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How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 24 2008 at 8:24 PM
Paul  (Login Hummer101)
Hummingbirder 2008

Howdy,

Curious how much hummers drink every day? I've got three large feeders (2-32 oz and 1-48 oz Perky Pets) that I fill every day (during the summer I add a fourth feeder as needed). That's about 112 oz per day of nectar out of 18 feeding perches.

They are almost all Anna's, although I have a few migratory Rufous swing through spring and fall as they migrate. I live in the SF East Bay next to park lands at a top of a hill, so get a lot of transient birds passing by that are attracted to my prominent feeders. I also have a lot of Lantana and a few other plants that the birds like, so plenty to get their interest.

Feeders are visited continuously throughout the day. I've never counted how many hummers (too many to keep count), but I'd guess at least 40. But I'm not sure that's accurate as it sure seems a lot of nectar for each hummer to drink every day.

The feeders are located at tree top height, so a lot of hummers perch on the top branches only a few feet away all day long (except on the very hottest days).

Anyone have a good idea how many are likely to visit consume that much nectar?

 
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AuthorReply

BobKy
(Premier Login bob2aa)
Forum Owner

Hi Paul

November 25 2008, 12:14 AM 

[linked image] [linked image]

See this article on Hummingbird eating habits:

http://www.hummingbirds.net/hainsworth.html



-
Cheers,Bob

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6a
Lexington,Ky.
It's Autumn!
[linked image]

 
 
Paul
(Login Hummer101)
Hummingbirder 2008

Excellent article. Thanks

November 25 2008, 12:59 AM 

Bob,

Great link.

I always wondered if I could safely increase the 1:4 ratio to lessen the volume of nectar I need to put out every day - it can be a hassle making sure the hummers are fed every day since I don't like putting out nectar more than a day at a time (the feeders are in full sun with southwest exposure - in summers, the feeders are in direct sunlight about 14 hours a day and fermentation can start very quickly.

It will also allow the hummers can relax a bit more btw feedings and allow all who want to feed a better chance.

Cheers



 
 
Farmer Steve
(Login avorancher)
Hummingbird Member 2006

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 25 2008, 1:57 AM 

Paul, I've tried using 1:3 mixture as opposed to 1:4 mixture but the usage stayed about the same for me. 1:3 gets pricey if you use a lot of nectar.. especially if you feed year round.

I fill daily, but I hang just enough feeders to make sure each is refilled once every 2 days. Right now I have 6 feeders up because they empty 3 a day. Sometimes they have a "favorite" spot and empty that one every day, so I just switch them around to make sure none last long enough to start getting algae and bacteria forming.

**********
Farmer Steve
Deluz, CA (hand-grown CA avocados) usda zone 10a
Fallbrook.gif

 
 
Kristin
(Login Kristinbirds)
Hummingbird lover 2007

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 25 2008, 11:13 PM 

According to Sheri Williamson, author of "Hummingbirds of North America," she writes that 8 ounces of sugar water solution (4:1, I think she is talking about) will meet the energy needs of 40-60 birds for one day. That means that if you are using 112 ounces of 4:1 sugar water solution, daily, you may well be feeding somewhere between 560-840 birds a day--if I have my math right! Wow!! Of course, I would think their energy needs could fluctuate quite a bit depending on the outside temperatures, and if they are trying to fatten up for a migration. Still, I suppose that's a good ballpark estimate.

You might even have more birds than that. They could be meeting some of their needs by feeding at someone else's house, or garden, or snacking on wildflowers growing nearby. That's really mind boggling that you could have so many.

 
 
Farmer Steve
(Login avorancher)
Hummingbird Member 2006

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 26 2008, 12:14 PM 

Math is right Kristen, but I have a hard time accepting those numbers. Sounds like Paul and myself have similar consumption. That would mean we would have thousands of hummingbirds in the summer when I'm using 2 gallons a day. And like you mention, there are plenty of other sources of nectar here in CA which would make the numbers even higher.

Anna's are rather large hummingbirds... perhaps they are more like SUVs of the hummingbird world and get less mpg.

