# ESTIMATING HUMMINGBIRD NUMBERS BY NECTAR INTAKE

Lately it seems like everywhere I go folks are talking about how many hummingbirds are visiting their backyard feeders.  Indeed, it seems there is no shortage of these small, flying dynamos invading Georgia backyards this summer.  With that in mind, most hummingbird fanciers would like to know how many hummingbirds they are feeding.

Several years ago, an Arizona hummingbird fancier named Stephen Russell came up with a novel way to estimate the numbers of hummingbirds feeding in his backyard.  This technique is based on the amount of hummingbird food the birds consume.  Here is how it works.

I will not go into all of the calculations he used to determine how many birds a gallon of hummingbird food mixed at a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water will feed.  Suffice it to say he determined that a quart of hummingbird nectar will feed 137.25 birds.

Therefore, if you know how much food disappears from your feeders in a day’s time, you can easily calculate how many birds you are feeding.  For example, if the birds consume a pint of nectar in a day, your are feeding roughly 68 hummers.

If you try this technique, let me know what you think of the estimate obtained using the Russell formula.

## 22 thoughts on “ESTIMATING HUMMINGBIRD NUMBERS BY NECTAR INTAKE”

1. Debbie Menard says:

I think his guestimate is pretty right on. I’m feeding a little over a gallon a day. Would have been more had I been here today when the feeders ran dry out front. I’m seeing 30-35 birds at once in the early morning and in the evenings. So if we times that by 6 his method isn’t far off with the method I’ve used for years.

• Joey McDaniel says:

According to this formula I am feeding 442 hummingbirds. I have 4 homemade feeders. 3 of them hold 4 cups each, the 4th feeder holds 5 cups for a total of 17 cups. I filled them up after dark last night and when I took them down tonight, I measured what was left between the 4 feeders & I had exactly 4 cups left which means that they consumed 13 cups, or 6.5 pints times 68 birds per pint equals 442 birds. There is a pretty steady swarm of 30 or more birds most of the day. Sorry for the long reply. My question is how accurate is this formula?
Thanks,
JoeyMac
Willis, TX

• Terry says:

Joey,
Thank you for your response. I do not know any studies that have determined the accuracy of this method of estimating hummingbird numbers. However, at this time of year, I can believe that you might be feeding that many birds. l do know that banding studies indicate that at this time of the year you far more different birds can be feeding at your feeder throughout the day than you see any given moment. If I run across any studies regarding hummer numbers by food intake I will post what I find in the blog.

2. Sue Harper says:

Using the above method and also the count x by 6 method, I am feeding at least 72 hummers (I’ve counted anywhere between 12-15 hummers at one go). FYI – I’m in Victoria, BC, Canada,

3. Doug Barth says:

My hummers go through about 1/2 gallon a day, but I have multiple visits from hooded orioles as well

4. Doug barth says:

I forgot to mention my location : Novato, Ca, 30 miles N of San Francisco near the pacific

• Terry says:

Doug,

Thanks for your reply. What species of hummingbirds are you feeding? As for a hooded oriole, if one showed up in Georgia it would be BIG news! I am envious.

Terry

5. Based on these calculations, I am feeding over 500 birds from 8 large capacity feeders. I go through about a gallon of nectar per day. I live on the Central Oregon Coast. The birds are mostly Anna now, but we see Ruffus’s in Feb when they are passing through. I’m wondering if we’re on a migration path?

• Terry says:

Colleen,

Wow! You are so lucky to see that many hummers in your yard and the hummers are fortunate you are willing to go to so much trouble to help them out. That is a win-win situation.

• Mary says:

I live in the mountains of Julian California (San Diego county). I have three 24oz. feeders out which I have to fill twice a day. I make a gallon and a half of nectar every day. I have 6 to 12 birds at each of my feeders constantly through out the day. Morning and evening the number goes up to at least 15 birds per feeder, each feeder only has 10 ports.
I thought I might have around 400 birds, but his calculation I would have over 800 birds. The birds won’t start thinning out until about October, keeps me quite busy but I love it.

• Janice Paich says:

I am filling three 20 oz feeders every 10 hours and would love to know where you purchased large feeders for 10. Thank you for sharing. They are fun to enjoy watching.

6. June says:

In Central Texas we are feeding about three quarts a day and at times they seem to swarm the feeders

• Terry says:

June,

Thanks for the information about hummingbirds. Since you live in a hummingbird-rich state, we Georgians can only wish would could see all of the hummingbirds that come to Texas.

Right now we are making 20 cups of nectar every 23 days for the hummers that visit our Middle Georgia backyard.

Terry

• Jennifer Butler says:

I’m living in Newnan, Ga and making 6 cups a day presently. It varies as they have their babies for me.

• Anonymous says:

Janice,
We purchased our 10-port, 32 oz.. feeder from Amazon. A friend uses a long slender, 12-port, 16 oz. feeder. At my office we used a 6-port 48 os. feeder made by Perky Pet. If you check Amazon, Duncraft and Perky Pet web sites you will find a wide range of feeders of varying sizes.

I hope this helps.

Terry

7. Pam says:

Central California Foothills. The Rufus, Anna’s and Costas are her now, it is mid August. In the evening, the 7 station feeders are stacked with hummers, two to three birds at one port. There are three feeders. I easily use a gallon a day. We are in the foothills of Yosemite. That is about 552! We also have the orioles! There are at least 45 species of birds on our property. It is so fun to watch.

• Terry says:

Pam,
Wow! I cannot begin to tell you how envious we are of the birds are are enjoying around your yard and feeders. Here in Georgia at my home my wife and I are feeding 60+ ruby-throated hummingbirds that a preparing to migrate. We are feeding 20 cups of food each day. Orchard orioles nest here but don’t visit our feeders. Baltimore orioles pass through and sometime winter here.
Thanks so much for your post!

Terry

8. Steve Norton says:

How do you think a different sugar concentration would affect this calculation? Would each bird consume less volume during the day for higher sugar?

• Terry says:

Steve,
I would suspect that visitations to feeders with higher concentrations of sugar water would be less than visitations to feeders with lower concentrations. However, this is just an educated guess.

9. Anonymous says:

According to this and other similar calculatirs, i am feeding 1632 birds a day. This seems just incredible, but i am feeding 24 quarts. 24×68. Wow!

10. Don Marquis says:

My birds consume between 2-2 1/2 gallons per day. I almost can’t afford it anymore

• Terry says:

Don,

Now that is a lot of hummingbird food! The most I have heard about in this neck of the woods is 100 pounds of sugar used this year.

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