Can Hummingbirds See Color? (Answered with Facts)

by Kloee Ngozi
Updated on

Naturally, colors have a way of enticing birds. A nicely decorated environment appeals to these vibrant creatures.

Thus, to attract these birds, most people paint their feeders in vibrant colors. 

Some people go to great lengths to attract these colorful feathered visitors by dressing up their backyard in a variety of colors.

It’s almost certain that birds will make an appearance if your backyard is more colorful. 

However, Can hummingbirds see color? Let’s take a look and see what we can discover.

Can Hummingbirds See Color?

Can Hummingbirds See Color

Yes, hummingbirds can see colors. It turns out that these birds can distinguish between different colors.

Amazingly hummingbirds have been recorded to have a wider range of color vision than humans. 

Humans are colorblind in comparison to many other animals, birds inclusive. Hummingbirds have a weak sense of smell.

However, they are known to have excellent visions.

According to recent research, humans have three types of color-sensitive cones in their eyes.

This includes all three primary colors of light: red, green, and blue. However, hummingbirds have been discovered to have a fourth type of color sensitivity to ultraviolet light. 

This fourth type of color cone allows birds to see colors into the ultraviolet.

This may give the birds the ability to see combinations of colors like ultraviolet with both green and red.

However, it has been quite difficult to prove this scientifically. 

What Color Are Hummingbirds Attracted To?

Hummingbirds are drawn to brightly colored objects, particularly those that are red. Yellow, orange, pink, and purple are also attractive to them, but red seems to be their favorite. 

Color plays an important role in attracting hummingbirds due to their lack of an excellent sense of smell.

So it is obvious that the color does the job. 

Small birds seem to associate red with food. This is the reason why most of the feeders in the market are red.

Therefore, to get more hummingbirds in your yard, plant a variety of brightly colored flowers, especially red ones.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on will hummingbirds use a birdhouse

What Colors Are Hummingbirds Not Attracted To?

Colors captivate the attention of birds generally. Some colors, however, may not be to their taste.

Drab colors do not attract birds in general. This is the same with hummingbirds.

However, even though these birds are drawn to bright colors, one particular bright color should be avoided at all costs.

You may be wondering what color that is. Well, it’s white. 

Wait a minute, did you just say white? Yes, of course, white it is. 

It’s no secret that the color white frightens many birds. This is because it symbolizes danger and aggression.

Indeed, many species of birds use white as a warning sign. 

I know this is quite surprising. Well, for one white is in no doubt a beautiful color.

In the human world, this color represents positive things like innocence, simplicity, cleanliness, and freshness.

However, it seems to be a different story for hummingbirds. The reverse seems to be the case here.

Of course, as you may know, in our world, red symbolizes danger.

Therefore, if you use a lot of white in your backyard, you may scare away birds rather than attract them.

So, it is best to avoid this color while designing your backyard. However, if you must use white, it is best to use them in smaller portions.

Can Hummingbirds See At Night?

Hummingbirds do not see clearly at night. In other words, these birds do not have nocturnal vision.

Also, these birds cannot adjust their activity levels to be more active at night. Since hummingbirds are not nocturnal by nature, this is quite normal.

At night, they’re usually dozing off or sleeping.

These birds are known to go into a state of torpor. Torpor is a state quite similar to hibernation. They do this to save energy.

Hummingbirds’ body temperatures and heart rates fall to around 50 beats per minute when exposed to low light.

They even breathe more slowly as a result of this state of mind.

However, these birds can save about 60% of the energy they would otherwise use at night.

Hummingbirds will only roost in the highest branches of a tree while in torpor to keep themselves safe from possible predators.

Additionally, if the weather turns cold, this will keep them safe from the elements.

A hummingbird may even perch upside-down on a tree branch during this time.

Hummingbirds typically awaken from torpor after about twenty minutes.

Regardless of their poor night visions, these birds can be seen flying at night. Most birds are known to practice migration.