(thinking out loud... if an SUV gets 10 mph vs. my Prius which gets 50 mph, then that is only 1/5th as many, so the real number is probably somewhere in the middle as usual) [linked image]

**********
Farmer Steve
Deluz, CA (hand-grown CA avocados) usda zone 10a
Fallbrook.gif

 
 
Kristin
(Login Kristinbirds)
Hummingbird lover 2007

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 26 2008, 3:14 PM 

Those are good points you raise, Steve. I don't know what sort of hummingbird Sheri was talking about when she gave those figures. Probably Ruby-throats, and those are very small hummingbirds. I went and looked up the comparative weights of the two species. Anna's weigh maybe 4.25g on average, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds weigh about 3.59g on average (I just averaged the weights of both sexes).

That means Anna's weigh about 118% more than Ruby-throats, or Ruby-throats are about 84% as heavy, depending on how you want to look at it. However, unlike cars, I'll bet Anna's are actually more efficient with their metabolism per unit of body weight than the smaller Ruby-throats, which have so much surface area compared to their mass, and so lose more body heat. Anna's probably don't drink 118% more nectar than Ruby-throats even though they average that much larger.

Still, with the amounts of nectar you guys are using, I think it's safe to say you must have hundreds of individual hummingbirds--maybe about 80% or so fewer than the number I posted earlier, but still a lot. When I did this calculation for myself awhile back, I figured I only had dozens, which is still a lot compared with what I see at any given time. Is there any way you could be losing some to evaporation, or insects, or other birds? I know I keep asking myself that question. I do have a wee bit of leakage, but it's not very much. I certainly don't see dozens of birds all at one time, but that doesn't mean there aren't that many.

That really does boggle my mind that I could have dozens and you could have hundreds of birds, but how else can we explain the losses of sugar water on a daily basis? Again, WOW! I can't get over it. I keep thinking I must be doing my math wrong, or making some wrong assumption. [linked image]

 
 
Connie Sale
(Login ConnieSale)
Hummingbirder 2008

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 26 2008, 7:39 PM 

Hi All,

This is an interesting topic to me. Don't know if this helps in any way, but as a hummingbird rehabilitator, I have to continuously monitor the daily consumption of the hummers I have in rehab, in order to calculate the amount of meds I have to add to their food, monitor their progress, etc.

Here's what I've noted for rubythroated hummingbirds (which is what I predominantly rehab):

An adult sick, unflighted, but eating hummingbird consumes 4-6 ml (or less) in a 12-hour "day" (e.g. birds with disease, septicemia, fungal infections etc.)

An "otherwise healthy, but unflighted" adult hummingbird consumes 7-10 ml per day (e.g. birds with wing or trauma injuries)

An "adult, flighted" recovered hummingbird consumes 10-15+ ml per day.

I've had very active flighted adults eat as much as 20-22 ml per day just prior to release back into the wild.

Now bear in mind, this is in a captive environment, so these amounts may not correlate at all to what they consume in the wild or at feeders.

Connie Sale


Connie & Wilton Sale
218 Scarlett Drive
Chesapeake, VA 23322
757-482-4796
State and Federal Permits
WildLife Response, Inc.
NWRA, IWRC
Hummingbirds and Small Passerines
humnchirp@verizon.net
http://www.wildliferesponse.org/

 
 
Farmer Steve
(Login avorancher)
Hummingbird Member 2006

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 26 2008, 8:11 PM 

Thanks for the additional input Connie. So if we use 21 ml a day for active rubythroats, that would be around 180 birds per gallon of nectar or about .71 oz. per rubythroat.

I'm starting to believe these numbers.

**********
Farmer Steve
Deluz, CA (hand-grown CA avocados) usda zone 10a
Fallbrook.gif

 
 
Kristin
(Login Kristinbirds)
Hummingbird lover 2007

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 26 2008, 9:28 PM 

That's very interesting, Connie, and very useful in making sense of all of this. Your figures on amount of sugar water drunk per bird, per day come out higher than Sheri's, resulting in more believable numbers--ie, lower numbers of birds present. Of course, that assumes the birds are getting all or most of their needs from our feeders and not drinking very much from other nectar sources. Then again, the wild birds might consume even more than your captive birds from all that flying around in the great big world. I wonder if Sheri's numbers came from studies of wild birds that were not wholly dependent on feeders, so were drinking less from these artificial sources and more from flowers plus bugs. Her figures come out to roughly only 4-6mL per bird per day. I guess if Sheri sees this, she can chime in!

I agree those hundreds and hundreds of bird totals I was coming up with were hard to swallow. If you assume 22mL drunk per day for an active, free living hummingbird, then it works out that 150 birds would consume 112 ounces (=3311mL) per day. That's pretty much what Steve was coming up with. Does that seem believable for you, Steve? Goodness, your place must be swarming with them! Still, it does seem more believable. Of course, if they're getting half of their food elsewhere, maybe there really are several hundred a day. It's hard to know for sure. There are so many variables.

