Most backyard birders know that hummingbirds prefer sugar water. But apart from that, what other foods are included in a hummingbird’s diet? If you are fond of birds, specifically hummingbirds, knowing what foods are part of their diet can help you come up with a backyard buffet that will attract these tiny birds.
What’s the most common food source for hummingbirds?
Without a doubt, a nectar from flowers or sugar water is the most popular hummingbird food – and the most abundant on top of that. Nectar is filled with a huge amount of sucrose which provide hummingbirds with the energy they need daily. Also, since it is liquid it can easily supply a hummingbird’s water necessity considering that they don’t typically drink from other sources. The problem with nectar is that it doesn’t meet a hummingbird’s need for essential vitamins and minerals such as amino acids and proteins. Because of this, they will need to rely on other sources of food to have a healthy and balanced diet.
Other sources of food for hummingbirds
Apart from nectar, hummingbirds consume a lot of other food sources for their diet. These include the following:
Hummingbirds don’t actually eat pollen, but sometimes pollens get stuck to their tongues when sipping nectar from flowers. Although it’s not consumed directly, it could still provide them with a bit of protein upon ingestion. Based on observation, only about 10 percent of the ingested pollen is digested, however it’s still not considered a common source of hummingbird food.
2. Small insects
Insects such as spiders, larvae, and even insect eggs are considered critical sources of food for hummingbirds. These provide them with the necessary protein, salts, and fat which they can’t normally get from nectar. Especially for growing hatchlings, insects serve as an important nutritional component. Hummingbirds deploy a lot of ways to hunt insects, such as picking them from flowers, barks, or leaves, plucking them from webs, or capturing them in midair.
In order to meet the daily protein requirement it needs, an adult hummingbird will have to eat a few dozens of insects a day. However, they could tend to eat way more than that if they are migrating or need to bring food to their hungry hatchlings.
3. Ashes and sand
Although not completely confirmed, it has been observed that some hummingbirds consume small portions of ashes and sand. While they can provide them with a good amount of vital minerals and salt, only a few portion is needed to fulfill the bird’s daily dietary needs. It’s also likely that the birds were only picking up insects from the sand instead of actually eating it.
Sometimes when there is not enough nectar, hummingbirds will consume sap from trees which have been drilled by woodpeckers. While it doesn’t have that sweet taste like the nectar, it is still enough to provide them with the right source of sucrose for their diet. Meanwhile, a sap which has dried out could help hummingbirds hunt for insects easily by picking those which are trapped in the sticky residue.
Hummingbirds tend to vacate nectar feeders during summertime, although they eat a lot of other things as well. By providing them with a variety of options in your backyard feeding station, you can ensure that these lovely little birds won’t leave your yard hungry.