Attract Hummingbirds with food “Other Than” Nectar

If you’re invested in hummingbirds around your garden or in your neighborhood, you might be curious about their diets. What do hummingbirds eat besides nectar? The answer is, a lot! Read on if you want to learn more about how to attract these feathery friends to your door.

What Can I Feed Hummingbirds Besides Sugar Water?

So we know hummingbirds can eat sugar and sugar water. But can they eat anything besides sugar? Yes!

While hummingbirds are fond of feasting on insects and other creepy crawlers, foods found in your kitchen can also be appealing to them.

If you are going to serve a hummingbird something from your pantry, remember to make sure it’s easy for hummingbirds to eat it. Hummingbird beaks are specifically for sucking things, not breaking things down like other birds. If you put out any food for hummingbirds, make sure you cut it up first so it’s easier for them to eat.  

Hummingbirds will also eat fruit juice from many different fruits, but only as a last resort. Remember that hummingbirds have a diet built primarily of insects and nectar. You will have a better chance of attracting them if you stick to nectar first, but it won’t hurt to throw out an orange slice too. 

You can even improve your chances of hummingbirds coming to visit you because the fruit will also attract those insects. 

Do Hummingbirds Like Fruit? 

wild birds eat fruit
Photo by Stefano Alemani on Unsplash

Hummingbirds like fruit, though it is traditionally their last choice! Since there is sugar in the fruit juice, it helps to re-energize them for their special diets, but nectar is usually the first choice because there is still water in the mixture for them to drink. 

Hummingbirds require a lot of energy since they do a lot of flying every day, and they retain that through eating sugar. Fruit can be a suitable substitute because of its sugar content. 

Many fruits are wonderful for hummingbirds because of their sweet content. The fruit also attracts insects, such as fruit flies, another prominent part of the hummingbird diet.  

I know the photo below is gross – but it illustrates how fruit attracts fruit flies – a delicacy to hummingbirds.

Fruit flies feasting on rotting pears.
Fruit flies feasting on rotting pears.

Fruits are suitable as long as they are cut open. Doing so makes the smell and colors easier for hummingbirds to detect. Also, remember that hummingbirds have tiny bills that can’t break open the fruits by themselves.

It’s also important for the fruits to be ripe as hummingbirds enjoy ripe fruits the best. Don’t discourage yourself from putting out any fruit that may be a little past ripe, as that will still attract insects that hummingbirds also love to eat

Will hummingbirds eat oranges? 

Hummingbirds will be attracted to the orange first and foremost due to its bright, vibrant colors. While they will usually enjoy the fruit flies and insects that come to the orange, hummingbirds will sometimes eat the fruit juice from the orange, but only as a last resort.  

Video of a hummingbird eating an orange.

Do hummingbirds eat bananas? 

Hummingbirds will also eat bananas, but only if prepared a certain way. While hummingbirds always need to have a banana without the peel, chopping and making the bananas easier to eat makes them more attractive to hummingbirds. 

The older a banana, the sweeter it is to a hummingbird. If your banana is browned and rotten, don’t hesitate to put it out in the garden. Since those rotting fruits attract fruit flies and other insects no matter the expiration date, hummingbirds are sure to follow. 

Do hummingbirds eat apples?

Hummingbirds will also eat apples! They will need the skin to be broken so chopped apples work best for hummingbirds to have easier access to the fruit juice. 

Do hummingbirds eat watermelon?

Cut watermelon to attract fruit flies & hummingbirds!
Cut watermelon to attract fruit flies & hummingbirds! Image by Ralphs_Fotos from Pixabay

Hummingbirds will also eat watermelon, provided the flesh is open so they can get to it. Best of all, the open watermelon will attract plenty of insects like fruit flies and ants, which hummingbirds also enjoy eating.  

Can You Feed Hummingbirds Fruit Juice? 

Hummingbirds will eat fruit juice! Since their beaks are designed to drink first and foremost, fruit juice is another option if nectar isn’t immediately available. You can supply fruit juice by putting it in a small tray along a perching spot. 

What Is the Best Food for Hummingbirds? 

The best food for hummingbirds is by far traditional nectar. Nectar is the best because it’s the easiest for hummingbirds to eat and also helps to rehydrate them at the same time.

You can purchase hummingbird nectar at stores or choose to make your own at home. It’s essential to make sure you use proper measurements. Every nectar should be four parts water to one part sugar to ensure hummingbirds are rehydrated and rejuvenated. 

Do Hummingbirds Eat Honey?

Hummingbirds do not eat honey. Do not ever offer honey to hummingbirds.

Not only is the composition of honey unsafe for a hummingbird’s stomach, but it’s also hard to digest, and is at high risk of getting stuck in their tongue.

The stickiness of honey can make it difficult for a hummingbird to fly and eat because even the smallest drizzle of honey can coat their bills shut. 

Hummingbird with tongue unable to retract
This hummingbird drank nectar likely made with honey causing her tongue not to be able to retract. As a result, this poor bird died.

Do Hummingbirds Eat Grape Jelly? 

Hummingbirds can eat grape jelly! The sugar content in jelly is high and attractive for hummingbirds, and they’ll definitely come to enjoy it if you put it in your feeder.

Another benefit of putting out grape jelly is it attracts more than just hummingbirds. Ants, fruit flies, and other insects will come to enjoy it as well. 

Be sure to only offer regular jelly sweetened with standard granular sugar. Imitation sweeteners could harm the birds.

Do Hummingbirds Eat Sunflower Seeds? Why or why not? 

Hummingbirds do not eat seeds of any kind, so save your sunflower seeds for the baseball diamond! 

Hummingbirds do not eat seeds because their beaks are not intended for opening and eating seeds. Hummingbirds also don’t have the proper intestinal structure to digest seeds either.

If you still put them out, hummingbirds will not be at risk just because they are unlikely to try eating them.  

Final Thoughts

So, what can you feed hummingbirds besides sugar water and nectar? There are plenty of options if you’re hoping to keep hummingbirds humming around your garden. Use a spoonful of jelly, a cup of fruit juice, or even pieces of apple or watermelon, and watch your hummingbirds fly!

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers.