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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    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
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    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
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    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018