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.
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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.


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