I have many very fond memories of sitting outside with my parents and watching the hummingbirds feed. The hummingbirds would put on quite the aerial show and my mom and I would particularly enjoy watching the hummingbirds fight over which one was going to be allowed to feed at that moment. It often seemed like the show would never end because it seemed as if they were constantly feeding. I have since learned that this is a very common misconception that many people have, so I thought in today’s post I would examine exactly what determines how much a hummingbird will eat.
We were always amazed at just how often the hummingbirds would eat. We often wondered if it was possible for a hummingbird to overeat. I have since discovered that a hummingbird knows the exact amount of food it needs at any given time of day. The exact amount of nectar that a hummingbird must intake varies from day to day and is dependent on a number of factors: the birds activity level, the quality of the resources available, the time of year, and air temperature.
During the daylight hours a hummingbird will eat frequently for brief periods of time. This happens between 5 and 8 times per hour with each feeding lasting about 30 seconds in length. At night a hummingbird will eat as heavily as the food supply will allow and store up to 1/3 of its body weight to help ensure that it will survive though the night.
Apparently mom, our fears that the hummingbirds could possibly overeat were quite misguided. Isn’t it neat to know that nature has ways of helping to determine exactly how much food the hummingbird needs to eat in order to survive?