Because hummingbirds have no sense of smell, they must find their food by sight. Young hummingbirds must learn to expect nectar from colored blossoms. Hummingbird bills are custom designed to match the shape and length of the blossoms from which they draw nectar. Bill shapes and lengths vary widely, but tend to be long and narrow, some being curved. Their tongues are twice as long as their bills.
The flowers hummingbirds use for nectar sources have evolved with them. To attract a hummingbird, a flower must be red, bloom in the daytime, be rich in nectar and lack any sort of landing pad thereby eliminating competition from other birds. Flowers without landing pads are accessible only by hummingbirds, which can hover and feed while hanging in the air. Other flowers such as trumpet or tubular shaped blossoms provide selective feeding for the hummingbirds since only the long, narrow bill of the hummingbird is able to access the succulent nectar.
Some hummingbirds feed from a single plant all day. Others have fixed feeding routes that cover large distances. They methodically fly in special patterns that define their territory.To survive, a hummingbird must consume more than its weight in food each day, which equates to between 6,000 and 12,000 calories per day. About 70% of this food comes in the form of liquefied sugar and the rest from insect protein.
A hummingbird’s diet consists of nectar, sap and insects. If insects are available, a hummingbird may eat hundreds of them in one day, they may even raid a spider’s web to eat a captured insect or the spider himself. The nectar mixture in our hummingbird feeders is comprised of one part sugar, four parts water. A higher sugar content could cause cavities in their bills and obesity. Most days the entire contents of our feeders will be completely consumed by late afternoon. The birds consume 50 pounds of sugar a week.