Can Hummingbirds Smell Sugar Water? Uncovering A Startling Truth

Last Updated on January 9, 2023 by Cristina

Can hummingbirds smell sugar water? Take a look at this article and found out the real truth.

There are so many fascinating facts about these unusual tiny creatures. They are excellent avians, even better hiders than predators, and are widely known for their extremely fast metabolisms, which require them to eat all day long just to survive. Did you know that on average these birds visit between 1,000-2,000 flowers during the day? So small, yet so voracious, right?

However, how do they even find a feeder? What senses lead them to food, more specifically, can hummingbirds smell sugar water? Stay here to learn a thing or two about one of the most beloved backyard visitors.

What’s The Deal With The Nose, Do Hummingbirds Have A Sense Of Smell?

In order to find out the answer to the question “can hummingbirds smell sugar water”, it is necessary to say a few sentences about their, above all, unusual anatomy. Accordingly, we have found research that finally dispels the centuries-old myth that hummingbirds don’t have an active sense of smell.

Some species of birds have an excellent sense of smell thanks to their large olfactory bulbs. Namely, it is a rounded mass of tissue that contains several types of nerve cells directly involved in the sense of smell. When a bird breathes, these bulbs receive information about smells and send it to the brain by way of the olfactory tracts.

As for the heroes of this article, tiny hummingbirds, their nostrils are located at the base of the bill, at the place where air enters their lungs. However, it is important to emphasize that their olfactory bulbs are extremely small. If you want to compare them with other flying creatures for easier understanding, their bulbs are about half that of seabirds and slightly less than that of Rock Pigeons. Be that as it may, try to remember that hummingbirds undoubtedly have an active sense of smell.

Do Hummingbirds Have A Sense Of Smell

To be honest, it’s pretty easy to understand why it’s been widely believed that these birds have no sense of smell. There was no technology that could clearly show whether hummers had a preference for the scent of nectar-containing flowers. In addition, first-hand experience clearly shows that bird-pollinated flowers generally don’t have strong fragrances, unlike those pollinated by insects. This is the main reason why scientists were firmly convinced that these unique creatures don’t have the ability to smell things.

Some More Research Results

We assume that you came here because you have an insatiable hunger for new information and fun facts, so we decided to dedicate a few sentences to one of the most interesting abilities of these birds. Namely, did you know that hummers can smell their way out of danger?

Scientists from one of the most famous universities in the world, Riverside, California, discovered that these amazing creatures can not only smell insects, but that sense of smell can help them avoid danger while hunting for nectar. Is it even necessary to emphasize that this is a life-saving feature?

Now that we have learned some basics, we can finally find out the answer to the question “can hummingbirds smell sugar water”. So let’s go into details.

Can Hummingbirds Smell Sugar Water?

If you have ever watched a hummingbird drinking nectar, even on video, you could have seen that it finds much of its food at the base of flowers, which generally don’t have any particular scent, even more so, most of their favorite flowers don’t have any scent at all.

So, can hummingbirds smell sugar water? The answer is affirmative! Here is how we know it is true. According to the above research, researchers conducted an experiment where they used 4 hummingbird feeders. Two of which were filled with their favorite, sugary water, and the remaining two with a 3% saline solution. Two feeders also contained ethyl butyrate. This solution had a characteristic smell of chewing gum.

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Can Hummingbirds Smell Sugar Water?

Do you know what happened? 60% of the birds chose the feeder that was filled with both ethyl butyrate and sugar solution, instead of the feeder that contained the scentless saline solution. After that, the researchers repeated the procedure several more times and the results were almost identical each time, thus once again proving the answer to the question “can hummingbirds smell sugar water”.

Although the results of the mentioned research are what they are, nothing can shake the belief that their sight is much more important than their sense of smell, at least when it comes to looking for feeders. Speaking of which, we have to offer you answers to the three most frequently asked questions in the comment section below.

How Long Does It Take For Hummingbirds To Find A Feeder?

Most people, especially beginners who are just starting out in this hobby, very easily give up on maintaining feeders when they realize that it is not very easy to attract the attention of hummingbirds. Did you know that in most cases it can take several weeks before hummingbirds find and start feeding regularly from a new feeder?

Therefore, don’t immediately be disappointed and stop preparing a fresh solution for the feeders, give these birds at least two or three weeks to discover and get rid of the fear.

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Why Do Hummingbirds Drink Sugar Water?

Although natural nectar from flowers along with insects is the basis of this bird’s diet, they prefer to supplement their diet with well-tended sugar water. It is their additional sustenance, especially during the nesting season and migration.

Why Do Hummingbirds Like Sugar Water?

Hummingbirds like to visit clean and tidy feeders filled with freshly prepared water and sugar solution because it gives them an instant high of energy so they can more easily search for other, more natural food sources.


To Round Up – Can Hummingbirds Smell Sugar Water?

So, can hummingbirds smell sugar water? The answer to this question is affirmative, however, nothing can shake the belief that their sight is much more important than their sense of smell, at least when it comes to looking for feeders.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask us. Our team of experts and bird enthusiasts is waiting for you in the comment section below.

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