Nutritional Strategy: Nectarivory in Birds 10 Facts You Should Know

Key Points

  • Carbohydrate-rich nectar is a staple of the nectarivore diet.
  • Nectar contains abundant amounts of energy.
  • High vitamin A levels have been reported in many formulated nectars.
  • Several foods are nutritionally similar to nectar.
  • Insects serve as an important source of protein.
  • Pollen is an alternative nutrient source for some nectarivores.
  • Most nectarivores have relatively long, narrow bills and tongues.
  • Nectarivores have relatively short, simple gastrointestinal tracts designed to digest nectar quickly and efficiently.
  • Nectarivores must conserve salts while consuming large volumes of a dilute, electrolyte-deficient diet.
  • Some nectarivores possess exceptionally high metabolic rates.

Although nectar is considered a nutritional reward for pollination, it is probably the most nutrient-dilute food consumed by birds. Nectar meets less than 15% of essential amino acid requirements and is particularly low in methionine. In fact nutrients other than sugars, such as protein, vitamins, trace minerals, and lipids are present in nectar at levels considered inadequate for growth, reproduction, or even maintenance activity . . .

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Further reading

Kalmar ID, van Loon M, Bürkle M, et al. Effect of dilution degree of commercial nectar and provision of fruit on food, energy and nutrient intake in two rainbow lorikeet subspecies. Zoo Biology 28(2): 98-106, 2009.

McWhorter TJ, Bakken BH, Karasov WH, del Rio CM. Hummingbirds rely on both paracellular and carrier-mediated intestinal glucose absorption to fuel high metabolism. Biol Lett 2(1):131-134, 2006.

Wolf P, Häbich AC, Bürkle M, Kamphues J. Basic data on food intake, nutrient digestibility and energy requirements of lorikeets. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl) 91(5-6):282-288, 2007.

To cite this page:

Pollock C. Nutritional strategy: Nectarivory in Birds – 10 Facts You Should Know. August 22, 2013. LafeberVet Web site. Available at