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Educational Resources

Hummingbirds

How do hummingbirds eat?

Hummingbirds are very small birds with a high metabolism. A great deal of energy is spent flying, so they must feed almost constantly. Hummingbirds can consume up to twice their body weight in nectar every day. They usually feed on nectar and insects. Hummingbirds actually lap up the nectar with their tongues. A lot of people think that hummingbirds have a hollow tongue like a straw. Their tongues do have grooves on the sides that collect nectar. When the bill constricts, the hummingbird can swallow the nectar from flowers and feeders.

Hummingbirds are able to perch and will do so at feeders regularly. Because they fly so much, they have poorly developed feet. They can barely walk at all. The hummingbird is much more comfortable in flight.

Feeding Hummingbirds

It is important to keep any nectar feeder clean and filled with fresh solution.

Hummingbird flight

The flight of hummingbirds is amazing to watch. They are able to fly up, down, forward, backward and sideways. They can stop in midair. Hummingbirds are famous for their aerial display. Some displays are courtship displays; other displays are aggressive. Hummingbirds fly great distances when they are migrating. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird migrates approximately 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico.

Hummingbird song

Hummingbirds lack a true song. Instead, they vocalize chirping notes. Most calls are short buzz trills and chirps. Hummingbirds' wings 'buzz' or make a whirring sound while the birds are in flight. This sound is referred to as a "wing whistle." Birds frequently vocalize to attract a mate.

Hummingbird gorgets

Gorgets are composed of flat iridescent feathers that flash bright colors when sunlight is reflected at certain angles. Because hummingbirds don't really sing, males will use their gorgets in breeding displays. They also use their gorgets as a threat to territory intruders. Gorgets also help identify the various species of hummingbirds.

What hummingbirds?

There are about 16 species of hummingbirds in the U.S. and Canada. It was traditionally thought that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were the only Hummingbird found east of the Mississippi River, however, recent bird banding research has documented 11 other species of Hummingbirds in the east. While most of these are wandering vagrants, sightings of the Rufous Hummingbirds have become much more frequent during the past few years. Check with your local Wild Birds Unlimited store for birds that have been sighted in your area.

Fun Facts about hummingbirds

• They do perch.

• They have very weak feet and do not use them for transportation

.• They fly forward, backward, shift sideways, stop in midair.

• They can beat their wings 60 to 200 times per second.

• They lap nectar with their tongues.

• They can fly up to 60 miles per hour.

• They can live 5-6 years in the wild.

• They are the smallest bird in the world.

• They consume, on average, half their weight in sugar each day.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can I attract hummingbirds to my yard?

You can attract hummingbirds by planting red flowers and putting up a hummingbird feeder. You can tie some red ribbons to the pole where the feeder hangs. Use a four-part water to one-part sugar solution to fill the feeder. You need not add any color or vitamins to the nectar solution. Hummingbirds can also be attracted to a reliable water source such as a mister or dripper.

Q: What more can I do to attract hummingbirds?
I know they are here, but they don’t come to my feeder.

During nesting time hummingbirds may not be as likely to come to feeders. They are feeding insects to their young. Once the young have left the nest and during the fall migration you will probably noticed increased activity at your feeder.

Q: Where are the hummingbirds?

During nesting season the females are probably busy nesting. Once the babies have hatched, the hummingbirds are gathering a lot of insects to feed their babies, so they probably aren’t spending a lot of time at the feeder.

Q: Will I keep the hummingbirds here if I feed them into the fall?

Remember, it is not necessary to take down feeders to force the birds to fly south. They will migrate. If hummingbirds are sticking around, it could be because they are sick or injured. Some experts recommend leaving the feeder up with a spot light (150 watt bulb) on the feeder to keep the nectar from freezing). Amazingly enough some hummingbirds are still able to find insect larvae in the bark of trees. It is not necessary to ‘fly’ the birds south. Nature is nature and is never a guarantee that all birds will survive.

Q: What do I put in the hummingbird feeder?

Four parts water to one part sugar. Use only table sugar and never honey or artificial sugars.

Q: How often do I clean my feeder?

Clean your feeder every three to four days. Use only warm or hot water and a soft brush to clean the feeder.

Q: What can I do to keep ants off my feeder?

An ant trap can be purchased. Ant traps are designed to keep ants that crawl up a pole onto the feeder from actually entering the feeder. The ant traps do not necessarily work if ants are jumping from trees onto the feeder.

Q: Can I put Vaseline on the feeder to keep ants and bees from landing on the feeder?

It is not suggested that Vaseline be used because it is too likely that the greasy substance could get onto the birds and make it hard for the birds to clean their feathers properly.

Q: What can I do to keep bees off my feeder?

Use a tray-style feeder. Clean the feeder. Remove any yellow portions. Install bee guard tips. Move the feeder a few feet away from its location till the bees find it again.

Q: How do hummingbirds eat?

Hummingbirds are very small birds and they have a high metabolism. A great deal of energy is spent flying, so they must feed almost constantly. Hummingbirds can consume up to 50% of their weight in sugar (nectar solution) each day. They usually feed on nectar and insects. Hummingbirds actually lap up the nectar with their tongues. A lot of people think hummingbirds’ tongues are hollow, like a straw. Their tongues do have grooves on the sides that collect nectar, and when the bill constricts, the hummingbirds can swallow the nectar from flowers and feeders.

Q: Do hummingbirds perch?

Hummingbirds are able to perch and will do so at feeders regularly. Because they fly so much, they have poorly developed feet. They can barely walk at all. The hummingbird is much more comfortable in flight.

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