Hummingbirds are a fascinating group of birds with many different characteristics, few of which are more interesting than their diet.
You can often gain insight into a bird’s diet by looking at its beak shape. When you look at hummingbirds, you will notice that they have thin, long beaks which are perfect for drinking nectar.
Most people know hummingbirds drink nectar to maintain their exceptionally high metabolism. Fewer know that they also eat insects and spiders to provide themselves with essential proteins, vitamins, and other minerals.
But do they eat anything else? Indeed, they do. Hummingbirds also feed on tree sap and fruit juices. One of the things they don’t feed on is seeds.
Do Hummingbirds Eat Fruit?
One of the essential requirements for hummingbird diets is sugary nectar. As you may know, fruits also contain sugars; therefore, hummingbirds love fruit.
Fruit isn’t typically their first choice for a meal, but if they desperately need sugary liquids and the fruit is available, they will drink liquid from it.
Hummingbirds only feed on fruit when it is ripe and when there is an opening in the fruit.
They require ripe fruit because it is usually very juicy, and the juices are the only parts of the fruit that they can consume.
Hummingbirds’ beaks are shaped in a way that only allows them to drink liquids and eat tiny soft-bodied insects and spiders.
Hummingbirds’ Favorite Fruits
Hummingbirds are not fussy about the type of fruit they will drink from.
They have been seen drinking juices from ripened oranges, watermelons, apples, berries, pears, and many others.
How to Feed Hummingbirds Fruit
If you want to try feeding hummingbirds fruit, make sure the pieces are ripe and juicy. If the fruit is still hard, it won’t contain as much liquid, and the hummingbirds won’t be able to drink any juice from the flesh.
Whole pieces of fruit aren’t suitable for hummingbirds as they can’t swallow large items. You’ll have to cut or peel the fruit to allow the hummingbirds access to the juices for feeding.
You may have a hummingbird feeder in your yard, but it is best to stick to only placing hummingbird nectar in that feeder and instead install a new feeder for feeding fruit.
You can simply slice and place the fruit on a flat fruit feeder for the hummingbirds to snack on.
Even if hummingbirds don’t feed on the fruit, the sweet juicy fruit will attract insects that the hummingbirds can feed on.
Do Hummingbirds Eat Seeds?
Many birds eat seeds as they contain essential fats, proteins, and nutrients. However, hummingbirds are one of the bird families that don’t (and can’t) eat seeds.
But they eat small insects, so why can’t they eat tiny seeds?
Even if they could swallow tiny open seeds, their anatomy is not suited to digesting the seeds, so they won’t even try to eat seeds of any form.
There are two main reasons why hummingbirds don’t eat seeds, which we will discuss below.
The first reason why hummingbirds don’t eat seeds relates to the anatomy of their digestive system.
Hummingbirds don’t have a gall bladder. The gall bladder is used to metabolize fats. Since hummingbirds mainly feed on nectar, insects, and spiders, their bodies don’t have to process fats, so the gall bladder would be unnecessary.
Luckily, hummingbirds don’t need to eat seeds as they get similar proteins and other nutrients from insects and spiders that they are adapted to catch and eat.
Hummingbirds digest their food and eliminate waste extremely fast because they have high metabolic rates. That makes small, soft-bodied invertebrates and nectar the perfect food for hummingbirds as they can efficiently metabolize them and turn them into energy.
Seeds contain large quantities of fats, so without a gall bladder; hummingbirds wouldn’t be able to metabolize them fast enough, if at all.
Their Beak Structure
Secondly, hummingbirds aren’t designed to feed on seeds.
Hummingbirds have long, thin beaks that are too delicate and weak to crack open seed shells and access the nutritious parts of the seeds.
They are perfectly designed for drinking nectar, capturing insects, and, as mentioned previously, drinking juice from fruits.
Why Do Hummingbirds Visit Seed Feeders?
You may see a hummingbird perched or flying near a seed feeder in your yard, but you can be assured they aren’t there to feed on the seeds.
Instead, they could be catching small insects flying around your feeder, or they could simply be resting on the feeder.
You may even see hummingbirds picking up seeds from your seed feeder. In this case, it is because female hummingbirds sometimes collect seeds and carry them back to their nests to be used as nesting material to construct the nest.
They most frequently collect tufts of cattail seeds and thistle seeds.
Overall, hummingbirds aren’t attracted to the seeds on the feeder. They are there for another reason.
Hummingbirds are opportunistic feeders who feed on any available food source if they can, especially if it contains sugary liquid. If they encounter ripe, juicy fruit, they will almost certainly take a sip, as it includes the sugars they need to maintain their high metabolism.
Unlike fruits, hummingbirds don’t eat seeds simply because they can’t. Seeds contain a high fat concentration that needs to be metabolized with a gall bladder.
Hummingbirds don’t have a gall bladder, preventing them from eating seeds as they can’t digest them.
Seed-eating birds usually have thick, strong beaks, the complete opposite of hummingbirds’ thin, long beaks. Hence, hummingbirds can’t eat seeds as their beaks aren’t strong enough to crack open seeds.