What do hummingbirds eat?
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Q:

What do hummingbirds eat?

A:

Quick Answer

Hummingbirds eat a combination of nectar from flowers and small flying insects. Nectar is the more widely known and understood hummingbird food. Scientists have noted that the shape of the birds' bills and tongues are highly adapted to reaching deep within the recesses of flowers to retrieve nectar. However, as nectar is poor in everything but calories, hummingbirds make up the nutritional deficit by consuming bugs.

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Full Answer

Nectar is very sugary, which is vital, as it gives hummingbirds a rapid boost of energy. Hummingbird flight consumes a great deal of energy, they are warm-blooded and must burn calories to maintain that temperature, and their tiny bodies dissipate heat all too efficiently. All of these factors combine to make hummingbirds exhibit the highest metabolism of any animal outside insects. Nectar, however, lacks protein, fat, vitamins or minerals, so hummingbirds resort to predation. The favored prey of ruby-throated hummingbirds is spiders, making up 60 to 80 percent of their diet. Hummingbirds also consume beetles and parasitic wasps, along with pests such as mosquitoes, ants, flies, gnats, aphids and mites. Hummingbirds hunt in the manner of a flycatcher, a type of bird that captures insects in flight. They also take advantage of spider webs, and will often consume both a spider's prey and the spider itself.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Where do hummingbirds migrate to?

    A:

    Hummingbirds migrate north to the southern United States in the spring and go as far as Alaska by May. They migrate south in the fall to Mexico and Central America.

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  • Q:

    Where do hummingbirds live?

    A:

    Hummingbirds live in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean Islands. They live in habitats that contain abundant insects, plants with nectar, water and safe places for building nests. These habitats in the Western Hemisphere include suburban backyards, gardens, desert scrublands, canyons, various forests, meadows, grasslands, marshes and tropical jungles.

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  • Q:

    How long do hummingbirds live?

    A:

    The average lifespan for a hummingbird is only about three to four years. While most hummingbirds die in their first year, some have been known to survive for up to ten years or more.

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  • Q:

    When do hummingbirds start migrating south?

    A:

    In North America, hummingbirds begin migrating south in late August or mid-September. A few hummingbirds may begin migrating south as early as July. Hummingbirds that travel very long distances between their summer and winter feeding grounds start migrating earlier than other birds.

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