It is common knowledge that a hummingbird’s diet consists of nectar, as they’re frequently seen hovering and drinking from flowering plants and feeders.
If you watch a hummingbird’s movements more closely, you will notice that they feed on more than just nectar. They also feed on a wide range of insects, including aphids, mites, flies, mosquitoes, gnats, tiny beetles, ants, parasitic wasps, weevils, and other bugs.
Considering that they eat insects, wouldn’t they also eat spiders? Yes, in fact, they do.
Spiders are an essential part of their diet, alongside insects. Hummingbirds generally feed on tiny spiders that don’t pose a threat to them.
Why Do Hummingbirds Eat Spiders?
Nectar is essential to their lives as it provides the energy they need to maintain their high metabolic rate. However, they need more than just nectar to survive.
The other component of their diet is fulfilled by eating insects and spiders. Insects and spiders contain critical nutrients like proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fats, which is why hummingbirds eat spiders.
The proportion of a hummingbird’s diet that spiders make up varies according to the hummingbird species, habitat, and season.
At times, 80% of a hummingbird’s diet is composed of insects and spiders, but when flowering plants are plentiful, they may only drink nectar for an extended period.
Hummingbirds require particularly large amounts of protein, vitamins, and other nutrients, as well as nectar, during the breeding season and migration.
Hummingbird nestlings require incredibly high amounts of protein growing up because it allows them to thrive and develop properly.
Spiders may become a more significant part of a hummingbird’s diet when they are more abundant than insects within their foraging range. They typically eat more spiders when their preferred insect prey abundance is lower than usual.
Spiders are generally easier to catch than insects because they typically remain in one place or move slowly, but most importantly, they can’t fly away.
What Type Of Spiders Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hummingbirds don’t eat just any spiders. They feed on tiny spiders that are less dangerous, easier to swallow, and easier to catch. That makes juvenile spiders the most frequently caught.
Hummingbirds prefer to catch tiny spiders, like jumping spiders that don’t build webs. That is because there is no risk of being trapped in a web.
They could pluck those spiders off a branch or leaf with relative ease.
The problem that hummingbirds face with catching webless spiders is that they can jump, which is one of their defense mechanisms, so they can easily escape before the hummingbird gets close enough.
Hummingbirds also catch web-building spiders sitting on their webs. These spiders may not jump and escape as easily.
The bonus of trying to catch a web-building spider is that even if they don’t catch the spider, they can quickly grab insects stuck on the web.
Hummingbirds don’t attempt to catch large spiders like orb-weaver spiders as they are too large and their webs are too strong. They would have a high chance of being entangled in the web and proceeding to be eaten if they got stuck.
How Hummingbirds Catch Spiders
Hummingbirds have excellent vision and rapidly quick maneuverability, allowing them to catch spiders – even jumping spiders. They use those traits to capture spiders with success.
When attempting to catch webless spiders on branches and leaves, the hummingbirds simply swoop in and pluck the spider up, as there is no risk of becoming trapped.
Hummingbirds have a fascinating technique for catching spiders on their webs. They use their hovering skills to move close to a spider’s web before grabbing the spider with their long beaks.
Unlike when catching webless spiders on a branch or leaf, hummingbirds are very cautious when attempting to catch a spider on a web. The hummingbirds catch spiders from the side of the web to reduce the risk of getting entangled.
The sideways position reduces the chance of the spider jumping off the web and escaping to the front. They avoid catching spiders from the back of the web, as they could easily be trapped in that position.
Occasionally, the hummingbirds get it wrong and end up trapped in the spider’s web, particularly in big webs.
Why Do Hummingbirds Like Spider Webs?
Spiders play a key role in a hummingbird’s life, not only because of the nutrients they provide but also because of the importance of the spider webs in nest construction.
Yes, that’s correct. Spider webs are one of the key components of delicate hummingbird nests.
When female hummingbirds build their nests, they pick off bits of spider web and use them to cement the nest to the piece of vegetation where the nest is placed.
In addition, it is also used to bind twigs, leaves, and other plant materials together and make the nest wall.
Spider webs are strong but stretchy. The importance of that is that it allows the nest to expand as the chicks grow without breaking.
Hummingbirds typically find abandoned spider webs and use them for nest construction, but they may also use a web from a spider they just ate.
The female carries the web by wrapping it around her beak and unravels it once she returns to the nesting location. She then proceeds to wrap it around the plant materials.
Do Hummingbird Feeders Attract Spiders?
Spiders are also attracted to hummingbird feeders. Spiders typically feed on tiny insects, but they also feed on some plant material, and one of the most common plant substances they eat is nectar.
Many insects are also attracted to hummingbird feeders by the nectar, so you may see spiders on your feeder because they want their share of nectar, or they may be getting an easy meal by catching the insects.
Hummingbirds feed on many tiny, unthreatening spiders, whether they’re located on branches, leaves, or webs.
Spiders are essential to hummingbird diets as they contain nutrients such as proteins and vitamins required for survival.
Hummingbirds and spiders have a complex relationship, as the hummingbirds feed on the spiders, but they also use their webs for nesting material. So spiders are essential to hummingbirds in many ways.