What to feed baby hummingbirds

The Gift of Caring for Baby Hummingbirds

One writer learns that this task is anything but a burden. 

By Sy Montgomery

March-April 2013


By Sy Montgomery

March-April 2013

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Anna's Hummingbird feeds chicks in nest (Calypte anna).  Irvine, California Photo: Photo by Hal Beral

When they were found, the infants were nearly dead. Hatching from eggs the size of Navy beans, they were bumblebee size, pink, naked, and blind. That’s when my friend Brenda Sherburn, who specializes in raising orphaned baby hummingbirds, received a call. I flew from New Hampshire to California to help.

Even for a mother hummingbird, raising nestlings is a daunting job. She leaves the nest up to 200 times a day to gather food. For a human, raising baby hummingbirds is a positively Herculean task—as I soon found out.

Every 20 minutes, from dawn to dark, the babies need food. That means catching hundreds of fruit flies a day, freezing them, crushing them with mortar and pestle, and mixing the mush with special nectar supplemented with vitamins, enzymes, and oils in precise combination. The mixture spoils easily. If it does, it can kill the baby birds.

In fact, it seems everything can kill them. In the wild, yellow jackets can sting them to death. Hawks, jays, roadrunners, opossums, even dragonflies eat them. They can die of cold. They can die of heat. They will certainly die if left alone. But an inept surrogate mother can kill them easily, too, as Brenda explained.

Carefully she showed me how to fill a syringe and thread a thin catheter down the babies’ throats. I was petrified. Nothing seems as delicate as a baby hummingbird: You can damage their feathers by touching them; their feet are thin as thread. I feared I would hurt their mouths. I feared they’d choke on their food. But even worse can happen, Brenda told me: “If you overfeed them,” she said, “they can actually pop.”

If you miss a feeding, they can starve. Brenda set a timer so there was no risk we’d forget. For weeks, inch-and-a-half-long baby birds ruled our days.

Brenda is a professional artist, but she couldn’t work on her sculptures or pastels. Nor could I write. In the 20-minute snippets between feedings, we could never fit in a workout at the gym or a long phone call to a friend. Before breakfast, one of us ground coffee beans, the other did fruit flies. We gulped lunch. We interrupted each dinner at least twice to feed the little birds.

“Everything stops for the hummingbirds,” Brenda told me. That’s why it’s so hard to find volunteers to care for them. Could I commit to such a schedule? I wondered.

The next morning, I watched one of the babies stretch a membranous wing to preen. Tissue paper is armor in comparison. And then, before my astonished eyes, the tiny creature stood up in its nest and whirred its wings with concentrated ferocity. How can this bird summon a resting heartbeat of 500 times a minute, revving to 1,500 times a minute when, one day, God willing, this gossamer being conquers the sky?

Then, I understood: Not only could I do this, but it was an honor I’d cherish.

When the Spanish first encountered hummingbirds (they live only in the New World) they called them Resurrection Birds—for surely something this shining and perfect died each night and was reborn the next morning.

This names the gift that working with these nestlings gave to me. They allowed me a hand in resurrection. If they lived, they would go on to even greater miracles. These nestlings proved to be Allen’s hummingbirds. The adult males of this tiny species perform a nuptial flight that, in terms of body lengths covered per second, bests the speed of the Space Shuttle as it screams toward earth through the atmosphere.   

But all birds, of course, are miracles, and humans have known this for millennia. We have looked to birds as oracles. Our hearts soar on their wings and their songs. Even the tiniest bird can teach us that life is larger than humankind alone.

So each time our timer buzzed, signaling another feeding, I came to understand that life wasn’t stopping for the hummingbirds; each feeding instead offered a chance to begin life anew. This is the lesson birds teach us. Every day, we can witness miracles. Each day, we can participate in resurrection, in mending the broken world.

How to Feed and Care a Baby Hummingbird

Hummingbird chicks are tiny – so tiny in fact that if one is found in trouble, there is only a short window of time to get it the care it needs. If you do stumble across any struggling baby hummingbirds, you will need to act fast to ensure its survival. Knowing how to feed a baby hummingbird and what a baby hummingbird eats could make all the difference to this tiny creature.

However, it is worth noting that due to their itty-bitty size and delicate constitution we can often do more harm than good, especially if we don’t know what we’re doing. Therefore, the best thing you can do to help a hummingbird chick in need is to seek out the services of an experienced and licensed wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian. According to Hummingbird Market, there is only a small window in which to initiate care to these tiny creatures;

“Your time-frame with hummingbirds is less than four (4) hours to initiate care and only about twenty-four (24) hours to get help before it may be too late.”

