We all know that hummingbirds love sugar. These carb-burning machines have insane energy requirements and refuel in any way they can.
They even travel across entire continents in the search for their next sugar rush!
Other nectar-drinking birds, like orioles, love to eat fresh fruit. They’re drawn to things like orange slices and even grape jelly.
Do hummingbirds enjoy fruit too? It turns out that hummingbirds do take advantage of fruit, but maybe not in the ways you’d expect. Let’s dig deeper and find out more about the interesting ways hummers fuel up on fruit.
Do Hummingbirds Eat Fruit?
Hummingbirds have crazy fast metabolisms that quickly deplete their energy reserves, so they have to take advantage of any available opportunity for food. The bulk of their diet is nectar and insects, but if a meal presents itself, hummers are there for it.
One such opportunistic meal is fruit. Whether it’s nice and over-ripe, or already pecked open by another bird, it’s a chance that hummingbirds will drink the fruit’s sugary juices.
Since hummingbirds’ beaks aren’t designed for chewing, eating chunks of the fruit’s flesh isn’t really an option. That fruit has to be good and juicy so they can sip from it instead.
What Kind of Fruit Do Hummingbirds Like?
Hummingbirds like any juicy fruit that they can easily sip sugary liquid from.
People have observed birds eating things like ripe berries, oranges, persimmons, watermelons, and prickly pears.
The key is to pick pieces of fruit that are extra juicy and ripe. Otherwise, it won’t offer enough sweet liquid for hummingbirds to drink.
Planting fruit shrubs and trees that are native to your area is also a great way to attract hummingbirds. You’ll be giving them their naturally-occurring favorite fruits, plus you’ll attract the insects they eat even more of.
What is the Hummingbird’s Favorite Food?
Hands-down, hummingbirds love nectar. Their favorite is a plain sugar water mix: one part regular table sugar to four parts water.
Anything different can cause problems, so keep it simple!
A visit to a feeder with sugar water packs the same punch as visiting hundreds of nectar-filled flowers, so hummingbirds absolutely prefer feeders when they can find them.
Insects, an important protein source, are a close second to nectar. Between trips to the feeder or to flowers, hummingbirds will eat hundreds of insects a day. Their love of these six-legged creatures can even help reduce pests in your garden!
What Should You Not Feed Hummingbirds?
First, let’s cover that all-important sugar-water mix only: refined white sugar will do. Don’t try to use raw sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, or any other sugar substitute.
They all can cause problems for hummingbirds, such as introducing harmful bacteria and mold into their tiny systems. Artificial sweeteners don’t give hummingbirds any energy at all–they need real sugar.
Red-dye is another thing you can avoid, as it can hurt the hummers. Don’t worry–they’ll still find your feeder just fine without it!
Now, even though hummingbirds will drink juices from ripe fruit: don’t give them fruit juice. Juice may seem like a natural substitute for fresh fruit, but the two are not the same.
Packaged fruit juices have artificial sweeteners and other harmful additives, and can be too acidic for hummingbirds. Let them sip their own “juice” from freshly cut or peeled fruit, or fruit pecked open by other birds.
Can You Put Fruit in a Hummingbird Feeder?
You should not put pieces of fruit or fruit juice in a hummingbird feeder. These are not hummingbirds’ primary food sources. Also, they can spoil and ferment.
The only thing that should go in a hummingbird feeder is a plain sugar-water mix.
If you want to offer hummingbirds fruit, put some sliced or peeled ripe fruit in a separate fruit feeder or a location nearby.
They may enjoy sipping the juices from fruit like blood oranges or berries. They may also eat insects, like fruit flies, that are drawn to the fruit.
Do Hummingbirds Eat Bananas?
Hummingbirds aren’t so much drawn to the bananas themselves as they are drawn to the fruit flies that are in love with the bananas. Peel open an overly-ripe banana and set it out near your feeder. The fruit flies will show up, and the hummers will follow.
They have a special “spring trap” mechanism in their beaks that lets them catch insects really fast, and it’s fun to watch.
In a few hours, there will be a new batch of fruit flies for them to snap up! It’s the gift that keeps giving, for the hummers and for the lucky birders that get to watch them.
Fruit for Thought
Sipping the juices from the odd piece of fruit they encounter is just another convenient energy source for hummingbirds. With such rapid metabolisms, they can’t afford to skip any potential meal.
While fruit isn’t the first or even the second thing hummingbirds are looking for, having some available in your yard can certainly help bring hummingbirds a little closer, and let you see some of their interesting behaviors.