Hummingbirds are prolific eaters. They use up a huge amount of energy and need to feed several times an hour throughout the day. They generally rest at night then first thing in the morning they’re busy at the feeders.
Let’s take a closer look at when they eat.
When do hummingbirds feed?
Depending on where you live, you may only see hummingbirds during the summer months when they migrate to breed. Always check to see when they are expected and put your feeder out 2-3 weeks before they arrive. They will need to replenish a lot of lost energy after their long fight so a good source of nectar is essential when they arrive.
You should keep your feeder out all day and night, as some people have reported the odd hummingbird feeding at night. You can expect your feeder to be busiest first thing in the morning.
- Dawn: This is possibly when your feeder will be at its busiest. After a night’s rest, the hummingbirds will be looking to top up their energy levels for the long day ahead.
- Daytime / afternoon: During the day, your feeder will still be a hive of activity. Hummingbirds have such a high metabolic rate that they need to feed between 5 and 8 times every hour. Sugar water is a vital source of energy which keeps them alive.
- Dusk: Having topped up their energy levels all day, they start to wind down and rest for the night as dusk draws in. You will see some activity but it can be a lot quieter now as the hummers find a place to spend the night.
Some areas have problems with other creatures destroying the feeders and eating the nectar overnight so they decide to take the feeder in. If you do this, you must make sure it’s out at first light so that they have somewhere to feed at dawn.
What do hummingbirds eat?
When they first arrive after their long migration, they need energy. For this they need sugar and lots of it. In fact, every day they have to consume almost half of their body weight in sugar. Your feeder will be an important source of this, but they will also get sugar from:
- Nectar from flowers, particularly ones which are tubular in shape.
- If you have fruit trees or bushes in your garden, you may see them sucking the juice out of the fruit.
- They have also been known to sip tree sap, but this is only if the sap is available to them. They won’t try to find it like some other birds do.
Although it may look as if the hummingbirds live off sugar alone, this is not true. They need a source of protein and minerals both for themselves and for their young. They get this by eating insects. Just like nectar, hummers will eat insects all day and it is estimated that a bird can consume anything from a few dozen to a few hundred in one day.
They will eat more when they are feeding their young or preparing for their long migration.
They prefer smaller insects, such as:
If you provide sugar water and have plenty of places in your garden where insects can hide, then the hummingbirds may well spend their whole summer there, and could even set up their nest in your yard. They have excellent memories too, so if they have visited you one year, you may see them for many years to come.