Nectarivorous birds have long bills and often have specialized tongues. Their bills help them reach deep into flowers to get at their nectar and pollen, while their tongues help them lap it up. In this post, I’m going to tell you all about birds that drink nectar and why they like doing it so much.
Here are sixteen birds that drink nectar:
- Rivoli’s Hummingbird
- Red Wattlebird
- Yellow-browed Honeyeater
- Crimson Sunbird
- Green Hermit
- Vervain Hummingbird
- Long-billed Hermit
- Little Friarbird
- Red-headed Honeyeater
- Blue-throated Goldentail
- Dusky Honeyeater
- Crimson Chat
- Noisy Miner
- Regent Honeyeater
- Black-throated Mango
In this article, we will learn about the birds that drink the nectar from flowers as a primary food. Later, we will take a look at some of the unconventional birds that also seem to enjoy the nectar.
Rivoli’s Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens)
Also referred to as the “Magnificent Hummingbird,” the Rivoli’s Hummingbirds are a large hummingbird species commonly found in the mountainous regions of North and Central Americas. These birds are primarily nectarivores, feeding nectar from a variety of flowers, along with some small insects occasionally.
Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata)
Endemic to the southern parts of Australia, the Red Wattlebirds are large birds that are also regarded as the second-largest honeyeater species found in Australia.
They have three subspecies and are commonly found in the open forests and woodlands within their range. You can also spot them visiting urban parks and gardens frequently.
Red Wattlebirds are primarily tree-foragers, looking for nectar from tree to tree. These birds aim for flowers that contain plenty of nectar, such as banksias, grass trees, eucalypts, and emu bushes. Apart from nectar, they will also feed on fruits, berries, and small insects.
Yellow-browed Honeyeater (Melidectes rufocrissalis)
Also known as “Yellow-browed Melidectes,” the Yellow-browed Honeyeaters are honeyeater species that are endemic to the montane forests of Papua New Guinea. The diet of these birds consists of nectar, fruits, and insects. They are often found foraging in high canopies, spending long hours on their flowering or fruiting trees.
Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)
The Crimson Sunbirds are a non-migratory sunbird species that are found in the South Asian countries of Brunei, Myanmar, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. The diet of these birds consists largely of nectar.
However, on some occasions, they’ve also been seen feeding on small insects. Their insectivorous preference is generally noticed during the spring and summer months when they’re raising their younger ones.
Green Hermit (Phaethornis guy)
The Green Hermits are among the larger members of the American hummingbird species found in southern parts of Central America and South America.
The diet of the Green Hermit is dominated by a variety of flowers, occasionally supplemented by insects. Among flowers, they generally go after the Brazilian Plumes, Spiral Gingers, as well as the flowers of heather and bedstraw family.
Vervain Hummingbird (Mellisuga minima)
The Vervain Hummingbirds are a hummer species endemic to the islands of Jamaica and Hispaniola. They’re tiny in size and considered the second-smallest hummingbird species in the world. You can find them in the broadleaf and heavily degraded former forests.
Vervain Hummingbirds have equal preferences for nectar and flying insects. In terms of a plant-based diet, they generally forage on large flowering trees.
Long-billed Hermit (Phaethornis longirostris)
Named after their unusually long bills, the Long-billed Hermits are large hummers that belong to the South American countries of Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia. In North America, you can only find them in Mexico.
They’re non-migratory birds that generally inhabit forest undergrowth with sources of water nearby.
Long-billed Hermits are primarily nectarivores that feed on large flowers, particularly the passion flowers and lobster claws. They also feed on spiders and small insects for extra protein in their diet.
Little Friarbird (Philemon citreogularis)
Also referred to as “Little Leatherhead,” the Little Friarbirds are the smallest members of the friarbird genus. These birds are highly vocal and dwell in the high canopies of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
The diet of Little Friarbirds includes nectar, blossoms, fruits, invertebrates, and occasionally seeds and flowers. They can forage for food alone, in pairs, or in small flocks with other friarbirds or honeyeaters.
Red-headed Honeyeater (Myzomela erythyrocephala)
Named after the glossy red head of the males, the Red-headed Honeyeaters are small honeyeaters with a short tail and a relatively long, downcurved bill.
They have two subspecies and are known to dwell in the mangrove forests of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. These honeyeaters are highly active while feeding nectar, darting from flower to flower within moments.
Their main diet includes flowers from rib-fruited mangroves, bottlebrushes, grevillea, and green bird flowers. Other than nectar, these birds also feed on insects like bugs, beetles, caterpillars, and wasps.
Blue-throated Goldentail (Chlorestes eliciae)
Also referred to as “Blue-throated Sapphire,” the Blue-throated Goldentails are a hummingbird species that dwell in the lowland and degraded forests of Central and South America. These birds have two recognized subspecies and are often confused with the larger, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds.
The Blue-throated Goldentails are primarily nectarivores, feeding nectar from the flowers of Verbena, Lobster-claws, Thalias, Lobelias, Ingas, along with some epiphytes. On rare occasions, they will also feed on arthropods.
Snowcap Hummingbirds (Microchera albocoronata)
Named after the prominent white forehead cap of the males, the Snowcap Hummingbirds are tiny hummingbird species that dwell in forest edges, canopies, and mountain slopes of Central and South America.
Snowcap Hummingbirds drink the nectar from trees, vines, and epiphytes, with the males often protecting their territories from other individuals. However, larger hummer species can easily overtake their territory.
While feeding their younger ones, these birds will often catch small insects to add more protein to their diet.
