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Hummingbirds preference for certain flower colors.

Question: Do ruby-throated hummingbirds prefer some colors more than others when visiting flowers?

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The most common field observation tells us that hummingbirds do prefer some colors over others. Gardeners often talk about how they can plant their gardens in order to attract hummingbirds, and many of them recommend planting red or purple flowers (e.g. http://www.hummingbirds.net/attract.html). The shape of the flower is often a long tube.

Often we notice that the colors they prefer are red, purple, blue, pink (Grant 1966, Miller and Miller 1971). This is not always true, however, there is one study that shows otherwise: that hummingbirds actually preferred green over red (Welker 1984).


There are a few reasons why they might prefer certain colors. The general idea though, is that the color of the flower is an indicator to the hummingbird that it has lots of nectar for it and the hummingbird uses its preferred color as a signal to feed there.

One should try to imagine what it must be like to be a hummingbird. Hummingbirds have a very high metabolism. This means they need to eat constantly to keep their little bodies running.

Imagine that you are always in desperate need of food. If you don't eat ...

Solution Summary

We explore the ecological and evolutionary reasons that hummingbirds exhibit a preference for certain flower colors.