Can you feed peanut butter to hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds are amazing little creatures. Their rapidly flapping wings allow them to hover in place as they drink nectar from flowers. Their long slender beaks are perfectly adapted for accessing the nectar from blooms. Hummingbirds need a lot of energy to power their flying antics. As a result, they have voracious appetites and are always on the lookout for their next meal.

If you enjoy watching hummingbirds, you may want to put out feeders to attract them to your yard. But what is the best thing to put in those feeders? Should you use peanut butter? Here is a look at whether or not peanut butter is a good choice for feeding hummingbirds.

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to common questions about feeding peanut butter to hummingbirds:

  • Can hummingbirds eat peanut butter? Yes, hummingbirds can eat and digest small amounts of peanut butter.
  • Is peanut butter healthy for hummingbirds? No, hummingbirds should not be fed peanut butter regularly. It does not provide complete nutrition.
  • Should you put peanut butter in hummingbird feeders? No, you should not put peanut butter in hummingbird feeders. Use a nectar solution instead.
  • What happens if a hummingbird eats peanut butter? They may get some energy from it but it is not a suitable daily food source.

Can Hummingbirds Eat Peanut Butter?

Hummingbirds can eat small amounts of peanut butter and seem to enjoy the taste. Peanut butter is an energy-dense, fatty food that provides a concentrated source of calories. When encountered occasionally, the fat and protein in peanut butter may provide hummingbirds with extra energy.

However, hummingbirds do not digest fats and proteins very efficiently. Their digestive systems have evolved to process mostly sugary nectar. Hummingbirds get almost all of their nutrition from drinking nectar or eating insects, not from fatty foods like peanut butter.

Researchers tested how well Broad-tailed Hummingbirds digested and absorbed nutrients from peanut butter. They found that the birds were able to digest and absorb some protein and fat from peanut butter. But their absorption rates were much lower compared to nectar, indicating their digestive systems are not well adapted to fatty foods.

So in small amounts, peanut butter can provide hummingbirds with some extra calories and nutrients. But it does not provide complete or balanced nutrition for hummingbirds over the long term.

Is Peanut Butter Healthy for Hummingbirds?

While hummingbirds can get some calories from peanut butter, it should not be fed to them on a regular basis. Peanut butter does not provide optimal or complete nutrition for hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds need a diet high in sugars to provide the quick energy they need to power their metabolically demanding hovering flight. Peanut butter is high in fat and low in the sugars hummingbirds require.

Hummingbirds also have nutritional requirements for certain amino acids, vitamins and minerals. These requirements are best met by consuming nectar and small insects, not peanut butter.

When hummingbirds rely too heavily on foods like peanut butter as an energy source, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies over time. Supplying peanut butter may also discourage hummingbirds from foraging for the more natural nectar and insect foods they need.

While peanut butter won’t immediately poison a hummingbird, it does not provide optimal nutrition. Depending on it too much could potentially lead to malnutrition.

Negative Effects of Feeding Peanut Butter

  • Does not provide proper nutrition balance
  • May lack necessary amino acids
  • Can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Provides empty calories without nutrition
  • High fat content is difficult to digest

Given the nutritional drawbacks, peanut butter should only be fed to hummingbirds infrequently in very small amounts, if at all. It should never become a dietary staple.

Should You Put Peanut Butter in Hummingbird Feeders?

Based on the nutritional limitations of peanut butter for hummingbirds, it is not recommended to put peanut butter in hummingbird feeders. The main purpose of a hummingbird feeder is to supplement the birds’ natural diet with additional nectar energy.

Instead of peanut butter, fill your hummingbird feeders with an artificial nectar solution. The standard recipe is:

  • 1 part white granulated sugar
  • 4 parts water

Boil the water first and stir in sugar until fully dissolved. Let cool before filling feeders.

This nectar solution approximates the natural nutrition profile of flower nectar that hummingbirds are adapted to eating. The 1:4 sugar ratio provides essential carbohydrates in a formula the birds can digest.

