Just like a certain famous football player is never not working, hummingbirds are never not eating!
What do I mean by that? Obviously, they do other things besides sip nectar, right? Definitely! But eating is so central to a hummingbird’s activities that you almost can’t separate the two.
Hummingbirds don’t just seek out thousands of fresh flowers every day, they also hunt hundreds of insects. Plus, they spend some seriously important time digesting all their food sources so they can use them.
Can hummingbirds drink their way through your entire hummingbird feeder in a day? Just how often do they eat, anyway? Do hummingbirds get the midnight munchies?
We’re going to unravel all the mysteries of the hummingbird appetite, so read on!
How Often Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hummingbirds need to eat every 10 to 15 minutes. They consume about half their body weight each day in nectar and insects.
To do this, the average hummingbird will visit as many as 2000 flowers a day, and spend much of the time in between catching hundreds and hundreds of bugs.
How Long Can Hummingbirds Go Without Eating?
During the day, hummingbirds are either eating, digesting, or hunting insects, an activity they do a lot more often than many people realize.
However, there are special exceptions to this constant buffet; when a hummingbird makes its migration across the Gulf of Mexico, that’s a direct flight without dinner service!
It takes hummingbirds about 20 hours, non-stop, to fly across the Gulf of Mexico, and they can only achieve that amazing feat by fueling up extensively first, putting on three times their body weight.
Another exception to the “never not eating” rule is a hummingbird’s special version of sleep, which we’ll cover a little later.
How Often Do Hummingbirds Visit a Feeder?
On average, a hummingbird will visit a feeder every 30 minutes or so. The rest of the time, they’re eating insects, or putting all that food to use.
Hummingbirds actually need to spend a significant portion of the day resting and digesting. Flying around constantly would just make their need for food even more intense!
A hummingbird will perch and let its belly work on all that sugar about 75-80% of the time. They will feed 10-15% of the time.
They’re also perfectly happy to let beneficial insects come to them, and catch bugs while they sit on a comfy perch. Ah, that’s life!
What Time of Day Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hummingbirds eat throughout the day, although they eat the bulk of their food first thing in the morning. It helps them to make up for that long time overnight without eating.
They’re also trying to take advantage of reliable nectar sources while the getting is good!
In some areas where the blooming of flowers is very time-sensitive, the hummingbirds know exactly what time of day to wait for each particular blossom to open. And they don’t even wear watches!
Hummingbirds will have another smaller burst of feeding activity near dusk, to enjoy that last opportunity to eat before nighttime.
How Much Do Hummingbirds Eat Each Day?
A hummingbird will drink about two fluid ounces of a standard sugar water mix from a feeder. That’s a big deal for a hummingbird, but it’s not going to make a big dent in your hummingbird feeder.
A human trying to keep up with a hummingbird would eat 300 hamburgers a day!
We humans also can’t use sugars nearly as efficiently as hummingbirds, who use 100% of the sugars they drink to fulfill their unique metabolic rate.
Hummingbirds can make use of that sugar extremely quickly, just 30-45 minutes after eating. Human athletes, by comparison, can only use about 30% of the sugars they consume.
Lesson learned: hummingbirds are just more awesome than people. Hey, I don’t make the rules.
Do Hummingbirds Need To Eat at Night?
If hummingbirds have to eat every couple of minutes, how do they ever get their beauty sleep?
With such extreme energy needs, ordinary sleep isn’t enough to help hummingbirds get through the night without the danger of starvation.
Hummingbirds go into a state known as torpor every night to conserve their energy so that they can go without food.
Torpor is kind of like a miniature hibernation. By slowing their bodily processes way, way down, hummingbirds can save tons of energy. You can learn all about it from our guide about hummingbird sleep.
It can take hummingbirds one to two hours to fully wake up in the morning. If you see a hummingbird hanging upside down, it’s probably still in torpor!
Hummingbirds may be tiny, but they have giant appetites!
These mini wonders can out-eat any athlete, lumberjack, or moody teenager.
Hummingbirds will hit your feeders the hardest in the early morning, and an individual hummer will likely visit your feeder every 30 minutes or so.
The rest of the time, look for them hunting insects on the wing and perching with contentedly full bellies while they make all that sugar into energy.