Apr 10, 2019 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, April 2018

Ask Birdsquatch: How Do You Estimate the Number of Hummingbirds Visiting a Feeder?

Hummingbirds flock around a backyard nectar feeder.
Share:

Dear Birdsquatch:

I would love to know how many hummingbirds are visiting my feeders. My wife says there are about a dozen, but I'm thinking there are many more. It's hard to count the little buzz bombs because they rarely sit still. Is there a way to count them accurately?

—Jim B., Lynchburg, Virginia

Dear Jim:

Don't you just love hummingbirds? They are such amazing creatures! I've often had dreams that I'm a hummingbird, flitting from flower to flower, sipping nectar, and getting a sugary high. But at my weight (400-plus pounds) I'd have to beat my wings about a million times a second just to get airborne.

Bob and Martha Sargent were longtime hummingbird banders and researchers in the southeastern United States. Over the decades of capturing and banding hummingbirds, they came up with a way to estimate the number of hummingbirds visiting a single feeder. You see, the Sargents would set up at a busy feeding station and begin catching hummingbirds for banding. Hour after hour, they'd catch un-banded birds along with a few recaptures. It became apparent to them that many more hummers were using a single feeder than they previously would have guessed. They came up with a simple multiplier to estimate the number of feeder visitors: At the peak of activity, count the number of individual hummingbirds seen at one time, then multiply that number by 6 to estimate the daily total. Thus, if you count 12 hummers at your feeder at one time, the total number of birds visiting per day would be about 72 (12 x 6 = 72). Pretty neat, huh?



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

What do you think? Tell us!

comments powered by Disqus

New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • I've been feeding the birds at my home for over 20 years and have multiple bird houses all over. I'm getting old and I'm worried more about the poor birds that occupy the bird houses and where they will go when I'm gone and someone else buys my house and takes down all the bird houses.
    by Linda DiPierro, Sun, 01 Dec 2019
  • i live in watauga county nc and bluejays left our area on tuesday aug 20 2019! About twenty came in for their feed of peanuts, then left. It has been so quiet since they left. The gold finches are busy feeding.
    by Rhoda Buffalo, Thu, 22 Aug 2019
  • Really?! I have two (2) feeders that hold just over a pound each of Safflower seeds (I weighed) and I have to fill them up EVERY day. The small birds absolutely love these seeds!
    by David John Repischak, Mon, 05 Aug 2019
  • I use frisbees for umbrellas. Sometimes I get them free at events. I use red over hummingbird feeders. Helps to attract them.
    by wnyfalconfan, Mon, 05 Aug 2019
  • I recently were given two new bird feeders. Both have not been touched by any birds. Its been nearly 6 month, why is this? One is like a larger orange Hazel nut with an open front & the other is a yellow honey comb with 3 sides open.Is it the colour which scares the birds? I have the same feed in them as in my old feeder, which I need to refill regularly. Many thanks. Doreen
    by Doreen Atkins, Mon, 29 Jul 2019