and happy, including a hummingbird food recipe they’re sure to love.
To a hummingbird, nectar is about as vital as water is to humans. Not only does it provide them with a critical source of energy for fast flight and their high metabolism, but it also keeps them hydrated as they aren’t known to drink water from other sources.
It was once thought that hummingbirds consumed only nectar, but we now know this not to be true.
Here are some of the other food sources hummingbirds are known to enjoy.
As critical as nectar is for hummingbirds, there are certain things they don’t get from that food source, including protein, salt, and fat. To get these nutritional building blocks, hummingbirds eat a variety of small insects, including spiders, as well as insect eggs and larvae.
Hummingbirds will eat several dozen insects each day, or even more when they’re feeding hatchlings or migrating.
To obtain this food source, hummingbirds have a few ways of going about it, including grabbing them from mid-air. They can also pick these items off of flowers or bark. When small insects get caught in spider webs or on sap, this is another easy way for hummingbirds to get their dinner.
Not only is sap a way to trap a hummingbird’s food, but it also provides a source of food itself for the birds.
Several species of hummingbirds consume tree sap. Due to its remarkable similarity to nectar — a combination of sucrose, water, and amino acids — this is no surprise. Hummingbirds are more likely to consume tree sap if they can’t find nectar elsewhere.
Some species of hummingbirds - including, rufous, Calliope, ruby-throated, and broad-tailed - are even thought to follow the sapsuckers’ migration route in the spring, leading them to an arsenal of sap wells.
Ashes and sand
Another source of food for hummingbirds comes from ashes and sand. It was long believed that they were only going after the insects hidden in the materials, but we now know that’s not the case.
Within ashes and sand, there are minerals like calcium and sodium to be found.
Interestingly, most hummingbirds found to be getting food from these sources were female. This has led researchers to believe it’s for the added minerals they need to replace what they lose during egg production.
If your yard isn’t rich with these foods for hummingbirds, you might be wondering how to make something for them to eat on your own.
Hummingbird food recipe
To make your own hummingbird food, follow this simple recipe:
- Combine 1 part white sugar with 4 parts water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add this mixture to a hummingbird feeder, like this one, and place outside.
It’s that simple!
But to make sure the solution you make is as close to natural nectar as possible, avoid adding any other ingredients like honey, molasses, syrup, or artificial coloring. The color red is known to draw hummingbirds, so fans of the species would often add red dye to their homemade hummingbird food recipe.
Instead, it’s best to use a red feeder to draw the hummingbirds, and stick to just sugar and water for the nectar.
Foods hummingbirds don’t like
Hummingbirds can be picky creatures. As effective as certain food sources can be in drawing them to your home, there are plenty of things that keep them away, too.
As a general rule of thumb, the less nectar a flower produces, the less likely a hummingbird is going to be drawn to it.
Some of the flowers hummingbirds don’t like include:
- Tulips and sweet peas
As you know, hummingbirds have long, thin beaks. These are a result of evolution to allow them to probe deep within long, narrow plants. They’re typically more drawn to these tubular flowers than they would be to flowers with a saucer or bowl shape.
Hummingbirds’ favorite flowers
To attract more hummingbirds, consider replacing the flowers they don’t like with ones they’re sure to love.
- Bee balms
- Butterfly bush
- Bleeding hearts
- Trumpet creeper
Tips for hanging hummingbird feeders
Planting a hummingbird’s favorite flowers are a great way to draw them in — but doing this in combination with additional homemade hummingbird nectar is even better. Then, when you place this mixture in a feeder that’s not only beautiful but also practical and appealing to hummingbirds, you’re sure to have excellent results.
Here are some tips for maximizing the use of your bird feeders:
- Do your best to hang the feeder in a somewhat shaded - but still visible - area. If it’s in direct sunlight, your homemade nectar will spoil faster.
- Hang the feeder at about head height, so you don’t need to risk your safety using a ladder each time you take it down or hang it up
- When they’re not feeding, hummingbirds like to rest. Be sure to hang the feeder near a tree, bush, or another hiding place so the hummingbird can make a quick path to a comfortable resting place.
- Finding ants in your nectar? Consider ant-proofing your feeder with a product like this.
- Bees and wasps are also known to find their way to hummingbird feeders. The color red can help repel them, as can hanging fake wasp nests. Another effective option is choosing a bee and wasp proof feeder, such as this one.
With this information on hand, your yard will be a hummingbird paradise in no time!Take a look at our selection of hummingbird feeders and other accessories, and you’re sure to find something you love.