About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What do Hummingbirds Eat in Michigan Forests?

Ruby-throated hummingbirdImage by Jason Paluck via FlickrHi, We were out hiking deep in the Manistee National Forest yesterday and while resting on the ground my husband spotted a plump hummingbird flitting from tree branch to tree branch. We were surprised by this sighting. The only plant we could see blooming in abundance was golden rod. Our question is what is available in the woods of Michigan for humming birds that don't have access to syrup feeders to eat this time of the year (September). Thanks.

Hello, hummingbirds drink nectar from a variety of flowers as well as sap from trees. I'm sure if your life depended on it, you would have seen much more nectar available. In the fall there are asters, cardinal flowers, lilies, Obedient Plants, Joe Pye Weed, lots of grasses and more. Sometimes there are more flowers near the waters edge.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - FemaleImage by VonShawn via FlickrBut that the pointy hummingbird bill isn’t only for sipping nectar, it’s also made for snatching bugs out of the air.

Nectar is the bird equivalent of Kool-Aid; it's not much more than sugar and water. Throughout the day a hummer drinks more than its half its body weight in nectar. But you can't live on sugar alone, and the birds must supplement their carbohydrate-rich diet with daily helpings of insects to get necessary fats and amino acids that they aren't getting in nectar.

Hummingbirds eat a lot of insects and spiders. They are excellent hunters. (Sometimes I suggest throwing old fruit or banana peels near your hummingbird feeders to attract fruit flys for the hummers.) Hummingbirds can catch insects in flight, or pluck them from leaves, or catch spiders from their webs. While migrating, hummingbirds can follow behind Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers because these woodpeckers drill shallow wells into trees to release sap that lots of birds can drink. Sap also attracts and traps insects for birds.

When a hummingbird goes for an insect, it rushes at it with its mouth wide open, and the lower half of its bill can bend downward, even though it has no joint. But they're so fast it takes a camera that films 500 frames a second to capture the move. That may be what you were watching.

Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air is a Nature documentary on PBS that explains how these tiny birds survive. You can watch the full episode online at: http://video.pbs.org/video/1380512531/ 
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments: