- Kingdom: Animalia
- Family: Trochilidae
- Location: North and South America
- Diet: Nectar, small insects and spiders
- Size: 2-8.5 inches long
- How to Attract: Build a hummingbird feeder, create an appropriate garden space
- Migration: Up to 3000 miles, in some cases between Alaska and Mexico
- Life Span: 5-12 years
- Reproduction: They don’t mate for life, mother cares for the young in a nest
- Known for: Smallest bird in the world, beautiful plumage, high heart rate and wing flap rate, only bird that can fly backwards
- Biology: There Are over 325 Species of Hummingbird in the World
- Behavior: Hummingbirds Flap Their Wings as Many as 200 Times per Second
- Diet: Hummingbirds Visit an Average of 1000 Flowers per Day
- Behavior: Hummingbirds Can’t Smell, but They Have Excellent Memories
- Behavior: Hummingbirds Can Put Themselves into a Deliberate State of Torpor
- Location: Hummingbirds Are Only Found in the Western Hemisphere
- Reproduction: Hummingbirds Use Spider’s Silk to Build Their Nests
- Biology: Hummingbirds Have Fewer Feathers than Any Other Species of Bird
- Life Span: Hummingbirds Can Live for up to 12 Years
- Migration: Hummingbirds Can Migrate up to 3000 Miles Each Year
- Want to Attract Hummingbirds? Work on Your Garden
- Anna’s Hummingbirds Perform Near-Death Courtship Dives That Make Their Feathers Sing!
- Hummingbirds’ Tongues Grab onto Nectar
- Hummingbirds Are the Only Birds That Fly Backwards
- Hummingbirds Can’t Walk
- Hummingbirds Are Serious Sugar Addicts
- Hummingbirds Are Pretty, but Not Very Friendly
- Hummingbirds Can Sing, but Very Not Well
- Hummingbirds Were Once Called “Flying Jewels”
- Pocahontas Has Her Own Little Hummingbird Friend
There Are over 325 Species of Hummingbird in the World
A hummingbird is a small, often beautifully colored, bird known for its fast and agile movements. These movements are powered by rapid wing flaps, so fast that they look like a blur to the human eye. These amazing creatures are classed as New World Birds of the Trochilidae family. A review of hummingbird facts suggest that there are more than 325 species, and this includes the smallest bird in the world, the bee hummingbird, which measures in at a miniscule 2 inches in length! Even the largest species, the giant hummingbird, hardly lives up to its name at 8.5 inches long. In general, hummingbirds tend to measure between 3 and 5 inches.
Hummingbirds Flap Their Wings as Many as 200 Times per Second
One of the most iconic hummingbird facts relates to their flight, which is sometimes described as more like that of an insect than a bird. Hummingbirds fly by beating their wings at incredibly high frequencies, making an audible humming sound. A typical rate of wing flaps might be around 50 times per second, but many species can flap at an astonishing rate of 200 times per second when they need to. This allows them to hover in midair when feeding, and fly forwards at a speed of 30 mph. When diving, these little birds can reach speeds of 60 mph! The hummingbird’s physiology is adapted to such fast and agile flight in many ways − around 30% of their body weight, for example, is concentrated in the pectoral muscles which they use to stay airborne.
Hummingbirds Visit an Average of 1000 Flowers per Day
There are many fascinating hummingbird facts relating to their diet and feeding habits. Hummingbirds primarily drink nectar to get their energy. This sweet liquid is found in many flowers and is full of sugars, including glucose, fructose and sucrose. This gives hummingbirds their energy, but is not a great source of nutrients, so to supplement nectar with foods higher in protein, vitamins and minerals, hummingbirds also tend to eat soft insects and spiders.
When drinking, a hummingbird will open its bill and lap up the liquid with its tongue, licking at an astonishing 13 licks per second! And the hunt for this much sustenance can be tiring work − hummingbirds need to feed 7 times an hour for around 30-40 seconds. To achieve this, they need to visit roughly 1000 flowers per day.
Hummingbirds Can’t Smell, but They Have Excellent Memories
Although there are many hummingbird facts to suggest that these amazing creatures have several very acute senses, it’s thought they have little to no sense of smell. Instead, hummingbirds primarily rely on their incredible vision. A hummingbird’s eyesight is so good that they can even see ultraviolet light, meaning they exist in a much more colorful world than we do. These birds rely on their eyes when flying, which greatly increases their agility, meaning they can duck and swerve things with precision.
