The Hummingbird family Trochilidae contains some of the world's most recognizable and best known bird species. Not only is the world's smallest bird species a member of this family, they are the only birds that exist which can both hover in space and fly backwards.

The name hummingbird is derived from the sound that is emitted by the high speed at which their wings beat. This can be as high as 12–80 times per second depending on the species. In order to maintain this high rate of work hummingbirds are dependent on extremely high energy foods and will require as much of it as they can get their tiny, elongated beaks on!

What do hummingbirds eat?
Hummingbirds are specialized nectarivores which means they drink a sugar rich liquid known as nectar. Nectar is produced by plants in glands called nectaries, which are found within the flowers. Amazingly, hummingbirds are able to assess the amount of sugar in the nectar they consume and will reject plant species which produce nectar that contains less than 10% sugar. Instead they will actively search out and feed from those which have a higher sugar content.

Many plants pollinated by hummingbirds produce flowers in bright shades of red, orange, and pink. While red flowering plants appear to be the most attractive, hummingbirds will in fact take nectar from flowers of any color, just so long as the nectar produced is rich enough.

Hummingbirds can be very territorial when it comes to a nectar source, and once a hummingbird finds a consistent supply of food it will fight off other hummingbirds to maintain complete dominance over it. Not only does this secure its energy requirement, the flower also adapts by increasing nectar secretion the more times it is visited. However, once the flower has been pollinated the production of nectar in most plant species will stop, and any remaining nectar is reabsorbed into the plant.

What do hummingbirds eat?
The relationship between hummingbirds and nectar is widely known, so you may be surprised to find out that this isn't the only food source sought out by hummingbirds. The problem is that while nectar is an excellent source of energy for these fascinating creatures, it is actually a very poor source of nutrition, so hummingbirds meet their needs for protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, etc. by preying on insects and spiders.

As you would imagine, hummingbirds digest their food rapidly due to their small size and high metabolism, and so when nectar is scarce, feeding can quickly become be a race for survival. To cope with this they spend an average of 10–15% of their time feeding and 75–80% sitting and digesting. To conserve energy further, while they sleep or when food is scarce, hummingbirds have the ability to go into a hibernation-like state (torpor) where their metabolic rate is slowed to 1/15th of its normal rate.

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What do Hummingbirds eat?

Charles Sharp file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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