Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding on a tiger lily bloom:

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird sipping nectar from tiger lily
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird Foraging On Tiger Lily Bloom

I say feeding because she could be sipping nectar or eating insects attracted to the nectar. Hummers rely much more insects than it appears because we are spoiled by the sight of them on flowers. 60+%, depending on time of year, of their diet can be arthropods. Spiders are favorites.

Bugs eaten while sipping nectar is opportunistic and a small portion of the diet. Hummers are very capable insectivores & use many of the techniques of flycatchers & swallows. A difference is hummingbird bills are custom tailored to the tubular flowers they most often feed on making the beaks long & narrow. They can’t be efficient bug catchers eating with chopsticks. To compensate their lower mandibles can open an extra 20% for a big gape to catch the insect deeper in the mouth. They can do this sitting or inflight.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird Showing Wide Open Mouth
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird Showing Wide Open Mouth

The point? Songbirds and grassland birds are not the only avian species being negatively impacted by the collapsing insect populations. When you watch a hummingbird feeding, and bot being chased, by the local bully, they are methodically and efficiently consuming not just nectar, but also the ‘bugs’ they need for a healthy diet.

To help hummingbirds, and as a result enjoy them in action, planting a variety of flowering plants is necessary. But not sufficient. Taking all the other steps to keep insect populations healthy in your yard is critically important. More diverse native and non-aggressive non-natives (that can be managed, e.g., tiger lilies, as long as you keep them less than 30 percent of your plantings) flowering plants, less manicured turf and ornamentals – ‘rewilding’ -, eliminating or at least cutting way back on insecticides, leaving leaf ‘litter’ are a few practices good for hummers. And the songbirds.

In short, an insect friendly yard is a hummer friendly yard.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird Methodically Foraging For Insects & Nectar

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