Hummingbirds are most famous for their colorful plumage and excellent wing speed. But, everything about these little birds, from their sleep to eating patterns, is fascinating. And knowing these facts is important if you wish to attract hummingbirds to your yard.
Today, we’re going to talk about one of the most common questions people ask about these tiny, colorful birds – what time of day do hummingbirds feed? Let’s find out!
Don’t mistake hummingbirds’ tiny bodies for their small diet. They are prolific eaters and feed at regular intervals, roughly around every 15 minutes, throughout the day. However, you’re most likely to spot them at feeders early in the morning and late afternoon or before sunset. These are said to be hummingbirds’ favorite times of day to eat.
Want to know more about hummingbirds’ eating routine, so you can know when to spot them in your yard, visiting feeders? Keep reading!
What Time of Day Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hummingbirds are known to be high-energy birds that are always fluttering around. Ask anyone if they have ever seen a hummingbird sitting peacefully on a tree branch, like other birds, and the answer would most likely be no. The only time one could ever see such a sight is when a hummingbird is asleep. But, a sleeping hummingbird is a rare sight because these birds usually sleep on hidden tree branches.
In addition to an active lifestyle, hummingbirds have a very high metabolism. As a result, they burn incredibly high amounts of energy and need to refuel their body every 10 to 15 minutes while they are awake to survive.
This constant need to eat means hummingbirds keep visiting feeders throughout the day. However, there are certain times of the day when you are most likely to spot them at feeders. These include:
- Early Morning – Hummingbirds’ need for food (and energy) is highest when they wake up. Hence, they feed heavily in the morning. According to experts, the morning meal of these tiny birds makes about 25% of their whole day intake.
- Late Afternoon or Before Sunset – As the sun starts to set, hummingbirds also prepare to settle down for the night. However, before they go to sleep, they feed heavily once again to survive the night without eating. Since hummingbirds typically go into torpor at dusk, this feeding session happens before that. Depending on where you live and the season, hummingbirds can have their last meal of the day anytime in the late afternoon, but typically a little before dusk.
Do Hummingbirds Feed at Night?
Hummingbirds generally prefer to sleep through the night. However, there may be instances when you can see them feeding at night. Here are the situations where it may happen:
- When There is Light: Hummingbirds may continue to feed for a while after sunset if there is food near a light source, such as a porch light or street lamp. It’s not a typical hummingbird behavior, though, and only happens on rare occasions. It’s comparatively more likely in warmer weather than on cold winter nights.
- During the Migration Season: Hummingbirds migrate twice a year, which, for some species, involves traveling long distances. Unless they are flying over an area where there is no place to rest, such as oceans, hummingbirds prefer to stop somewhere for the night to feed and rest. This is when you’re likely to spot these tiny birds after sunset.
Moreover, when they reach their destination after covering a long distance, sometimes without eating for several hours, they need to refuel their bodies immediately. This is also when you can see a hummingbird eating at night.
How Early in the Morning Do Hummingbirds Start Eating?
Hummingbirds need the first feed of the day soon after coming out of the torpor. Since they are early risers, this happens quite early in the morning, even before the sun rises.
Researchers have found that hummingbirds can wake up as early as one to two hours before dawn. However, it takes them a little while to recover from the deep sleeping state of torpor, so their feeding gets a little delayed.
Hummingbirds can have their first feed of the day as early as 45 minutes before sunrise.
How Many Times a Day Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hummingbirds are tiny birds with an active lifestyle, big appetites, and the fastest metabolic rate among all animals. Resultantly, they need to eat regularly, at short intervals, throughout the day.
The exact number of meals they have during the day can vary depending on multiple factors, such as how long the birds are awake and food availability. However, on average, a hummingbird eats five to eight times in an hour. This means, if a bird is awake and active for ten hours, it could have anywhere from 50 to 80 small meals during the day.
When Do Hummingbirds Stop Feeding at Night?
Hummingbirds need to a lot due to their high metabolic rate. But, they also can slow down their metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature by going into torpor. This helps them conserve energy and survive for several hours without eating.
For this reason, hummingbirds stop eating around dusk. They have their last meal about half an hour before the sunset. Soon after that, they start hunting for a place to sleep for the night.
How Do Hummingbirds Find Feeders?
Vision and memory are a hummingbird’s best tools in the food search. They have excellent vision and are highly attracted to bright colors, particularly shades of red. This is because bright-colored flowers, especially red and orange ones, tend to have the most amount of nectar.
Hummingbirds can spot bright colors far above, even when flying at top speed. Their powerful vision also helps them find feeders and their excellent memory helps ensure they remember the locations where they have eaten in the past.
What Do Hummingbirds Eat?
A hummingbird’s diet primarily consists of sugar and protein. The tiny birds need sugar to restore their energy after coming out of the torpor, after long migration journeys, and to hunt for other food sources. They consume about half their body weight in sugar every day.
Protein, which makes 80% of hummingbirds’ diet, comes from insects and bugs. Depending on their needs, availability of insects, and the type of insects they are eating, hummingbirds may eat anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred, and sometimes even over a thousand, bugs and insects a day. The common food sources of hummingbirds include:
- Nectars from flowers
- Sometimes, they may also suck the juice from fruits and tree sap
Hummingbirds’ high metabolic rate requires them to feed regularly. They need small meals about every 10 to 15 minutes while awake. The only exception to this rule is when they migrate and fly over areas where there is no food available, such as oceans.
Do you have a hummingbird feeder in the yard? What time of day do you see hummingbirds coming to it? Let us know in the comments section below!