This past week I received an email from a customer with the following question, “I keep wondering how many hummingbirds I am feeding. There seems to be more than ever this year. It is impossible to count them at the feeders because they move around so quickly, so I thought I would try to count landings, a bit like an air-traffic controller! I set my timer for one minute and tried to count the birds flying in to the four feeders in front of my house. The count was 105.
“Then I tried to count the birds coming to the four feeders behind my house. The count was 90. Of course, I have no way of knowing if there was overlap or duplication, and I can’t claim complete accuracy, because the birds change direction so rapidly and it is impossible to track them all the time. At five-thirty this morning, for what it is worth, I counted 195 birds in a two-minute period! Do you know a better way to establish a count?”
Years ago, I wrote an article for The Courier on this topic, but I have long since forgotten the details on how to calculate how many hummingbirds visit a feeder based on sugar water consumption. I suggested to my friend that he do an Internet search and see what he came up with. One authoritative source he discovered was a blog written by Sheri Williamson, an expert on hummingbirds in North America.
According to Williamson, small hummingbirds need 45 to 50 percent of their body weight in sucrose to get through an ordinary day. Homemade hummingbird nectar mixed at the proper ratio of four parts water to one part sugar comes out to about 18 percent sugar by weight. Her research suggests that 8 ounces of sugar water can support approximately 32 ‘smallish’ hummingbirds per day, or 128 hummingbirds per quart of sugar water.
Sheri additionally points out that, “There are a lot of factors that can skew this already crude estimate. The amount of sugar water each bird consumes may be greatly reduced when natural nectar sources are available and greatly increased when the birds are under stress from cold, drought, courtship, fighting, nesting and/or migration. Size figures in as well, so a given volume of sugar water will feed fewer Anna’s than Black-chinned.” (Anna’s are larger).
Here at the Bird Barn we are getting feedback daily from our customers that they are being overrun with hummingbirds. It is not a bad idea to put up several more feeders during the month of August, as this is peak time for hummingbird migration.
Our annual wild bird photo contest will be kicking off soon, and we have a very special guest visiting both Jay’s Bird Barn locations next week. Clay Taylor, the National Sales Manager for Swarovski Optiks, will be conducting free classes, workshops and demonstrations on digiscoping. For those who want to improve their wildlife and wild bird photography, this is an amazing opportunity to learn from a national expert on optical equipment.
The Prescott store will be hosting this event on Wednesday and Thursday of next week (Aug. 20 and 21), and Sedona will host this event on Friday and Saturday, (Aug. 22 and 23). If you are serious about wild bird photography, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive personalized training on taking digital photography using optical equipment in conjunction with your own personal digital camera. Please call the store at 928-443-5900 if you would like more information about next week’s events.
Until next week, Happy Birding!