Fueling Up

September 7, 2018 by Elizabeth Howard

Hummingbirds double their weight as they prepare to fly hundreds of miles. What local nectar sources are they finding?

Fueling up on zinnias in Osseo, MN on August 29, 2018.

Finding Fuel

Darting among flowers, hovering at feeders, and flying long distances, hummers are using a lot of energy. The tiny birds are big eaters. No animal on earth has a faster metabolism. They are burning energy so fast that they need to eat 1.5 to 3 times their weight in food each day.

Your backyard hummers will leave while nectar-rich flowers are still in bloom and feeders are full. Fewer hours of daylight trigger the hormonal changes that cause their urge to fuel up and fly south. 

One hummer can visit as many as two hundred flowers in fifteen minutes. What natural nectar sources are available now — and which ones are fading?