Do Hawks Eat Hummingbirds?
It's Shocking Why They Don't!

Are you here because you're confused if hawks like to prey on hummingbirds or not? Read ahead to find out.

Iñigo Navarro Profile Picture

Iñigo Navarro

May 23, 2021


Do Hawks Eat Hummingbirds? It's Shocking Why They Don't! Thumbnail

What’s This Post About?

Hummingbirds are one of the tiniest birds and their babies can be very attractive to predators.

Because of how often hummingbirds get preyed upon, they have a very low survival rate until they don’t find out the perfect and safe location to build their nests.

Do hawks prey on Hummingbirds? Well, most large-sized birds like jays do prey on hummingbirds. For this very reason, hummingbirds mostly try to find a nest in locations where there are good neighbors, away from large birds.

Hawks don’t eat hummingbirds. For ages, we have heard about hawks being a predator bird that can eat almost any small-sized bird. However, hawks are the best friends of hummingbirds as they unintentionally protect the nearby nests of hummingbirds by hunting other hummingbird predators.

A hummingbird and a hawk

How do Hawks Protect Hummingbirds?

Hawks protect hummingbirds by getting rid of predators that would otherwise threaten the safety of hummingbirds.

The small size of hummingbirds’ nests and the tiny-sized eggs can make a very tempting meal for most predator birds. So, it gets very hard for such a small bird to protect its nest from the bigger birds.

However, they have evolved to have a clever approach for securing their nests and that is to seek help from hawks, in this scenario, hawks serving as security guards.

According to several studies, researchers have found out that about 80% of hummingbirds have their nests clustered near hawk nests in the mountains of Arizona.

Moreover, there is an increased daily survival rate of about 31% of those hummingbird nests that are built near hawk nets. Meanwhile, the survival rate might drop to 6% if the nests are built otherwise.

Did You Know?

Despite hummingbirds' love for nectar, they do not have a sense of smell. However, they have a sense of hearing that is way better than that of humans.

How does a Neighboring Hawk Nest Protect Hummingbirds?

A large nest of hawks above the hummingbird nest can provide a cone of safety that extends downward to protect hummingbirds from predatory jays.

The simplest explanation for this cone of safety is when jays intend to attack hummingbird eggs, they also find nearby hawks’ nests which can be a huge threat to them.

Hence, most of the predator birds like jays avoid hunting on those hummingbird nests that are near hawks’ nests.

However, there are few records of hummingbirds getting attacked by hawks in the wild but that still doesn’t make them hummingbird predators as they mostly prefer larger meals like rodents and large birds.

Fun Fact

Hummingbirds have very interesting tongues that have a W-like shape with a grooved appearance, and they also have tiny little hair on their tongue to assist them while drinking.

What Criteria do Hummingbirds have to Build a Nest?

a hummingbirds nest at height

Hummingbirds have a large brain at a proportion of about 4.2% of their body mass which makes them have the largest brain in the bird category.

You might be thinking that hummingbirds make their nest randomly around hawks, however, this is not the case. It took scientists a lot of time to find out that hummingbirds consider the height of their nests more than the radius under hawks’ nests.

These tiny birds build their nest within 984 feet that is 300 meters below the hawks’ nest. Building a nest at such a height will increase the survival rate to about 99% which is way better than the 6 percent survival rate upon making a nest far away.

However, a more successful location is the one where hummingbirds make their nests within the 560-feet and 170-meter radius around the cone of safety. In such cases, the survival rate boosts up to 52 percent.

Warning

Hummingbirds are very delicate and tiny-sized which is why they have weak and timid feet that they majorly use for perching, hence never try to grab them from a bird feeder just for fun.

Are Hummingbirds Consistent About Deciding the Location for Nest?

A hummingbird and its nest

No, hummingbirds usually abandon those nesting sites where they feel threatened or lose their eggs once. However, if they find a spot to be successful for their nest, they continue to build the nest in that same spot every year. Hummingbirds learn about the feasibility of nest locations by trial and error.

Hence, there’s a high chance of a predator attacking their eggs when they don’t find the safest location at the beginning.

How do Researchers Study Hummingbirds and Their Activities?