So, it’s essential to act quickly.

In this Guide:

How do I know if it’s a baby hummingbird and not an adult?

Hummingbird chicks are significantly smaller than adults. When they first hatch, they are roughly an inch long. They also aren’t decked out in the same dazzling colors as their parents. Baby hummingbird hatchlings are black with no feathers.

This will change though. Hummingbird chicks grow rapidly, and they will soon develop a fuzz downing before feathers begin to grow and they develop that long beak.

How do you know if a hummingbird chick needs rescuing?

It can be tricky to tell whether a hummingbird needs rescuing or not – the mum is incredibly attentive, regularly but quickly feeding her chicks (taking roughly only 5 seconds) so it can be easy to miss the comings and goings of momma bird. However, if you’ve been watching the nest for between one and two hours and there’s been no activity then help may be required. Baby hummingbirds need to be fed frequently, without a regular source of food they will die so now is the time to call an expert for advice.

One sure-fire way to know if a hummingbird chick needs rescuing is if you find it on the ground.

What to do if you find a baby hummingbird on the ground?

Firstly, you’ll need to check for a nearby nest – it’s possible the hummingbird chick has fallen, or the nest is broken, damaged, or even have predators present. If the nest is safe gently pick the hummingbird chick up and place it back, then monitor to see if the mum comes to feed the chick. If she doesn’t then you will need to intervene.

It’s worth noting that hummingbirds have no sense of smell so that old-wives tale about hummingbirds abandoning their young if touched by a human is entirely incorrect. Just be gentle when picking up a hummingbird chick.

If there’s no nest or the nest is unsafe, then you can craft a make-shift one from a container lined with tissue (not fabric, this tangles around tiny feet and wings) and place it next to the nest, again waiting and watching to see if mum returns.

Really tiny hummingbirds can’t regulate their own body temperature and will need to be kept warm so you might have no choice but to bring it in, place it in a tissue lined container, and place it under a lamp to keep it warm. But watch out for signs of overheating: restlessness and panting.

If you have had to intervene then be sure to call an expert for help, and whilst you wait for them you’re going to need to know what baby hummingbirds eat and how to feed a baby hummingbird to keep them alive.

What do baby hummingbirds eat?

Hummingbird chicks are fast-growing individuals and they can’t rely on nectar alone. They need a steady source of protein to assist their development, so in the wild, the mum will feed them a mix of soft-bodied bugs and sugary nectar. Bug and insects such as caterpillars, gnats, spiders, and aphids are likely to be on the menu.

When rescuing a baby hummingbird, you probably won’t have any regurgitated bugs to hand but a mixture of one part sugar to four parts clean water will suffice. Although this should not be fed for long periods as the hummingbird chick will die due to lack of protein – it is just until help arrives. This nectar solution shouldn’t be fed for more than 72 hours.

How to feed a baby hummingbird?

Now that you know what a baby hummingbird eats, you will need to know how to feed a baby hummingbird.

In the wild, the mum will regurgitate this sweet bug mixture into the hummingbird chicks throat, and she will do this up to three times an hour.

At home, a small eyedropper is a suitable substitute for a hummingbird’s beak. Fill a clean eye dropper with the liquid and present it in front of the hummingbird chick’s beak. Do not squeeze the dropper – this would release too much solution and causing the chick to drown. If the chicks are readily opening their beak then carefully drop 3 (younger) – 5 (fledglings) drops of the solution into their mouths.

Hatchlings can barely hold their head up and should be left to qualified and experienced wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians to feed.

Baby hummingbirds are hungry so you’re going to need to replicate the mother’s behavior and feed them every 20 – 30 minute and through the night if they begin to call for food.

Hummingbird chicks are notoriously tricky to rehabilitate and whilst the bulk of the work will be carried out by a wildlife rescuer or veterinarian, by using your knowledge of what a baby hummingbird eats and how to feed a baby hummingbird, you are significantly helping its survival rate.

Hummingbird chick / Animals / Norm Post

Hummingbird chicks stay in the nest for 23-26 days, in the Andes - up to 30-40 days (according to other sources, they leave the nest for 25-35 days). During this time, they go through three stages of development.