Dusky Honeyeater (Myzomela obscura)
Dusky Honeyeaters are a small honeyeater species that inhabit the northern and eastern parts of Australia, as well as the islands of Aru and New Guinea. These birds have a dull, dusky-colored plumage that lends them their name.
Dusky Honeyeaters have a widespread population within their range and can easily be found in woodlands, swamps, monsoon forests, and any other landscape with close proximity to water bodies. They’re a resident species that display irregular, nomadic behavior at times.
The diet of these honeyeaters consists of equal parts of nectar and insects. They forage in the high tree canopies for food.
Crimson Chat (Epthianura tricolor)
Crimson Chats are known by several names, including “Saltbush Canary” and “Tricolored Chat.” They’re a small chat species that are endemic to the semi-arid regions of Central Australia.
Crimson Chats are primarily ground-dwellers, seen hopping on the ground more often than on the tree branches. When it comes to food, they prefer to forage on the ground itself. A large part of their diet consists of insects and spiders gleaned from the low shrubs.
Occasionally, they will also use their brush-like tongue for drinking nectar from low-growing or fallen flowers or extracting their seeds.
Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala)
Noisy Miners are a large honeyeater species that belong to the eastern and southeastern parts of Australia. They have a primarily grey-colored body which is common to both adult sexes.
The primary diet of Noisy Miners includes nectar, fruits, and insects; small amphibians or reptiles are also eaten on rare occasions. These miners are colonial foragers and are often seen hunting for food in groups of five or eight birds.
Although most of their nutritional needs are fulfilled by sweet liquids like honeydew, lerp, and manna, their common nectar sources come from the trees of Creek Bottlebrush, Sugar Gum, Argyle Apple, White, and Grey Ironbark, Rosemary Grivellia, and Flowering Quince.
Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia)
Native to the southeastern parts of Australia, the Regent Honeyeaters are a critically endangered honeyeater species. In an effort to preserve their severely declining population, they’re now considered a flagship species.
For food, the Regent Honeyeaters are largely dependent on the trees of mistletoe and eucalyptus, along with their honeydew. Alternatively, they will also eat fruits and insects.
Black-throated Mango (Anthracothorax nigircollis)
The Black-throated Mangoes are a hummingbird species found in the gardens, open country, and cultivated lands of South America and on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
Black-throated Mangoes have a diet that consists of both nectar and insects. When it comes to nectar, these birds are rather picky and stay away from ornamental plants. They will drink the nectar from the high flowering trees.
Other birds that are drawn to nectar
Have you ever put up a hummingbird feeder in your yard to attract the hummers, sunbirds, and honeyeaters but have noticed other birds being drawn to it as well? Don’t be surprised.
While the birds we talked about earlier feed primarily on nectar, there are other avian creatures that are a sucker for the sweet liquid as well. Here, we will take a look at some of these birds:
The diet of woodpeckers is dominated by a variety of insects and other invertebrates. Other than these, they will also feed on small rodents, reptiles, arthropods, bird eggs, and fledglings, along with fruits and nuts.
The sapsuckers that belong to the woodpecker family are also known to drink the sap inside tree barks. Although nectar is not a part of these birds’ diet, it is not uncommon for them to want a taste of it occasionally.
The Downy Woodpeckers are the most common visitors at the hummingbird feeders, other than the hummers themselves. Although their bills are much larger than the feeding ports, they somehow manage to get in. In the process, they might even damage the ports of your feeder.
The diet of orioles is dictated by the season. In summers, these birds feed gregariously on insects like grasshoppers, beetles, wasps, and bugs. They also enjoy feeding on hairy invertebrates that other birds generally avoid. Their insect-based diet helps them raise their younger ones efficiently.
During winters, their diet grows more plant-based. These birds seem to enjoy a variety of fruits and berries, particularly oranges, apples, and bananas. And since they’re so keen on eating sweet, juicy fruits, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you when they show an interest in nectar.
In fact, one of the lesser-known facts about the orioles is that they do enjoy drinking nectar in the wild.
While verdins are primarily insectivores, plant materials like fruits and berries make up about 20% of their diet. These birds are quite fond of nectar as well. In fact, they’ve often been spotted drinking nectar straight from flowers in the wild.
Verdins will first try inserting their head into the flowers, trying to imitate the hummers. But if they fail to do so, they will pierce the flower at the base and steal the nectar inside.
House Finches are gregarious seed-eaters. The weed seeds make up a large portion of their diet, with occasional bites of small insects like aphids. Apart from these, they’re seen eating the buds of flowers, small fruits, and berries.
When it comes to nectar, the house finches are more attracted to the water than the sweetness. These birds are avid water consumers and can drink up to over 40% of their body mass in water during hot summer days.
Many birders, who are aware of this fact, often set aside a bowl of hummer nectar for the house finches during summers.
If you’ve spotted a warbler on your hummer feeder, it is most likely a wood-warbler species. These birds, although generally insectivores, are known to be interested in eating fruits and nectar in the winter months. This is probably because of the unavailability of insects during this period.
There are three warbler species that you’re most likely to spot on your feeders: Yellow-rumped Warblers, Cape May Warblers, and Black-throated Blue Warblers.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of this post. Above, we have talked about all the birds that consume nectar as a major part of their diet. These birds are the hummers, sunbirds, miners, wattlebirds, honeyeaters, hermits, and mangoes.
In addition to these birds, other, larger birds like woodpeckers, warblers, verdins, and orioles, are also known to taste nectar every now and then. The next time you spot a different bird on your hummer feeder, you can identify them using this list.
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