They also use their keen eyesight to perceive color and decipher its meaning. Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to red things, for example, because they associate very bright colors with sweet flowers containing nectar. As well as this, hummingbirds are smart creatures with excellent memories. They can remember every flower they visit, and how long ago they did so. This means that although they cannot smell the nectar in a flower, they know if a flower contains enough nectar to be worth drinking.
Hummingbirds Can Put Themselves into a Deliberate State of Torpor
There are some seriously bizarre hummingbird facts on the subject of metabolism. Given the incredible speed at which hummingbirds go about their lives, it’s unsurprising that their bodies are working hard internally. It’s estimated that a hummingbird’s heart can beat at an astonishing 1260 beats per minute and, even at rest, it only falls to 250 beats per minute. Sometimes, though, when food is scarce or when they simply need to rest, hummingbirds are able to put themselves into a kind of trance, known as torpor, in order to conserve energy. While in a state of torpor, a hummingbird’s body temperature decreases, and its metabolism falls to around 1/15th of its normal rate. Its heart rate also drops to around 50-180 beats per minute.
Although useful, torpor can have negative side effects. It can take a healthy bird up to an hour to recover after coming out of torpor, and weak hummingbirds have been known to die during a state of torpor.
Hummingbirds Are Only Found in the Western Hemisphere
Hummingbirds are native to the Americas, particularly South America, and, even though there are well over 300 species in the world, none of them are found in the wild outside of the western hemisphere. Of all the countries in which they can be found, Ecuador has the highest concentration of hummingbirds. There are 50 species that live and breed in Mexico, and around 8 that breed in the USA. We generally think of these bright little creatures as residents of warm and tropical climates. But some of the most surprising hummingbird facts are that 3 species can be found in Canada and, while migrating, certain types of hummingbird travel as far north as Alaska!
Hummingbirds Use Spider’s Silk to Build Their Nests
After an elaborate ritual involving a lot of display, hummingbirds couple off. The male, however, does not take any part in the care of the young, and the birds do not mate for life. While pregnant, a female hummingbird puts a great deal of effort into creating her nest. Hummingbird facts suggest that these nests are normally made from twigs and leaves, but the birds have an ingenious method for gluing it all together − they use spider silk! This silk is not only strong and binding, it is also flexible, meaning that as the baby birds get older, the nests expands! Once born, these babies won’t be able to fly, and will depend on their mother for regurgitated insects and nectar for food.
Hummingbirds Have Fewer Feathers than Any Other Species of Bird
It is probably fair to say that, hummingbird facts considered, these creatures are some of the vainest in the animal kingdom! But so they should be, since most hummingbirds sport an incredibly array of colored plumage. Hummingbirds have between 1000-1500 feathers, fewer than any other type of bird. These feathers are pigmented, but the real luridness of the colors is brought out by iridescence caused by the feather arrangement, light levels, moisture in the air and other factors.
Hummingbirds Can Live for up to 12 Years
A review of hummingbird facts on longevity puts the average life span of these birds at around 5 years. It is perfectly possible for a hummingbird to live to be 10 years old, however. And, in one unusual case, a Broad-Tailed Hummingbird was captured and tagged in 1976, then returned to the same Colorado location in 1987, making her at least 12 years old!
Hummingbirds Can Migrate up to 3000 Miles Each Year
One of the most intriguing hummingbird facts relates to their migration, which many species undertake every spring and fall. Their reasons for doing so are somewhat mysterious. Scientists have speculated that they are following the insect population, or the flower population; it is also thought that they might be provoked into migrating by an internal chemical change.
Whatever the reason for this journey, hummingbirds prepare beforehand by fattening themselves up, gaining another 25-40% of their body weight. Although they use the same flight paths as other hummingbirds, each travels alone, making it easier to avoid predators and to find enough food to sustain the journey. The rufous hummingbird travels the furthest of any hummingbird, covering an astonishing 3000 miles between Mexico and its nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada.
Want to Attract Hummingbirds? Work on Your Garden
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with native hummingbird species, use these simple hummingbird facts and tips to attract them. As we have seen, hummingbirds can’t smell but have brilliant eyesight, so think color, color, color. To begin with, plant your garden full of bright flowers. You can also use many online guides to create a hummingbird feeder, and even mix up your own nectar to fill it with! Hummingbirds need to keep hydrated, so they’ll appreciate some bird baths. Most importantly, they can be shy. Make your garden a quiet environment, free from predators such as cats or blue jays. Move slowly in their presence, and try to establish a time of day, such as your morning breakfast time, to sit out in the garden. After a while, they should feel comfortable around you, and your garden can boast the prettiest lodgers in town!
