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.

Friday, April 8, 2011

How do hummingbirds find feeders?

Some hummingbirds are attracted to red feeders as much as some humans are attracted to the “Golden Arches”. But just as we realize McDonald’s isn’t the only restaurant in town, hummingbirds can find nectar feeders of various colors too.

Scientists have confirmed that most birds see colors. Humans’ eyes have three types of color-sensitive cones that allow us to see three primary colors in terms of light which are red, green and blue. Birds' eyes have four types of color-sensitive cones which allow many birds to also perceive ultraviolet (UV) light.
Being able to see a broader spectrum of light can make as big a difference as watching black and white verses color television.
Although unsure how birds benefit from their enhanced visual perception, you can assume from the way UV light reflects from their feathers that it might play a part in mate selection. And for nectar eating birds like the hummingbirds, a flower’s secret pattern on the petals act as arrows, to guide the pollinating birds and insects to the right spot. 

So there is no need to worry if you want to put out a blue hummingbird feeder and there is no need to color your nectar (sugar water) with red food coloring. Birds are very clever at foraging for food.

Watch the video at: http://youtu.be/XoZRDa7Ag2E
Click HERE for a more detailed sugar recipe.


Tina Coruth said...

What a fascinating article and video! Thank you!

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

I think birds are amazing and I have fun sharing interesting tidbits on the blog. Thank you for your sweet comment!

Adam Sherrill said...

So I have read that hummingbirds can see very close to the ultraviolet spectrum. You write that hummingbirds can perceive ultraviolet light. Can you elaborate? Thanks

Hikes with dogs said...

This still doesn't answer how they find a glass jar full of sugar water. There are no petals pointing the way.

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

"just as we realize McDonald’s isn’t the only restaurant in town, hummingbirds can find nectar feeders of various colors too"

It is a learned reaction. If there are signs of bees, ants and other insects investigating a restaurant, the hummers go down to investigate. Feeders serving yummy food will have the hummingbirds returning and in late summer with the kids. Their memory is outstanding and even after spending the winter thousands of miles down south, they will return the next spring to the same area they discovered a good restaurant (feeder or garden).