Chicks hatch blind and helpless. During the first five days, plumage is practically absent, with the exception of two rows of embryonic down about 5 mm long on the back. The down is usually light beige or dull gray, attached to contour feathers. Usually, small chicks have short beaks, but they quickly lengthen. At this time, the chicks in the nest are inactive and do not make any sounds. nine0003

When a female with food lands on the edge of the nest, she touches the chicks near the eye with her beak to prepare them for feeding. For artificial feeding of chicks of this age, they use the same technique, touching the chicks near the eyes with a match. The chicks receive nectar and tiny arthropods, which the female regurgitates by inserting her thin beak into each chick's mouth. The female hummingbird feeds the brood about twice an hour during the day. There are cases when birds feed not only their own chicks, but they usually chase anyone who approaches the nest. nine0003

Before the age of nine days, the chicks open their eyes and develop large feathers on the wings, tail and back, while they still have embryonic down, and they themselves still do not emit any calls. The female with food at this time hovers over the nest, often flapping her wings, which leads to fluctuations in the fluff in the chicks and encourages them to open up for feeding. They remain in a fairly folded position, but rise slightly in the nest.

When bottle-fed, to simulate this effect, the chicks are blown on the back through a straw. Hummingbird females continue to warm the chicks with their warmth for the first 7-12 days, after which the chicks can independently regulate their body temperature and do not need additional maternal warmth. Within 10-12 days, the chicks reach almost 80% of their adult weight. Unfavorable weather developments can slow down development for several days, and they also have a strong effect on the mortality of chicks that do not yet know how to control the temperature on their own. nine0003

During the third period, which lasts until the moment when the chicks leave the nest, they are already almost completely covered with feathers. From about the 15th day, the chicks often sit on the edge of the nest during the day, turning their backs to it. Feeding also begins after fluff fluctuations on the back. Under laboratory conditions, on the 10th day, fluff was removed from the chicks with tweezers, and they stopped responding to the approach of females with food until they began to see it after a couple of days. At the age of 15-18 days, shortly before leaving the nest, the chicks become more active, begin to clean their plumage and look at the birds near the nest. The female continues to feed the chicks for another 18-25 days after they have flown out of the nest, sometimes up to a month. nine0003

Birds are known to feed chicks 40-65 days after they were born. Young birds observe adults and quickly learn to follow them to feeding areas and consume nectar, while they may attack each other. Some North American hummingbirds have visited chicks in the first nest during re-incubation. During repeated laying, which is noted in some species of hummingbirds, including Basilinna leucotis, common and black-throated archilochus, females begin to build a triple nest even during the feeding of the first brood. nine0003

The plumage of young birds is similar to that of adult females, but is duller. A young bird acquires adult plumage during the first year. Only in some hummingbirds, in particular pennant-tailed hummingbirds and the Fernandez fire-capped hummingbird, plumage allows you to determine the sex of young individuals. First-year chicks of Phaethornis longirostris and some other hummingbird species do not molt. The next year, the birds become sexually mature.

Behavior around nest

Hummingbird chicks reared in open domed nests do not produce mournful calls, while chicks reared in semi-closed or fully closed nests begin to make noise 4-6 days after birth. Continuous loud calls at a high frequency help to localize the position of sitting chicks in dense vegetation. It is obvious that silence is a kind of protection from predators - hummingbirds are forced to build open nests accessible from the fly, and the extra noise of chicks attracts the attention of lizards, snakes and birds of prey. Very shrill alarms at an even higher frequency can be from both chicks and adults of both sexes and are usually associated with the detection of predators near a feeding or nesting area. nine0003

To avoid the attention of predators, females use several strategies for approaching and moving away from the nest. In particular, they fly up to the nest in zigzags or quick semicircles. Eared hummingbird females, when leaving the nest, position their wings and tail horizontally and descend in a spiral, resembling falling leaves. At the same time, studies have shown that the speed of birds during this maneuver coincides with the speed of leaves when falling. Female Jacobin hummingbirds imitate the flight of a moth when leaving the nest, constantly rising and falling, which draws attention to the bird itself, and not to the nest. nine0003


Hummingbird Feeding - Best Food Offering 💡 Gardening | Ru.homeinteriorz.com

  • Hummingbird
  • Products for humming a hummingbird
  • What do not feed a hummingbird
  • more tips for feeding a hummingbird

Hummingbirds - these are vigilant purers that often feed a dozen or more times a hour when they are more than an hour visit flowers and nectar feeders for sweet sips. But other than nectar, what can you feed hummingbirds to help them have a nutritious, balanced diet? nine0003


Both nectar and insects make up a large and important part of the hummingbird. The nectar has a high sugar content which provides the necessary energy for these birds as well as the water they need to drink.

Insects, on the other hand, are their main source of protein, enzymes and nutrients important for healthy growth, especially for chicks and young birds. A varied diet ensures that birds can maintain healthy muscles and feathers and have sufficient energy to feed, raise young, migrate and perform other tasks that ensure their survival. In addition to these two main food sources, hummingbirds may also try other foods such as fruit, juice, or grains, all of which add more nutrition to their diets and whatever else you have to offer in your yard. nine0003

Hummingbird Feeding Products

Offering a varied diet to hummingbirds will not only keep these birds healthier, but will also attract a wider range of hummingbird species to visit feeders. Different birds have different feeding preferences, and the more foods you offer and the more ways you offer, the more birds you will attract.