It gets difficult tracking birds because they all seem similar, however, researchers have several ideas to trace them and understanding their behaviors.

Many researchers put bands and cameras on birds to track them for a longer duration and distance. However, it can be damaging for birds’ behavior and might change the bird’s behavior entirely by making them uncomfortable.

However, the alternative and healthier method of tracking them in flocks is to put some colored dye on them to recognize them easily.

The best way to have them marked with a color that researchers use is through the bird feeders with some paint on their walls so that the bird gets tinted when they arrive for the food.

Pro-Tip

If you want to see flocks of hummingbirds in your garden then you must maintain a bird feeder with a consistent supply of food as when food is scarce, hummingbirds might not visit your backyard.

Do Other Timid Birds Behave the Same Way with More Aggressive Species?

Yes, not only hummingbirds and hawks behave in such a manner but there are a couple of more birds who live this way. One example of such a kind of bird includes the relationship between geese and snowy owls. Most of the geese nest around the nests of snowy owls to get safety and protection.

The geese nest around snowy owls because snowy owls hunt on foxes which are the predators of geese.

However, most of the time, it is difficult to decide which predator is acting as the middleman, just like in hummingbirds’ case, it could’ve been squirrels and snakes too but observation proved it was jays.

What do a Hummingbird’s Nest and Eggs Look Like?

a hummingbird’s nest with eggs

Keeping the size of Hummingbirds in mind, you can guess the size of their nest as well. They have a very small nest not any larger than the size of a ping pong ball.

The nests of hummingbirds are made by their female counterparts. These females collect different materials and tiny bits to weave a nest like a spider.

Most of their nests are built on a branch of a tree. Hummingbirds do not prefer locations like birdhouses unlike other domestic birds do. The size of their eggs is also very small.

Unlike the eggs of other birds, they have very tiny eggs that are nearly the size of coffee beans or jelly beans. These hummers mostly lay two eggs in a clutch that are white.

Can We Facilitate a Hummingbird to Make a Nest Nearby?

Although hummingbirds do not use birdhouses that are usually hanged in gardens, they do come into your garden to make a nest on the tree if it has a height of about 90 feet.

You can encourage a hummingbird to make its nest nearby by adding a few things to the backyard. Hummingbirds usually prefer making their nest in shrubbery and sheltered trees.

You can plant several leafy trees with a lot of shrubs so that they can get the required shelter they need to survive at heights.

A few examples of these can be alder, American elm, cottonwood, birch, mulberry, poplar, maple, and willows which can help them for collecting the nesting material and environment.

Pro-Tip

Planting catkin-bearing trees can help you a lot for gathering hummingbirds in your garden as this plant provides soft plant fibers to these tiny creatures.

What Kind Of Material Do Hummingbirds Need For The Nests?

To lay their eggs, they usually prefer soft and fluffy fibers from various plants to provide a safe environment for them throughout the hatching period. These hummers also add fuzzy foliage from various plant sources to create a dense soft yet thick nest.

Silken plumes that come out of ornamental grass can also be very useful for such a purpose. They also use various kinds of flowers for this purpose. Flowers like pasque flowers are great for hummingbirds’ nests as they offer Silken hairs along with soft foliage to these tiny little birds.

Moreover, different types of hummingbirds make nests at different places. For example, blue-throated hummingbirds are found with nests on electric wires.

Keep Reading!

Finding out that a bird like a Hawk does not prey on hummingbirds might both be a surprise and a relief to you. However, sometimes these hawks do attack hummingbirds in the wild when they are too hungry or juvenile.

I hope this blog was helpful for you to find out if hawks prey on hummingbirds or not. If you wish to read up more on predators such as squirrels and how to keep them out of hummingbird feeders, read our post.

How To Keep Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders: The 10 Most Effective Ways

Are you looking for ways to keep squirrels out of bird feeders? Is it becoming annoying to see less birds every day in your backyard? Read on.

Iñigo Navarro Picture

By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

Posted in:

Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

Newsletter

Recommended:

You may also like:

Keep Learning!

Our latest tutorials, guides & bird watching tips straight to your inbox! You can unsubscribe at any time, but almost everybody stays. We must be doing something right!