Do Hummingbirds Eat Seeds? Why Not and What Do They Eat?

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Watching hummingbirds in your garden can be an endless source of entertainment. Many people love to watch these astounding little birds flying around and feeding in their gardens.

But to attract different kinds of hummingbirds in your area, you need to know what they like to eat and their environmental needs. 

Unlike many other birds, hummingbird species will not be attracted by seeds on a bird table or in a bird seed feeder. Hummingbirds simply don’t eat seeds. So placing these morsels for your feathered friends won’t do you, or them, any good.

Understanding why hummingbirds don’t eat seeds and learning what they need to sustain themselves will help you give them what they need. So read on to find out more.

Do Hummingbirds Eat Any Seeds?

Hummingbirds don’t eat seeds of any kind. No type of hummingbird species eats bird feeder seed. Their diet has an entirely different composition.

Some people think they see hummingbirds eating bird seed from commercial or homemade bird feeders in their backyards, but this is not the case.

Why Do Hummingbirds Come to Seed Feeders?

Hummingbirds don’t eat seeds; if you see them on or around a seed feeder in your garden, they are there for a different reason. This is true for all types of hummingbirds.

Sometimes, a hummingbird may temporarily alight on a feeder in your garden simply to rest between trips to a nearby food source. Hummingbirds may seem like they are constantly on the move. But they do need to perch regularly between feeding flights.

Male hummingbirds may also use a feeder or other perch to survey their territory and defend it against intruders. Male hummingbirds are very territorial, and you will often see them fighting one another.

If hummingbirds look like they are feeding on seeds, they may be feeding on small insects found in and around your feeder.

Do Hummingbirds Use Seeds For Anything Else?

Do Hummingbirds Eat Seeds

While feeding hummingbirds will never seek out seeds to eat, you may occasionally see hummingbird females collecting a fluffy, tufted thistle seed. They are not collecting these to eat; instead, they are collecting them to build their nests.

For example, you may see hummingbirds taking the fluff from cattail plants between March and July.

Why Don’t Hummingbirds Eat Seeds?

Hummingbirds do not eat seeds because their bill anatomy and digestive tracts are unsuited to this food source, and they have not evolved into a seed-eating species.

A hummingbird’s fragile bill is not suited to opening hard seeds. Instead, their hummingbird beaks are perfectly shaped and designed to dip into their favorite flower blooms, sip nectar, and swallow small insects whole.

Even tooth-billed hummingbird bills are not designed for eating seeds. So, whatever type of hummingbird you are feeding in your space, seeds are not a suitable food.

Hummingbirds also have a rapid metabolism rate. Their digestive tract is designed to pass waste through quickly. The lack of a gall bladder means that hummingbirds’ digestive systems are not suited to metabolize seeds efficiently, so their systems can’t cope with this type of food.

Other bird species like eating seeds because they are a great source of protein. But hummingbirds get their amino acids from eating insects instead.

What Do Hummingbirds Eat?

Most people know that most of the energy a hummingbird needs derives from nectar – the sweet substance produced by flowering plants. Nectar makes up a high proportion of their diet and is a quick, sweet energy source.

Hummingbirds sip nectar from a range of natural sources – flowering plants in your garden or the wider environment. They have an amazing forked tongue that can extend into tubular flowers to get to the sweet liquid within. This tongue moves very quickly, allowing them to lick up to 13 times per second.

Hummingbirds will also feed at hummingbird feeders filled with commercial hummingbird food or a homemade sugar-water solution. While these should not be considered a replacement for natural food sources, they can give these birds an additional boost.

During the day, they may need to eat every 10 minutes and excrete waste every 20 minutes. So finding food is a constant preoccupation for all types of hummingbirds during the daylight hours.

Insects also make up a big part of a hummingbird’s protein-rich diet. A single hummingbird can consume several dozen to several thousand bugs in just one day and feed on a wide range of smaller insect and arachnid species.

Insects are an essential food source for hummingbird species because they contain the minerals, vitamins, proteins, amino acids, oils, fats, fiber, and other essential nutrients that these hard-working birds need to survive.

What Do Hummingbirds East Besides Nectar and Insects?

Hummingbirds are also opportunistic feeders. They will gorge on fruit juice from treefalls or fruit pieces left out on a plate for them. They may also drink tree sap from holes in trees made by a woodpecker or another species.

What is the Best Thing to Feed Hummingbirds?

The best way to provide a meal for the hummingbirds in your garden is to ensure that it is a healthy and diverse ecosystem, filled with natural sources of nectar and plenty of small invertebrates for them to eat.

Understanding hummingbird arrival and departure dates where you live, or recognizing the kinds of hummingbirds present year-round, can help you ensure you have blooming flowers ready for their needs throughout each season.

Flower nectar is the best food for hummingbirds, and having plenty of colorful flowers in your garden will attract plenty of other beneficial wildlife. Look for native species, and remember that hummingbirds will be most attracted to those with tube-shaped flowers with bright colors like red or orange.

But don’t forget that hummingbirds (and the insects they eat) will also visit flowers of plenty of other hues. So plant as many different native nectar-bearing flowers as possible for a hummingbird-friendly garden.

Artificial nectar is no substitute for natural nectar from flowers. But adding a feeder filled with a hummingbird nectar recipe of one part white sugar to four parts fresh water can also be a good idea.

Just remember that sweet nectar and insect prey from natural sources is always best, and planting a habitat suited to these birds is more beneficial than adding a hummingbird bird feeder to your space.

Adding seeds for hummingbirds will not do any good. But thinking carefully about your planting schemes and creating wildlife-friendly organic gardens can benefit these amazing birds and provide them with the things they need and like to eat throughout the year.

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.