Because hummingbirds eat a lot of things, there are several different foods you can offer your feeders to entice these little birds to stay for a snack. nine0003

  • Nectar : Hummingbird Nectar is the most popular food offering for hummingbirds, and even if that's all you offer in your yard, you can successfully feed hummingbirds. A 4:1 water-to-sugar ratio is the best homemade nectar solution because it most closely mimics the naturally occurring sucrose found in flowers, which hummingbirds prefer and easiest for birds to digest efficiently. Offering a 3:1 ratio can also be successful, especially during hummingbird migrations or in cold weather when extra energy would be most desired. In addition to hummingbird feeders, choose hummingbird flowers, which can be a natural source of nectar for hummingbird feeding. nine0036
  • insects : Hummingbirds will not take mealworms from feeders, but encouraging natural insects is a great way to offer this important food source to hummingbirds. Minimize the use of insecticides or pesticides and let the grass grow longer to encourage more insects for hummingbirds. Leaving large webs can also provide a source of food for hummingbirds, as they collect insects caught in the Net, but take care that the birds do not become entangled. If a hummingbird is caught, an aggressive spider may eat the bird! nine0036
  • Fruit : A piece of fruit placed on a tree or near a hummingbird feeder may encourage the hummingbird to take a sip of sweet juice. More importantly, however, the fruit will attract fruit flies and other mosquitoes, which are an important source of insects for birds. For an even more effective feeder, choose fruits with red or pink flesh, such as oranges, watermelons, or ruby ​​red grapefruits. Red is more attractive to hummingbirds and they will notice an unusual food source more quickly. nine0036
  • resin : When other food sources are scarce, hummingbirds will spit out wells that woodpeckers drill to reach tree sap. While they don't often eat sap, taking steps to attract woodpeckers to your yard can encourage this extra food source to be available to hummingbirds in need.
  • Grain : Hummingbirds require very little grain in their diet to help them digest their food, especially insects, and they also absorb small amounts of other important minerals from the sand. Ash, fine sand, or fine gravel are all good potential sources of grit, and birds will select the bits that are best for their needs. Offering grits in a small dish or a pile near feeding areas is the best way to ensure this material is available and other birds will also take advantage of its availability. nine0036

What not to feed hummingbirds

While it may be tempting to offer a wide variety of different foods to hummingbirds, certain items should never be available to these tiny birds because they can be dangerous, even deadly. Avoid offering these products to your back hammers:

  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Soda
  • Sweetened drinks or juices
  • Alcohol
  • Corn syrup
  • Sugar substitutes
  • Spoiled nectar

Because these products often contain a wide range of processed chemicals and dyes that can harm birds, they should never be used to create hummingbird or bird nectar. In addition, decay in these items can lead to mold and mildew, which can be harmful, even fatal, to hummingbirds.

More Hummingbird Feeding Tips

Even if you offer a range of good hummingbird foods, it may take some time for the birds to find your feeders and visit them regularly. Inviting more hummingbirds to the feeder buffet:

  • Use several different feeders and feeder styles to accommodate more birds without territorial issues and allow the birds to choose what they are most comfortable feeding.
  • Place hummingbird feeders slightly separate from other bird feed stations so that small hummingbirds are not disturbed or disturbed by other feeding birds.
  • Take steps to repel wild cats and other hummingbird predators to make your feeding area as safe and secure as possible. nine0036
  • Use the colors in your yard to catch the attention of hummingbirds and use their natural curiosity to lead them to your vibrant park.
Offering a variety of hummingbird foods with patience and perseverance will be a rewarding experience as you watch these tiny birds sample different foods in your hummingbird buffet.

👉 Hummingbirds eat a variety of insects, including mosquitoes, fruit flies and midges in flight, or aphids on leaves. The lower beak can curve up to 25°, widening at the base. Hummingbirds hover in flocks of insects to facilitate feeding. To meet their energy needs, they drink nectar, the sweet liquid inside flowers. nine0003

👉 Hummingbird wings are rarely bright, their color is based on pigments, like in almost all other birds, and can be dull-buff, brownish or black [9] [6] (except for Eulampis jugularis [en] [6] ).

👉 The modern classification of hummingbirds is based on the fifth volume of his "Check-List of Birds of the World" [1]. Peters's classification marked the end of the "golden age" of hummingbirds, since then new species have been described extremely rarely [14].

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