Can Hummingbirds Smell? (Answered)

by Kloee Ngozi
Updated on

Hummingbirds don’t have a sense of smell. Instead, they hunt for food by using their keen vision.

Hummingbirds are attracted by color, not scent, which attracts insect pollinators. Therefore, color is critical in attracting hummingbirds.

Hummers are drawn to a variety of colors, but red is their favorite because it appears to indicate a source of food for these tiny birds.

Hummingbirds like brightly colored flowers, including those that are yellow, orange, pink, and purple.

Flowers with high sugar content, such as red or orange, are the most popular since they are eye-catching.

Do Hummingbirds Have Noses? How Do They Smell?

Birds do, in fact, have nostrils, which are referred to as nares.

However, they don’t use their nares, which transport air into their respiratory system just like mammals do.

The nostrils of a hummingbird are positioned near the base of the beak, as the name suggests.

This is the point at which air enters the lungs, bringing with it a wealth of oxygen for the body.

Hummingbirds are olfactory-impaired creatures. Instead, they see color in the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum.

Ultraviolet. Because of this, the colors we normally see as red, orange, yellow, and pink are actually more intense than they appear.

However, these birds will eat on any flower containing an adequate amount of the sugar sucrose they need.    

Related: Here is an article I wrote on can hummingbirds open their beaks 

Do Hummingbirds Find Feeders By Sight Or Smell?

A hummingbird uses both vision and taste when searching for food.

An attractive color such as red or orange will draw a hummingbird’s attention.

Flowers with high sugar content, such as red or orange, are the most popular since they are eye-catching.

Because these birds have such a poor sense of smell, they can’t find feeders by smelling them.

They can, however, see and hear extremely well. These two elements are critical in helping them track down potential prey.

As a result, it could be weeks before they find a replacement feeder.

If there are many feeders around, they’ll definitely be able to tell a feeder apart from a food source.

Feeders can be found when there are flowers around.

Due to their ongoing search for food, they may come across a feeding station by chance if one is located in an area they frequently travel to.

The use of sound can also have an impact. In order to be healthy, hummingbirds must consume large amounts of freshwater regularly.

Another way for them to locate feeders is to see whether there is water nearby, such as in a birdbath.

Can Hummingbirds Smell Feeders?

Hummingbirds cannot smell feeders. Instead, they hunt for food based on what they can see.

To find food, birds use their excellent senses of sight and sound, as they have no sense of smell.

As a result, if they see a feeder with a familiar food supply, they are more likely to stop and have a snack.

They have amazing eyesight, which allows them to recognize flowers and insects that most people would miss, as well as excellent memory, which allows them to use visual landmarks to recall the locations of prior meals.

Can Hummingbirds Smell Sugar Water?

Hummingbirds cannot smell sugar water. This is mostly detected through the sense of taste.

Even though it’s common knowledge that hummingbirds prefer nectar with a higher concentration, they have the ability to identify whether a flower or feeder has the good stuff or merely water (sucrose, often known as sugar).

When hummingbirds visit flowering plants naturally, they consume sucrose concentrations from 7 percent to 60 percent.

Still, artificial feeders should contain no more than 24 percent sucrose (¼ cup white granulated sugar thoroughly mixed into 1 cup of water).

Hummingbirds can detect a 1% variation in sugar content at this concentration. 

Also check out this article I wrote on are hummingbirds territorial

Can Hummingbirds Smell Nectar?

Hummingbirds cannot smell nectar but use their vision and taste as well as their sense of smell to find food.

Hummingbirds are drawn to bright colors, in particular red.

Flowers with high sugar content, such as red or orange, are the most popular since they are eye-catching.

Even when flying at high speeds, hummingbirds are attracted to these colors.

Long, tubular blooms with a downward slant are the simplest for most species’ nectar-seeking birds to approach since they dangle or point downward.

Flowers and insects that most people miss are no match for a hummingbird’s keen vision and photographic memory, allowing it to recall past meals’ locations using landmarks such as flowers and insects.

For this reason, hummingbirds prefer to live solitary and have been known to guard their preferred feeding grounds.

In addition, to better suck the nectar into their mouths, they prefer flowers with a sugar concentration of around 26% (which is double the sugar present in a standard soft drink).

A hummingbird’s distinctive beak shape aids it in pecking about in bell-shaped blooms.

It, on the other hand, licks the nectar of its tongue, much like a dog would with water in a bowl.

A hummingbird’s speed more than makes up for the limited amount of nectar it gets with each lick. It has a licking speed of up to 13 licks per second.

What Scent Attracts Hummingbirds?

It’s not the scent but the colors that attract them.

They favor tubular ones and have a vibrant hue to them as opposed to more traditional shapes.

Due to their poor sense of smell, hummingbirds must discover food by using their vision.

It’s easy for these birds to find nectar-rich blooms because they’re brightly colored like red or purple.

Examples of their favored plants are begonias, canna, columbine, daylilies, and morning glories.

Unfortunately, hummingbirds’ poor sense of smell means that many hummingbird flowers are odorless.

Hummingbirds are attracted by the shape of the flower as well. A hummingbird’s large beak helps them capture pollen as they drink nectar.

Hence flowers with tubular shapes are more attractive to hummingbirds because of their form. 

Nodding flowers also attract hummingbirds because they make it easier for a hovering hummingbird to consume nectar.

In addition, hummingbirds are drawn to gardens with blossoming flowers because they need a lot of nectar to maintain the energy required by their tiny wings, which can beat up to 75 times per second every time they pay a visit. 

Can Hummingbirds Smell Humans 

Hummingbirds can’t smell humans since they have a poor sense of smell or none at all. However, they have a good memory.

Amazingly, hummingbirds can remember and maintain patterns in their environment.

They’re drawn to everything new or strange, so anything that catches their eye prompts them to investigate.

Hummingbirds are curious creatures at their core.

They are constantly looking to kill predators and increase their area of nectar-producing blooming plants and hummingbird feeders by exploring their immediate surroundings.

Hummingbirds are among the most intelligent birds. Its hippocampus is five times the size of a songbird’s and is located deep within the temporal lobe of the brain of this little bird.

This crucial brain region establishes memory and learning. Only a small number of bird species have a brain size to body mass ratio this extreme.

Hummingbirds keep a close eye on the available food sources and are hypervigilant observers.

Their surroundings are constantly scrutinized and gathered information, and they are quick to realize when their feeders need to be refilled.

Hummingbirds that are frequently fed develop accustomed to their presence and eagerly await the arrival of freshly prepared nectar from their feeders.

Hummingbird fans will be delighted to discover friendly, hungry strangers among the flock.

These bird species have been shown to be able to identify the humans who routinely provide food for them.

They can tell the difference between a threatening predator and someone who gives them food on a regular basis.

In fact, these birds can tell one individual from another based on what they see and hear.

Since the hummingbirds are accustomed to your voice and motions due to repetition, they have picked up on your routine.

So, instead of being on high alert, they’ll feel at ease in your company.


Hummingbirds lack a sense of smell but have excellent vision, which they rely on to survive.

They are, by nature, inquisitive birds.

They are drawn to vibrant colors such as red and orange. They are always curious about their environment, and their primary objective each day is to find food.

Hummingbirds are intrigued by a variety of things, from local intruders to the discovery of a suitable partner within their territory.

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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