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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: How Much Do Birds Eat?

Air Date: Week of

A Black-Throated Blue Warbler with a fat, juicy berry. (Photo: Kenneth Cole Schneider, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Flying burns a lot of energy and in general, the smaller the bird, the more food it needs relative to its weight. Hummingbirds ingest about 100% of their body weight every day, while the food we humans eat each day adds up to just about 3% of ours. BirdNote®’s Mary McCann puts how much birds eat in the context of human fare.



CURWOOD: You may still be digesting this year’s Thanksgiving feast, or
working it off at the gym. But as BirdNote®’s Mary McCann tells us, all that turkey, stuffing, and pie is nowhere near how much a bird eats relative to its weight.

MCCANN: There used to be a saying about somebody who doesn’t eat much — “she eats like a bird.” Just a little of this and a smidgen of that. But how much does a bird typically eat? And how much would you have to eat to match it? Well, depends on the bird.

As a rule of thumb, the smaller the bird, the more food it needs relative to its weight. A Cooper’s Hawk, a medium-sized bird that hunts other birds, eats around 12% of its weight per day. For you, if you weigh, say, 150 pounds, that’s 18 pounds of chow — roughly six extra-large pizzas.

[Calls of Cooper’s hawk [140257] recorded by Gerrit Vyn]

[Calls of Black-capped Chickadee http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/117803 :08 on]

That perky little chickadee flitting back and forth for sunflower seeds from your feeder eats the equivalent of 35% of its weight. You, as a 150-pound chickadee, will be munching 600 granola bars a day.

A Rufous Hummingbird sips on sugar water at a feeder. (Photo: © Mike Hamilton)

And a tiny hummingbird? It drinks about 100% of its body weight per day. That means you’ll be sipping 17 and a half gallons of milk. Prefer wine or beer? 18 gallons.
If it’s warm outside, you can probably get by on a bit less. But if it’s cold, you’ll need more, so you’d best stock up.

I’m Mary McCann.

Written by Bob Sundstrom
Call of the Pine Siskin provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. [44845] recorded by G.A. Keller, [140257] recorded by Gerrit Vyn, and [117803] recorded by S.R. Pantle.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
© 2005-2018 Tune In to Nature.org November 2018 Narrator: Mary McCann



CURWOOD: For pictures, waddle on over to our website, LOE.org.



This story on the BirdNote® website

About the Black-capped Chickadee

More on the Cooper’s Hawk


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