This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote.

Put up a nectar feeder for hummingbirds, and you may soon enjoy the thrill of the tiny gems hovering right outside your windows. But you might also entice other birds that have a sweet tooth.

Have you seen a larger bird dipping its sharp bill into your hummingbird feeder? It’s probably an oriole. You’re most likely to see Baltimore and Orchard Orioles in the East and Bullock’s or Hooded Orioles in the West. These birds, whose bright colors spice up our summer, spend their winters in the tropics, where they often drink nectar from flowers. The same goes for smaller birds, like Tennessee Warblers, often seen at flowers during migration.

But many birds shun nectar. Birds need the enzyme sucrase in their bodies, in order to digest the sucrose of nectar. And most simply don’t have enough. Scientists think birds that can readily digest sugar, like warblers, have an adaptive advantage. When they fly to the tropics for the colder months, they can tap into sources of sugar that other birds just can’t handle.
That sweet tooth, it turns out, is important to their survival.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.



Written by Bob Sundstrom

Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. 176299, 50152, and 133349 recorded by Geoffrey A Keller.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2017 Tune In to

July/August 2017    ID#   nectar-02-2017-08-23    nectar-02

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