Finch and Hummingbird Eating Habits

By Ernie Allison

society finch

It's long been known in the scientific community that birds don't have taste buds to detect "sweet" things. This is puzzling, since some birds, hummingbirds specifically, are attracted to nectar, which is inherently sweet. This has led to further study, which has discovered some details about how different birds' taste buds work.

Of course, not every bird has the same diet. Some people just fill their feeders with black sunflower seeds, or a sugar water concoction. These aren't harmful to birds, but they shouldn't make up the bulk of any bird's diet. Today I'll outline the diets of finches and hummingbirds, so you can get an idea of the variety in birds' diets.


Like most creatures, finches need variety in their diet. Pet finches are less likely to get this variety than wild birds, so it is up to owners to provide multiple food options. Of course, premixed bird seed and pellet products are available. Some finches prefer a certain type of seed, so it's beneficial for owners to mix their own seed so that they can cater to their pet's taste. Millet spray (millet seeds still on the stalk) is also popular among finches- they love pulling the seeds off the stalk and devouring them. This is a great food option to offer regularly.

Fruits and vegetables offer the nutrition that finches need. Of course, produce must be washed before being fed to birds. Some people think that it doesn't, because birds aren't worried about "germs." But it's not dirt that needs to be washed off - it's possible pesticides. Vegetables should be chopped up into manageable pieces. Leafy greens can be left whole, as finch beaks are capable of tearing them into small enough pieces. Here are some healthy fruit and vegetable options for your finch:

There is some produce that is harmful to finches, such as avocado. Look for a complete list online before you go shopping.

For protein, mealworms and wax worms (which are actually moth larvae) provide suffiecient nutrients for your finch. Mealworms are easier to keep alive longer, but wax worms offer a nice treat and are easier to digest. Don't worry if your mealworms become beatles, the finches will sometimes still eat them, or you can raise them to produce more mealworms for you.


hummingbird at near nectar feeder

Unlike finches, hummingbirds do not make good pets. They need to be in the wild. Hummingbirds eat pretty much all the time. This is because their metabolism is so fast, due to the fact they are almost constantly moving. Hummingbirds have been known to eat 3 times their weight in a single day!

As mentioned above, even though birds cannot taste "sweet," hummingbirds love nectar. Scientists have discovered that this is because their "umami" taste buds have morphed to detect sweetness.

Hummingbirds thrive off of nectar and insects. A mixture of 1 part sugar and 3 or 4 parts water is sufficient to replace nectar, but those who really want to attract hummingbirds should also plant flowers that produce natural nectar.

Hummingbirds' brains are supremely advanced and they have amazing memory. They return to places where they've fed before. They even remember how long it takes for flowers to refill with nectar, so if it's empty, they'll wait longer to return the next time.

As you can see, hummingbirds and finches are just two examples of the vast differences in different bird species' diets. Do you have pet birds or regular feeder visitors? What do you provide to keep a variety in their diet?