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Posted by on Jan 13, 2015 in TellMeWhy |

How Much Do Birds Eat?

How Much Do Birds Eat?

We sometimes say that a person with a small appetite “eats like a bird.” But this is not really true. Birds eat more in relation to their size then most people do. The smaller the bird, the more it eats compared with its weight. Scientists estimate that some baby birds, in one day, eat nearly their own weight in food.

For example a 14 ounce pigeon eats food equal to 1/20 of its weight a day. To equal this appetite, a 180 pound man who “eats like a bird” would have to eat nine pounds of food a day! The average person eats only about three pounds of food each day.

The nutritional value of food is also another factor into how much birds eat. Birds that eat more insects commonly eat less per day. Other things that matter into how much a bird eats are temperature, body size and the bird’s activity level.

Some birds have smaller amounts of food, and one example is the raven. This species of bird typically eats less than 5 percent of its body weight on a daily basis. Hummingbirds, on the other hand, eat nearly 100 percent of their body weight in the form of nectar and insects.

Birds are equipped with high metabolic rates and are constantly on the move, meaning they need an abundant amount of food during the day.  While we can’t always pinpoint the exact motivation for feeding, there are a number of factors that can correspond to when and where birds decide to eat.


Perhaps the most commonly recognized factor regarding birds eating habits is migration.  As birds prepare to depart on their long journey south, they obviously are in need of an abundant amount of calories.

Breeding Season

Some species of birds will actually forgo eating in an attempt to attract a mate during the spring, the same kind of activity that is present in many other animals in the wild.  The same holds true throughout the hatchling phase as males will eat less regularly as they are constantly foraging for food to feed his new babies.


Birds have a very acute sense when it comes to barometric pressure and will feed heavily before the presence of an incoming storm.  Song birds will also be mindful of wind patterns, particularly high wind times of the day.  They realize that with higher winds come soaring raptors looking for their next meal.

Content for this question contributed by Leslie Barth, resident of Bay Village, Ohio, USA