Feeding the Birds

Ask any bird. Defying gravity is hard work. A hummingbird, for example, weighs less than an ounce but must eat one to three times her own body weight every day. At first light she’s off searching for the hundreds of flowers she needs before dark.

Parrot in the Amazon Jungle of Ecuador, South America. Photo by Sean Cannon.

A bigger bird can fly a little more efficiently. The two-pound, seed-eating cardinal needs about half her body weight, or 1 pound of food per day. She spends her waking moments poking, pecking, and prying for the thousands she must crack to survive.

A 10-pound bald eagle does better still. He needs only 10% of his body weight or one pound of meat per day. He hunts, soaring, circling, riding on thermals when possible. Prey spotted, he dives at the mouse, misses the wary or grabs the careless, then flies away. He needs thirty or so successful strikes on the half-ounce creatures to stay alive.

Eagles ready to hunt in Eastern DRC, Africa.

Fortunately, we humans don’t have to fly tree to tree, fighting for our own 20 pounds of daily survival food. God designed us to take care of each other, so he feeds us differently. And we still get to fly. He gives us brains to build airplanes and skill to fly them.

Unlike birds, however, our marvelous flying machines require no food to exist. Morning by morning they stand ready, available. But to actually fly they need to eat too. For example, MAF’s ubiquitous Cessna C-206 burns an average of 18 gallons or 108 pounds of Avgas per flight hour. Keeping it in the air for six hours per day means the 3,600-pound airplane consumes 18% of its body weight or 650 pounds. The bigger Quest Kodiak carries more weight but also burns more gas. The same six-hour day for the 7,200-pound airplane demands 25% of its body weight or 1,800 pounds of Jet-A fuel.

Jet-A and Avgas fuel storage tanks in Western DRC, Africa. Photo by David Burton. 

That fuel—not flowers, seeds, or mice—feeds MAF flights. And thankfully we don’t have to fight for it. God designed us to take care of each other, so he feeds our airplanes too. Every gallon he provides moves us another four to seven miles, serving his people, advancing his Kingdom.

Feeding an MAF C-206 in Mozambique, Africa. Photo by Ron Wormser.


Care to feed our birds? Visit https://www.maf.org/donate/fuel-the-ministry




  • Luis Antonio Baerga Álamo Sr. says:

    Good analogy. I have been following MAF work around the world for sometime and defenetly no price can be adjudicated to the kind of work you do , going back to the analogy , the fly of a hummingbird is unique ,they can fly back wards , may be that is a message there that could be translated to the ability of an helicopter which would defenelty reach places a plane can’t reach , yes it provably consume more fuel but it has the grace of a hummingbird that a plane can’t compete.

    • Jim Manley says:

      You’re right. Helicopters can definitely do things airplanes can not. Unfortunately, they cost at least four times more to do the same mission. At least airplanes beat walking 🙂 Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement.

  • Sylvia Rogers says:

    Love this analogy! Fun to read!
    Thanks for writing good stories about our MAF work!

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