How much does a Hummingbird Eat?

Hummingbirds are very fascinating birds. Watching them at your backyard feeder can bring joy and amusement for hours. After watching them for a short time, you may ask yourself “how much do these little things eat?” Because they seem to eat a lot. Here in this article, we will talk a little about how much they eat, what they eat and why.

How Much Does A Hummingbird Eat?

Hummingbirds may be small, but they have a HUGE appetite (relative to their size). With their exceedingly high metabolism rate, these little creatures must eat ½ their body weight and drink nearly eight times its body weight just to survive (Daily). They will also consume hundreds of small insects per day to add proteins and minerals to their diets. Their diet will increase before migration and they will eat 3 to 10 times their body weight.


Now let us see some of the reasons why hummingbirds can and do eat an enormous of amount of food (relative to their size).


Can you say small and cute? Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in all the known bird species. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, for example, weighs approximately 3 grams (about 1 American penny) and only measures 3 – 3.5 inches (half of a dollar bill). But they have the largest brain, the largest heart and the largest breast and flight muscles relative to body size than any other bird. They are very smart birds and can remember from year to year where nectar supplies are located.


Just to maintain their weight, they must consume ½ their body weight daily and they will need to eat roughly every 10 – 15 minutes to consume enough nourishment to survive. Before migration, Hummingbirds will begin eating much more and consume 3 to 10 times their body weight and almost double their weight to store up fat for fuel to increase their flying time ability.


Hummingbirds have one of the highest metabolism rates, relative to body size of any animal. Their heart beats approximately 1,200 times per minute in flight and approximately 200 beats per minute at rest. At this point you may ask, if hummingbirds must eat every 10 – 15 minutes what do they do during the night? Well, the answer is truly fascinating. Hummingbirds possess the ability to enter a low metabolism state called “Torpor”


“Torpor” (pronounced TOR-per) (temporary or semi-hibernation). During Torpor, their body temperature drops down significantly from their daytime temperature and the heart rate slows down to 50 – 180 beats per minute compared to the daytime resting heart rate of 200 beats per minute. During Torpor state, hummingbirds have been found hanging upside down on feeders.

Stop! Back away from the Hummingbird! Even though they look dead, they are probably just asleep. It can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour for them to wake up. And you thought your mornings were rough. Now let us talk about what they eat.


If you sit and watch hummingbirds for any amount of time, you will realize they have a lot of energy. Nectar is the crucial hummingbird food for energy. Nectar can be found in a variety of natural flowering plants such as Bee Balm, Trumpet Vines and Petunias (choose varieties in red and orange shades when possible). While feeding on nectar hummingbirds will visit 1,000-2,000 flowers throughout the day eating every 10-15 minutes.

Of course, let us not forget our involvement in supplying nectar (sugar water). This is a great way to watch and enjoy these magnificent little birds. Hummingbird feeders are abundantly available and you can make your own nectar. Making your own nectar is not hard but there are some common Questions about making it.

How to Make Hummingbird Nectar:


Do I boil the Water? If you have municipal water supply containing chlorine you most definitely want to boil it to remove as much chlorine as possible. It is a good idea to boil the water if there is any question about the quality of your water. Boiling will neutralize some impurities that could be in the water plus the sugar dissolves much better in hot water. But LET IT COOL to room temperature before giving it to the hummingbirds.

Can I use honey or other sweeteners? No. Honey can promote fungus growth in the mixture. Any other sugars (raw and organic) could contain iron which is not good for hummingbirds. Plain granulated white sugar is the best. When mixed with water, it is remarkably close to the natural composition of natural nectar.

Do I add Red Food Coloring in the Sugar Water Recipe? Do not add dye. The hummingbirds will have no trouble finding the nectar if it is clear. I think the store-bought nectar is red just for us humans (My two cents). Food coloring could be bad for the birds, but the scientists are still studying to figure out if it is bad or not. We know for sure that leaving the food coloring out will not harm hummingbirds. So, SKIP it.


  • Step 1: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil
  • Step 2: Stir in 1 cup of white granulated sugar (make sure it is well dissolved)
  • Step 3: Boil the mixture for 2 minutes, this will help prevent it from ruining too quickly
  • Step 4: Allow mixture to cool to room temperature
  • Step 5: Pour the mixture into clean hummingbird feeders


Since nectar is primarily for energy, they must consume a more nourishing food source, insects. Fruit flies, gnats, mosquitoes and some small spiders (just to list a few). Insects add the essential nourishment of protein, vitamins and minerals to their diets.

These snack size morsels are really important for a mother hummingbird. Not only will she need more protein for her but she will need to feed her chicks. There are different ways that hummingbirds obtain the required insects.

They can capture these small insects in two ways:

  1. “Gleaning” in which they pick the small insects off the leaves of the flowering plants or off trees.
  2. “Hawking” since they possess highly skilled flying abilities, they are capable of catching fruit flies and other small insects in the air.
    Well before you ask, yes there are feeders that can attract fruit flies for your precious hummingbirds. Fill the feeder with banana peels and “wait for it” the production of the fruit flies. I have it on good authority that fruit flies are their favorite.

So, What Have You Learned?

Hummingbirds may be the smallest birds, but they have a HUGE appetite due to their extremely high metabolism rate. Consuming ½ their body weight to maintain their size to increasing their consumption 3 to 10 times their body weight for migration is how they survive. With nature providing nectar from beautiful flowers and pesky little insects, hummingbirds will continue to survive.

Even though hummingbirds are not dependent on our hummingbird feeders, nectar or insect, go ahead and hang both type of feeders. Watching these small, fascinating and especially cute little creatures at your backyard feeder will bring joy and amusement for hours.

Now that you know how much they eat and how fascinating the whole process is, you can amaze your friends with all your knowledge. Go forth and impress your friends.


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