While peanut butter is energy dense, it is not easily accessible to a hummingbird when smeared inside a feeder. It can also promoting bacterial and fungal growth inside the feeder.

Like natural nectar, the liquid sugar solution is easy for hummingbirds to lap up and digest. Nectar feeders should be cleaned and refilled frequently to limit microbial contamination.

Reasons Not to Put Peanut Butter in Feeders

  • Difficult for birds to access when thickly smeared
  • Can spoil and grow mold or bacteria
  • Hard to clean out of feeder
  • Does not match nutritional profile of nectar
  • Sugary liquid is ideal for hummingbird digestion

If you want to provide an occasional peanut butter treat, it’s best to smear it thinly on a platform feeder or another non-enclosed surface. But for regular hummingbird feeding, stick with proper sugar nectar in feeders.

What Happens if a Hummingbird Eats Peanut Butter?

If a hummingbird happens to eat some peanut butter from a feeder or other surface, here is what you can expect:

  • The peanut oil will provide some concentrated calories for quick energy.
  • The bird may temporarily feel satiated from the fat and protein content.
  • The fat and protein are only partially digested due to adaptations for nectar.
  • Some protein and fat is absorbed and can contribute to meeting daily needs.
  • The peanut butter does not have vital amino acids, vitamins, minerals, etc.

Eating a small, occasional amount of peanut butter likely won’t cause immediate harm to a hummingbird. The fat and calories could even give them an energy boost.

However, relying on peanut butter instead of natural nectar and insects can cause malnutrition problems over time. The birds may develop deficiencies in certain nutrients.

As an irregular treat, peanut butter is ok for hummingbirds and they will gladly eat it. But it should not become a dietary staple. Nectar feeders provide a much healthier daily food source.

Potential Dangers of Peanut Butter for Hummingbirds

While small amounts won’t immediately poison them, eating peanut butter does come with some potential risks for hummingbirds including:

Choking Hazard

The thick, sticky texture of peanut butter could potentially pose a choking risk if a large glob completely clogs a hummingbird’s thin throat.

Crop Problems

Eating too much fatty peanut butter could lead to the food not properly passing from the bird’s crop to stomach for digestion. Crop stasis can be dangerous.

Aspiration Risk

If peanut oil gets in a hummingbird’s lungs from the food accidentally going down the wrong way, it can cause deadly aspiration pneumonia.

Toxic Mold Exposure

Peanut butter left in hummingbird feeders can quickly grow toxic molds that make birds sick if they eat it.

While peanut butter won’t immediately kill hummingbirds, it does come with some inherent risks and hazards if fed improperly or too often.

Healthier Alternatives to Peanut Butter

Instead of feeding peanut butter to hummingbirds, consider providing healthier supplemental foods such as:

  • Sugar nectar – Mix 1:4 sugar to water for feeders
  • Fruit – Cut up grapes, oranges, bananas
  • Mealworms – High in protein
  • Fruit flies – Can be purchased dried
  • Bee pollen – Nutrient-packed supplement
  • Oatmeal – Provides carbohydrate energy

A diversity of natural, sugar-rich foods will provide hummingbirds with a balanced nutritional diet better than fatty peanut butter can.


In conclusion, while hummingbirds can eat and obtain some calories from peanut butter, it should not be a regular part of their diet or placed in feeders. The fat and protein content is difficult for them to properly digest and does not provide complete nutrition.

Small, occasional amounts of peanut butter are unlikely to immediately harm hummingbirds. However, they are better served in the long run by natural nectar, insects, and sugar solutions. Peanut butter should be considered an infrequent treat at best due to its nutritional deficiencies and potential choking hazards.

The best diet for hummingbirds consists of a liquid nectar solution supplemented with insects and other natural foods. This provides the high-energy nutrition these tiny energetic birds need to thrive.

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