Hummingbird Facts: 20 Amazing Facts About Its Eating Habits

Hummingbirds are the only birds that are so small that a praying mantis could attack them. Regardless, if you've done your share of birdwatching, you know you'll always see them eating.

How long can a hummingbird go without food?

Hummingbirds can go without eating nectar or insects for approximately five hours max. This is due to their fast metabolism. Even though they’re so small, their metabolism burns calories quickly, so they need to eat the equivalent of 150,000 human calories to survive.

Most of these facts were collected with hummingbird banding safely. Check them out.

What Is the Average Weight of a Hummingbird?

The average hummingbird’s body weight goes from 0.1 to 0.2 ounces. That’s less weight than the marshmallow. Still, different species of hummingbirds will have different weights and sizes. For example:

  • Ruby-throated hummingbird — 3-4 inches in length, a wingspan of 3-4 inches, the weight of a penny
  • Anna’s hummingbird — 3.9 to 4.3 inches in length, a wingspan of 3-4 inches, a weight of 0.1 to 0.2 oz
  • Rufous hummingbird — 2.8–3.5 inches in length, a wingspan of 4.3 inches, a weight of 0.071–0.176 oz

Even though these are the smallest birds, they still need a lot of food.

Why Do Hummingbirds Eat So Much?

Hummingbirds have a very high metabolism and need to eat constantly only to survive. Plus, they beat their wings up to 80 times per second and have a heart rate of over 1,000 BPM, which requires a lot of energy. Unfortunately, they can also die of starvation if they don’t get enough nutrients for their tiny bodies.

hummingbird drinking nectar

How Long Can Hummingbirds Fly Without Eating?

The longest a hummingbird can survive without eating is five hours. Some will even start looking for food if they haven’t eaten anything in just 20 minutes. Nights are the only exception, as the birds’ heart rate and metabolism slow down.

How Do Hummingbirds Survive Overnight Without Eating?

While you may think hummingbirds never stop moving, they do fall asleep. Once they finish their day, they head to the branches to rest. Females also sleep in the hummingbird nest when they get their babies. While asleep, they don’t move so that they can survive the night without food.

How Often Does a Hummingbird Have to Eat?

Hummers start eating at dawn and feed until dusk. Their high metabolism requires eating often, sometimes even every 10 minutes. Some could go from 3 to 5 hours without food, but they’ll usually start looking for food after 30 minutes of mingling around.

Do Hummingbirds Need to Eat Every 10 Minutes?

These bird species would prefer to eat every 10 minutes. Hummingbirds consume about half their body weight in nectar and small insects and visit up to 2,000 flowers daily.

What Do Hummingbirds Eat?

Hummingbirds usually eat flower nectar, but that’s not the only thing on their menu. They also like:

  • small insects (gnats, aphids, fruit flies)
  • tree sap
  • pollen, although not directly
  • ashes and sand, in small quantities
  • juicy fruits

What Do Their Babies Eat?

Baby hummingbirds need protein to grow, so their mom will usually hunt small bugs. Additionally, she’ll feed them nectar. Female hummingbirds feed babies regurgitated remnants of insects from their mouths about 1 to 3 times per hour.

hummingbird obtaining nectar

How Much Food Does a Hummingbird Need to Survive?

Most hummingbirds need to consume the human equivalent of 150,000 calories daily. They mainly eat nectar but include protein in their diet. Their food consists mainly of sugar, and it serves to fuel their speedy wings.

How Much Does a Hummingbird Eat in a Day?

These tiny birds will eat about half of their body weight in food each day. They also eat up to 8 times per hour from sunrise to sunset. 

What Happens if a Hummingbird Can’t Find food?

Hummingbirds have an excellent memory; they remember every flower and know when it will refill. They also know the location of the feeder, so they likely won’t be left out of food. Plus, since they eat small insects, they’ll always have something to catch. Otherwise, they’ll die if they don’t eat for about 5 hours.

What Is the Hummingbird’s Favorite Food?

Hummingbirds adore the nectar they find in the hummingbird feeders. This nectar consists of a sugar water solution. This sweet nectar is what gets them in your garden and keeps them happy and satiated.

How Fast Is a Hummingbird’s Metabolism?

These tiny wild birds have a metabolism that’s 77 times faster than humans. Their metabolism is so fast due to super-efficient enzymes. However, more research is necessary to understand how hummers can eat this much sugar without suffering from diabetes and obesity.

Why Do They Love Sugar Water?

The sugar water they find in a bird feeder tastes similar to flower nectar, so hummers like it. Still, they’ll eat both the artificial and natural nectars in your garden and help with pollination.

What Are the Main Food Sources for Hummingbirds?

Some of the primary food sources for hummers include:

  • sugar water
  • small insects
  • tree sap
  • pollen
  • fruit
  • grit


Do Hummingbirds Eat During Winter?

Once the colder weather starts, hummers will go into torpor. This is a hibernation-like state when they lower their body temperature, sometimes even 50° below their normal 102°-104°. They may also go into this state during cold nights, and sometimes they may briefly stop breathing. This state helps them save energy for the following day.

Do Hummers Have a Sense of Smell?

Some say hummingbirds don’t have a sense of smell, but that’s not true. According to two studies, these birds could associate smells with food in artificial flowers. Plus, they have a great sense of hearing and are attached to bright colors, which is why they find flowers interesting.

How Do They Drink the Nectar?

Hummer’s tongue functions like a straw. They open their beak a little and retract the tongue to create a vacuum to lap up the nectar. They do this 15 to 20 times per second.

Will These Little Birds Die if You Stop Feeding Them?

If you start feeding hummingbirds, they may become dependent on the feeders you leave for them. If you stop paying attention and the feeders dry up or freeze during winter, the hummingbirds may starve. This is why it’s best to commit fully and keep the feeders clean and stocked and the hummers happy.

What Do Hummers Eat During Migration?

Once the migration gets close, hummingbirds will eat more and double their weight in a few days. They do this to survive the migration. Once they’re filled with sugar, a part of it will go into their liver, which will be processed into fat to keep the hummers alive during migration.

For example, female and male Ruby-throated kind can eat up three times their weight in insects and nectar daily. Once they’re stocked, most hummingbirds will be ready to relocate from North America (Alaska) to the Gulf of Mexico.

Final Word

Hummingbirds are truly magnificent birds. They have high nutritional needs but easily remember every flower they eat from. Luckily for them, they can’t get sick from diabetes and obesity. Hummers have a great metabolism, and their liver works round the clock to help them manage all that sugar.

If you wish to learn more about hummers, their behavior, and diet, check out Audubon Society. There, you’ll find all the information about many other bird species.

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer that loves her backyard birdfeeders. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee, watching cardinals, blue jays, finches, and chickadees munch away at her backyard offerings. Her fascination with birds began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma's house watching and identifying birds. She has since carried her love of songbirds into adulthood and ensures no bird in her yard goes hungry!

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