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Why do they feed more during rain?

September 7 2011 at 5:34 PM
Tom  (Login countryliving)
Hummingbirder 2010

Here in middle Tennessee, we have been getting rain from tropical storm Lee for the past few days.
During this time the hummingbirds feeding at my house seem to flock to the feeders that are in the rain. Anyone know why? I have three feeders and only one is not in the rain. They leave it alone and feed from the ones in the downpour. I have had to refill twice as often during the rain.

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(Login Pennytoo)
Hummingbird Moderator 2005

Re: Why do they feed more during rain?

September 7 2011, 5:57 PM 

Good question Tom. Maybe it is their version of Singing in the rain....Drinking in the Rain. I really don't know and not sure if anyone does but if anyone here does it would probably be Nancy and/or Kevin

USDA hardiness zone 6
Heat zone 4
Sunset zone 39
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Ato Puro
(no login)

Re: Why do they feed more during rain?

September 7 2011, 9:31 PM 

Body heat, flying costs (wind/rain water/diluted nectar/etc.), less bugs around, less/no insect (bees, wasps, etc.) competition, and many more reasons. They are basically preparing themselves for a worst case scenario, when they tend to perch and stay put until the bad weather is gone. HBs usually make meals that fill only 1/10 of their crop, but in worst cases they can fill it up to 1/3.

As to why they ignore your sheltered feeder I can't tell why. I'd take a shot and say that maybe under rain it's harder to fight (energy costs too high) and then there's a higher chance of making a meal(?).

Kevin Morgan
(Login CowboyinBRLA)
Bird Lover

Re: Why do they feed more during rain?

September 8 2011, 5:36 PM 

Without seeing the specific set-up, it's hard to say, but if the sheltered feeder is near windows, or on a porch where people are often moving about, they may simply be spooked from coming close.

In my experience, the primary reason birds appear to feed more during a storm is that natural food sources are often temporarily unavailable, for a few hours to a few months (depending on the severity of the weather). Even in just a heavy downpour, flowers are likely beaten down and largely inaccessible, and feeders present a much easier-to-access source of food. That is exacerbated in a tropical storm or hurricane in which the flowers (or the vines or branches on which they grow) are ripped down and may take quite some time to replace.

Under normal circumstances hummingbirds get only a portion of their nutritional needs from feeders, and not always from the same group of feeders. I can't count how many times Nancy's handled a hummingbird at a site where the hosts use plain sugar water (as most of our hosts do), and we observed red-dye stained "discharges" from the birds. They often move around over a great distance to feed even when a steady food source is available in one spot. But weather complications can force them to focus their efforts on particular sources.

Kevin Morgan
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

(Login ronsig)
Bird Lover 2012

Re: Why do they feed more during rain?

September 8 2011, 8:42 PM 

I always notice increased activity after a rain, but not during it. I always thought that there are no insects during the rain and they make up for it somehow by drinking more nectar.



(Login Alhummer)
Bird Lover

Re: Why do they feed more during rain?

September 8 2011, 9:16 PM 

Sigrid, that would have been my response.

Alan~S Cal
[linked image]

vicki wozniak
(Login vwozniak)
Hummingbird lover 2007

Re: Why do they feed more during rain?

September 15 2011, 8:21 PM 

the hummingbirds here in NJ feed during the rain moreso than when it is not ... they were all around just before as it poured and after Irene hit ... not sure about in the middle of the night ... when it was hitting the worst .. but then i don't think they are around much in the dark

Vicki in NJ (at least for now)

Indy Steve
(Login Stevenindy)
Butterfly Lover

Re: Why do they feed more during rain?

September 16 2011, 12:14 AM 

I always notice increased activity just before and during if its not pouring down.

Martinsville, In
Heat zone 6
Sunset zone 35

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