And so, hummingbirds can only be seen flying at night when they’re migrating.

Can Hummingbirds See Red?

Hummingbirds, like many other birds, can see red as well as other vibrant colors. Red, as previously stated, is a color that they are particularly drawn to.

It is a common misconception that hummingbird feeders must be red. On the other hand, this isn’t entirely correct.

Red attracts hummingbirds, it’s true. And, there’s every reason to believe that they prefer this color.

However, they are also drawn to other colors like yellow, blue, orange, as well as other vibrant colors.  

Have you ever wondered why these birds seem to prefer red? Well, let’s find that out.

Red is frequently associated with high-octane fuel. This particularly favors their very busy lifestyle.

Well, if you didn’t know, these birds are almost always flying. They can literally fly all day.

The hummingbirds’ ability to perceive color is owing to a dense concentration of cones in their retinas.

These cones contain pigments and oil droplets ranging in color from yellow to red which appear to operate as filters. 

These filters appear to increase color sensitivity in the red-to-yellow spectrum while silencing colors like blue.

This could explain why they have a preference for red. 

However, this doesn’t mean the birds will avoid food sources that have other colors.

So, it is a fact that hummingbirds’ eyes are more sensitive to colors in the red-to-yellow spectrum. 

But, these little fellows are quick learners and so, they would go where ever they find a food source.    

How Many Colors Can Hummingbirds See?

Birds can see a lot of colors. As stated earlier, birds, on the whole, have a much wider color spectrum than humans do.

Hummingbirds are the same in this regard. These birds are without a doubt color-sensitive. 

It was discovered through an experiment that hummingbirds can distinguish between different shades of colors. 

This experiment was carried out by scientists who constructed multi-colored LED tubes.

The palette included both spectral and non-spectral colors. This is pretty cool, isn’t it? 

To test their theory, they placed two feeders in a meadow frequented by a broad-tailed hummingbird close to each other.

For the first feeder, they used regular water, and for the second, they used a sweetened version. 

The hummingbirds couldn’t find the sugar water feeder because the researchers switched the locations of the two feeders frequently. 

According to the results of the experiment, hummingbirds are capable of seeing a wide range of non-spectral colors and can tell them apart from other colors. 

This feeder produced ultraviolet+green light in one experiment, while the sugar water-fed one produced only green light, which was non-spectral in nature. 

Both lights appear identical to human eyes, but hummingbirds can tell the difference between them, and find the sugar water feeder even when it’s moved around.

There’s no denying that this is an impressive skill set.

Can Hummingbirds See Humans?

Yes, hummingbirds can definitely see humans. Hummingbirds have amazing brains that are capable of recognizing humans. 

As for the reason why they tend to hover in front of you, it’s usually not because they see you as a friend to interact with.

Instead, it’s likely down to the situation with your feeder. 

If your feeder is empty or the contents of the feeder have gone past its use-by date, a hummingbird will be the first to let you know. 

So hovering in front of you could be a sign that your feeder is empty. And these adorable creatures might just be drawing your attention to this. 

These creatures are also believed to bring good fortune to us when they visit us. In difficult times, many believe that seeing a hummingbird means your troubles are over.

They also are believed to be a symbol that reminds us to follow our dreams without fear. 


Hummingbirds can see colors pretty well. According to research, they see colors better than we do. 

These birds have a good color sense. According to research, they can identify colors better than humans.

But, they do not have a clear vision at night. This does not however stop them from flying at night.

These birds are migratory birds and they can be seen flying at night for this purpose. 

Although they are attracted to a lot of bright colors, red seems to be their favorite. But, they are not attracted to the color white.

White signifies danger and so, these birds would avoid it as much as they can.

Photo of author

About the author

Kloee Ngozi

Kloee is a backyard farmer and avid gardener who enjoys tending to her garden and plants. She is so engrossed with her plants that she has pet names for all of them. She likes to relax with a bottle of wine and read a book.


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