At my peak of the season, I may go through (now don't laugh, Steve!) about 150mL of 4:1 sugar water per day. If I use your 22mL/day figure, Connie, that would come out to maybe 6 or 7 different individuals visiting during the course of a day, here in my western PA garden. It could be more if they're also feeding at flowers. These figures seem so much more sensible and believable. If I use Sheri's figures, I might be getting more like 30 birds a day. The most I have ever seen at one time is 4, so 6 or 7 isn't much of a stretch at all, but 30? A dozen I could believe, but 30 just doesn't seem likely.

Gotta go bake pies!


    
This message has been edited by Kristinbirds on Nov 26, 2008 9:33 PM


 
 
Farmer Steve
(Login avorancher)
Hummingbird Member 2006

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 27 2008, 1:42 AM 

[QUOTE]then it works out that 150 birds would consume 112 ounces (=3311mL) per day. That's pretty much what Steve was coming up with. Does that seem believable for you, Steve? [/QUOTE]

I agree that there are way too many variables to get an accurate estimate. Unless each was banded, there would be no way to determine if the same bird was visiting 100 times or 10 birds visiting 10 times to make 100 visits. I see hummingbirds in the trees far from the feeders and flowers so they also consume quite a few insects, which I can confirm by looking at the speckles under the feeders.

I'm currently averaging about 100 ounces a day, and can see half a dozen hummers or so at the feeder at any given time and at certain times perhaps 25 or 30. Isn't there a rule of thumb to multiply the number you see by X to get an estimate?

In an unscientific guess, I would say 150 right now would be more believable to me than 500+.

**********
Farmer Steve
Deluz, CA (hand-grown CA avocados) usda zone 10a
Fallbrook.gif

 
 
Annie
(Login AnnieNemus)
Hummingbird Member 2006

My thoughts

November 27 2008, 6:17 AM 

I think that Connie's numbers may actually be low.  Consider that she's looking at hummers, even the "very active" ones, which are in a rather protected environment.  Those in the wild are subjected to more stress in the way of wind (which causes an increase in energy because it pulls body heat through convection and requires more muscle use to right themselves), external heat  (which increases water needs considerably, so unless it's cool weather I wouldn't recommend using a more concentrated nectar solution), and more erratic flight paths to avoid potential predators.

There's really no good way of knowing the caloric and water needs of a hummer in the wild.  No scientist can rig up a tiny enough bunch of sensors to do this, and if they did, it would effect the results anyway.  No one can follow a hummer well enough to estimate these needs.

To answer the question of how much nectar does a hummer drink?  As much as each one needs--if they're lucky.  Looks like they're lucky to have found your place. 



[linked image]
Annie

 
 
Connie Sale
(Login ConnieSale)
Hummingbirder 2008

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 27 2008, 1:06 PM 

I'm inclined to agree with you, Annie. Based on your rationale, a rubythroated hummer in the wild probably consumes even more than 22 ml per day to meet their energy requirements. And, Kristin and Steve, I'm also thinking that Anna's, probably do drink more than rubythroats due to their size.

All I know is that those of you who go through such huge quantities of nectar to support the numbers of hummers you have are truly blessed!! I'm jealous!

Connie

Connie & Wilton Sale
218 Scarlett Drive
Chesapeake, VA 23322
757-482-4796
State and Federal Permits
WildLife Response, Inc.
NWRA, IWRC
Hummingbirds and Small Passerines
humnchirp@verizon.net
http://www.wildliferesponse.org/

 
 
Kevin Morgan
(Login CowboyinBRLA)
Hummingbirder 2008

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

November 28 2008, 3:29 AM 

I'm sure you may have considered this, but...

Bear in mind that some types of feeders are "drippier" than others, and a fair amount of solution can be lost if a feeder swings in the wind. Full sun can also cause some feeders to "drip" more as the liquid and air inside the feeder expand in the heat.

In full sun, too, there may be some loss due to evaporation.

If there are other birds visiting the feeders besides hummingbirds (and many do, including woodpeckers, orioles, warblers, and more), then consumption figures are going to be very skewed.

