Hummingbirds, with their unmistakable beauty and quick movements, are one of the most interesting types of bird species. It’s no wonder that myths surround these tiny creatures as scientists uncover curious speculations. Deciphering facts from fiction is always important, especially if you plan to feed these friends in your yard. Many have wondered about a hummingbird’s quick tongue or why they seemingly seek out red flowers. However, we don’t recommend believing everything you hear! The most common debunks are as follows:
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Hummingbird Facts Vs. Fiction
1. Fiction: Hummingbirds sip nectar through their tongue like a straw.
Fact: Hummingbird tongues are used to lap up nectar toward their throats. They bring their tongues into their bills in a quick, licking motion. A hummingbird’s tongue is almost twice as long as its bill and is forked at the end.
2. Fiction: All hummingbirds migrate in order to survive.
Fact: Although most hummingbirds in the U.S. and Canada do migrate, some do not. The Anna’s Hummingbird lives year-round on the Pacific Coast and the Costa’s Hummingbird spends its full year in southern California and southwestern Arizona. There are also many hummingbird species that live in tropical regions year-round as they have no reason to migrate.
See Also: Hummingbird Migration Patterns Explained
3. Fiction: Adding red dye to sugar water is necessary to attract hummingbirds.
Fact: While the color red does attract hummingbirds, it isn’t necessary to use red dye in your feeder. Adding the color red in other formats will do the trick. Consider using a bird feeder with red parts or adding a red bow to the top of your feeder.
4. Fiction: Hummingbirds only have to worry about other large birds as predators.
Fact: While larger birds are hummingbirds’ natural predators, they aren’t the only ones. Hummingbirds also have to be cautious of other animals such as cats, snakes, spiders, lizards, bats, frogs and more. With cats being the more common risk to hummingbirds, bird feeding enthusiasts should hang feeders at least five feet above ground level in their yards.
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5. Fiction: Hummingbirds only consume nectar as part of their diet.
Fact: While nectar provides hummingbirds with the quick energy that their high metabolic rate demands, their nutrition is mostly gained by consuming insects. Insects provide hummingbirds with vitamins, amino acids, proteins and fats. Because of their size, they generally choose smaller insects to consume, such as ants, small spiders, wasps and beetles.
6. Fiction: Hummingbirds migrate on the backs of Canada Geese.
Fact: While it can be hard to believe that tiny hummingbirds are able to fly thousands of miles during migration periods, there is no evidence showing that they ride the backs of Canada Geese. While both species migrate, they do so at different times and to different locations. Hummingbirds fly at different altitudes than geese and each species varies greatly in their habitat and dietary needs as well.
7. Fiction: Keeping hummingbird feeders up during the fall will interfere with their migration.
Fact: Hummingbirds instinctually know when to migrate by the length of days. Keeping feeders out and filled with nectar will actually help hummers fuel up for their long journeys ahead. It’s also helpful to feed the species of hummingbirds that don’t migrate at all.
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8. Fiction: Hummingbirds only feed from red flowers.
Fact: Although red does attract hummingbirds, they will feed from any flower that produces nectar, regardless of its color. Some have speculated that denser red or purple flowers might provide the sweetest nectar that hummers prefer. Some scientists also believe that certain flower colors are found at lower elevations, which could cause them to produce slightly sweeter nectar than flowers at higher elevations.