Tiny Birds Big Eaters


Hummingbirds may be tiny, but they are big eaters. No animal on earth has a faster metabolism. These birds burn food so fast they often eat 1.5 to 3 times their body weight in food per day.

Doubling Their Weight

Hummingbirds must visit hundreds of flowers each day to gather the amount of nectar they need. Your gardens and feeders help hungry hummers double their body weight to fuel migration.

Eating Dawn to Dusk

Before migrating, hummingbirds go on a feeding frenzy. They feed often and intensely for days, a state called hyperphagia. Ornithologists calculated that hyperphagia generates enough fuel to fly nearly 600 miles at 35 miles per hour. Hummers start feeding as early as forty-five minutes before sunrise and keep eating until dusk.

“Six hummingbirds remain feeding during the warmer hours, starting mid-morning and late into the day. Observed on feeders and Foxglove, Summersweet, Russian Sage and Bee Balm,” noted Keith DeClercq from Erieville, New York on September 12, 2016.

Protein Diet

In addition to nectar, hummers need protein. They eat most any soft-bodied bugs they can swallow whole: fruit flies, gnats, aphids, and tiny spiders, plus their eggs and larvae. If you have an insecticide-free lawn and garden, you’ll be helping hummers find bugs for protein.

“The two hummers in my yard are almost exclusively bugging now. They rarely come to feeders except early morning and late afternoon,” reported Meret Wilson in Ormond Beach, Florida on March 14, 2016.

Finding Nectar

Throughout fall migration, people along the migration trail report about natural food sources they see hummingbirds visiting.

“I spotted 2 immature ruby-throated hummers. They were chasing each other and feeding on pineapple sage, Mexican sunflower, Shrimp Plant, Cuphea ‘David Verity’ and ‘Vermillionaire’ and Scarlet Rooster Sage,” wrote Bud Hensley from Middleton, Ohio on October 4, 2015.