Kevin Morgan
Baton Rouge, LA

 
 
Amy
(no login)

humingbird fluid consumption

August 4 2013, 9:46 AM 

It has been so interesting to read all of the comments on this forum. We live on the Tennessee River...in the River Gorge..and our house is built up so my hummer feeders are high and we have great visibility for a quarter mile in both directions. I start the season with 1 hummer feeder (3-4 cup), and by August I have hung 5 feeders on my deck and I am filling all of them once a day and 2 of them twice a day. I am using up to 1 1/2 gallons of hummer fluid (1:4 ratio) a day by the end of the summer. I guessed we had 40 to 50 hummers swarming at any one time but today became curious about how much one hummer actually consumes in a day. The sites I have visited have not been very helpful. This site is far the best. The guestimate of how many hummers I have is mind boggling. Very interesting. I boil my sugar water and then refrigerate it to prevent as much spoilage as possible. In the heat of the day the cooled sugar water makes them totally swarm. Any comments on whether this would be detrimental to the hummers? They seem to like it but I am sure it cools their systems down as well. Any comments???

 
 

Nathan Motz
(Login nmotz06)
Hummingbird lover 2013

cooled sugar water

August 4 2013, 4:32 PM 

I occasionally store sugar water in the refrigerator and use it and have seen no ill effects. I'm not sure if birds respond to a "cool drink" on a hot day the way that we humans do or not, but I don't think cooling the temperature down will hurt the birds at all. If anything it will keep it fresher because heat causes fermentation. Just my thoughts, I'm not a scientist.

-Nathan

Nathan Motz
Plumas Lake, CA

 
 
Patti S
(Login Patti-S)
Hummingbirder 2010

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

August 4 2013, 8:58 PM 

I occasionally refrigerate nectar. On the hot days of summer it just does not stay cool very long. I do not think that it is harmful at all to the hummingbirds. Later in the fall when it is quite cool here, I try to serve it a little warmer. Again, the temperature cools rapidly so I doubt that it is much benefit to the birds.

Patti
Pewaukee, WI
Zone 5A

Find more about Weather in Pewaukee, WI
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Joe Misiaszek
(Login flhummer)
Hummingbirder 2012

Consumption of 4:1 solution

August 5 2013, 6:01 AM 

My experience over the years pretty much agree with Connie's, data.
Based on feeding the same hummer (RTHU) every winter for 6 years in FL.
He used one feeder exclusively (50 ml) and would empty it twice a week.
That works out to about 1/2 oz / 14-15 ml a day. Had some experience with Anna's in S. TX and they probably consumed 30% more on a daily basis.
Just prior to my males leaving in the spring he would empty the feeder every 2 days for about two weeks.
That would indicate higher consumption for most birds during migration periods, as is happening here and most places I would surmise.

My rule of thumb for Rubies and Black-chinned (very similar) is 2 birds for every oz of solution.
For Anna's I would guess a ball park number would be 1 1/2 per oz.

For the past week I have been using a little over a qt a day so probably about 60+ Ruby's using the feeders. Kristin I'll bet you have 10-12 using your feeders.

Joe Misiaszek
Sturbridge, MA

 
 

Sherrie
(Login grandma.sherrie)
Hummingbirder 2012

Re: How much nectar does a Hummer drink a day?

August 7 2013, 6:00 PM 

I'm in the northern Los Angeles area and my hummers consume about 2 gallons a day. I have 7-30oz, 2-16oz and a 32oz oriole feeder. I can count 60-70 birds at any one time and many more in the holding pattern waiting their turn. Standing amongst the feeders is like standing in a bee hive with giant bees flying around your head. I guesstimate 'hundreds' and that's close enough for me. These other numbers are staggering.

I just bought a second set of bottles and I make about two gallons or more each day and keep the bottles filled in my refrigerator for easy refills. I rinse out the base with each refill and give it a good cleaning every few days. Bottles are always washed before I refill them. Having these extra, ready to hang bottles makes keeping up with the feeders during the day a lot easier.

I make a 1:4 mixture and use about 50 pounds of sugar every two weeks.

I had one pair or Orioles last summer and this year I have at least three pairs and their young. They love their feeder (I'm going to add another next year) and they also can feed from the shallower hummingbird feeders. The hummers love the Oriole feeder as well.

As the flowers that naturally favor the bees die off and my roses become their primary source I do have a bee problem with the Oriole feeder but when the weather changes and the Orioles migrate south I'll take it down as I did last year.

Sherrie

Sherrie
Southern California

 
 
 
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