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Photo: © Alandra Palisser
Did You Notice?

  • This rufous hummingbird seems to be hovering in mid-air near some flowers.
  • It has something yellow on its beak.

What's the Story?
Here's a guess about what happened, based on what we see in the photo:

The hummingbird just visited a flower in search of food. It poked its beak into the bloom in search of sweet nectar or small insects. As it did that, pollen from the flower stuck to its beak. Another possibility is that the hummingbird may have actually eaten some pollen. It will probably head to another flower next.

What We Already Knew About Hungry Hummers
Here's what we already knew that helped us tell the story:

  • A hummingbird needs to feed about every 15 minutes and eat up to 3 times its weight in food every day! Hovering lets it spend a short amount of time at each flower before moving on. If it had to land and take off each time, it would use too much energy. But hovering — with wings beating 75 times a second — also takes lots of energy. So it helps to find nectar-rich flowers that are close together!

    Rufous hummingbirds prefer red flowers, but as long as there's plenty of sweet reward, they'll also go for yellow, white, and purple blooms.

  • When a hummingbird visits a flower in search of nectar or insects, it pushes its bill deep inside to find the food. Dusty flower pollen can end on its bill, head, or other parts. When the bird goes on to another flower, some of the pollen drops or rubs off. This transfer of pollen (called pollination) allows plants to reproduce and create new seeds. More than 160 native North American plants depend on hummingbirds to do this!

  • A hummingbird might also eat pollen while visiting flowers. Nectar is a good source of quick energy. But insects and pollen are good protein sources. Proteins help the hummer build muscle, feathers, and other body parts. A mix of nectar, insects, and pollen also makes a great baby food!
Next Week's Update: Discover more about how hummingbirds keep their "engines" running!


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