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The Smallest Bird With The Biggest Appetite

The amazing metabolism of hummingbirds


What's going on?

Hummingbirds may be the tiniest birds on the planet, but they are one of the biggest eaters. A particular species of the hummingbird known as the hovering hummingbird burns energy faster than any other bird or mammal. In fact, their metabolism rate is about 100 times faster than the elephant – giving them the fastest metabolic rate than any other animal. They can flap their wings 80 times per second, and their hearts can beat around 1,200 times in just 60 seconds while in flight.


Due to their high metabolism rate, they often eat around three times their weight in nectar and insects per day, consuming between 3.14 and 7.6 calories a day. That is equivalent to about 155,000 calories a day if compared to humans with the metabolism of a hummingbird. According to Nat Geo grantee Anusha Shankar, a human would have to eat 300 hamburgers to match the amount of what hummingbirds consume to survive every day.


A surprising fact about the hummingbirds is their efficient use of sugar that allows them to store some fat to survive the night while sleeping. In doing so, they would enter into a semi-hibernation state called torpor, hence slowing down the metabolism. However, it could also potentially lead to them reaching a state of caloric bankruptcy, which could cause them to starve to death while they sleep.