hummingbird tongue fungal infection

In case you need further motivation to keep your hummingbird feeders clean, here is a photo of a male Anna’s Hummingbird with a swollen tongue. The condition is caused by a fungal infection, usually acquired at hummingbird feeders. The condition is often, if not always, fatal.


If you feed hummingbirds, please use a mixture of one part WHITE sugar to four parts water, and clean the feeder at least once a week in cool weather, more often when temperatures are warmer. Using any other ingredients, or allowing the nectar to spoil, can be deadly.

This post has received a lot of comments over the years, mostly questions about veterinary care of individual birds and other topics that I am not qualified to answer. If you are a veterinarian or wildlife rehabber, and have insight or advice regarding this condition, please leave a comment. If you are seeking advice about this condition, please contact a vet or a wildlife rehabilitation center.

4 thoughts on “hummingbird tongue fungal infection

  1. Fungal infections can be treated by a wildlife veterinarian or rehabilitator with anti-fungal medications and any birds suffering from this should be caught and to a wildlife rehabilitator. They are unlikely to recover from this without medication and getting them help will also prevent further spread of infection from the individual to others! Most small animal vets will not be prepared to care for hummingbirds by the way, but may be able to direct you to a rehabilitator in your area. Whether the bird will respond to treatment or not will depend on a lot of things, but without intervention there is little hope for recovery once the tongue is sticking out. It is not wise to add anything to the feeder. Keeping feeders clean is the best thing you can do for prevention. (I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and I specialize in hummingbirds and songbirds.)

  2. This photo looks like it could simply be of a feeding hummer that was snapped in-between sips while its tongue happened to be extended. How do we identify and differentiate between healthy and diseased birds? Is it that the tongue is visible sticking out to some degree all of the time instead of flicking momentarily? Thanks

    • The tongue is extended all the time, since it swells with the infection and can’t be retracted. The plumage is fluffed up and there is discharge coming from the eye. There is nothing healthy-looking about this bird.

  3. Sounds like exactly what happened to one of ours. He would sit still with his beak up in the air and tongue sticking out. Several times for a brief period, he would retract the tongue, but it was mostly out. The day he died, he was sitting on the rail on the feeder, and would shake and appear as if he was going to wobble more and more and almost fall off, then regroup and almost sit still for a bit, then begin to shiver, and finally wobble again, then catch himself again. This went on for about an hour before he left the feeder and we lost track of him, just to find him about 10 feet from the feeder, on the ground dead.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s