Anna’s Hummingbirds Perform Near-Death Courtship Dives That Make Their Feathers Sing!
One of the most extraordinary of hummingbird facts relates to the courtship ritual of the Anna’s hummingbird. While many species have some pretty spectacular mating rituals, these little guys definitely win the prize for putting on the best show. When he sees a potential mate, the male Anna’s hummingbird will fly up to 130 ft in the air, then dive to the ground at an alarming speed, around 88 ft per second! To put this into perspective, the force of gravity exerted on the bird’s tiny body at this rate of acceleration is equivalent to that which would cause near loss of consciousness in fighter pilots performing a high-speed banked turn. Even stranger, these little birds don’t just perform the move because it looks impressive. It also sounds great, as the wind on their tail feathers creates a chirping sound on the way down!
Hummingbirds’ Tongues Grab onto Nectar
One of the strangest hummingbird facts relates to how these little guys drink. While they use their beak to reach into the flower, it is the licking action of their tongues that lap up the nectar. It was once believed that capillaries in the tongue drew nectar into the body, but high-speed photography tells us a different story. In fact, the hummingbird’s tongue contains tubes which open down the side as it touches the nectar, then close around it, pulling it back up into the beak. The tongue has all kinds of strange additions to facilitate this process, including tiny hairs, grooves and forks.
Hummingbirds Are the Only Birds That Fly Backwards
Some impressive hummingbird facts relate to their flying skills. Unlike any other species of bird, hummingbirds can fly backwards. Even more incredibly, it has recently been discovered that this is actually an efficient means of moving, and requires roughly the same energy as flying forwards. Flying backwards allows hummingbirds to cheerfully reverse from flowers after they feed, saving energy and looking seriously impressive into the bargain.
Hummingbirds Can’t Walk
Because of all these incredible hummingbird facts relating to their ability to hover and fly, these little birds have evolved to be physiologically suited only to suit the specific tasks they complete each day. Since they spend around 10-15% of their time feeding, and a further 75-80% sitting and digesting, there is little need to walk or hop. Their legs have evolved accordingly, and they have very weak feet, although most species can still manage to scoot about on branches while they are perched.
Hummingbirds Are Serious Sugar Addicts
You might think you have a problem with your sweet tooth, but try being a hummingbird! These little guys are built to digest the sweet stuff. They can completely digest natural sucrose in just 20 minutes, and with an efficiency of 97% for converting this sugar to energy! And, like pollinating insects such as bees, hummingbirds aren’t afraid to turn their nose up if a flower isn’t sweet enough. Hummingbird facts about their feeding habits suggest that these little birds can actually analyze the nectar they are eating, and will reject flowers in which the nectar has less than 10% sugar content.
Hummingbirds Are Pretty, but Not Very Friendly
One of the most surprising hummingbird facts involves just how aggressive they can be. Though hummingbirds are shy and docile around humans, when interacting with each other and other bird species, they are some of the most aggressive birds around. Fiercely territorial, they are perfectly willing to attack much bigger birds, such as jays, crows, and even hawks! If you do set up a bird garden with a hummingbird feeder, beware − one particular dominant hummingbird is likely to move in, and guard the feeder from unwanted guests.
Hummingbirds Can Sing, but Very Not Well
If you asked a friend for hummingbird facts about singing, they would probably reply that they had never heard of one singing. This is because many species don’t actually sing, and communicate instead with a limited range of chirps and twitters. Even when a species of hummingbird does want to let it all out in song, it couldn’t be said to be their main talent. The Mexican Wedge-tailed Sabrewing Hummingbird has more than just a great name − it is also able to sing. During mating season, the males will gather in a bush and sing for over a minute continuously to attract females. However, these songs are said to sound like a mixtures of squeaks and gurgles, which to the human ear at least isn’t the most compelling of melodies.
Hummingbirds Were Once Called “Flying Jewels”
Although we now discuss hummingbird facts, early Spanish settlers in the Americas might have spoken about “flying jewel facts” instead! As well as this poetic name, hummingbirds can also be known in Spanish as chupaflor, meaning flower-sucker, or picaflor, which means flower-nibbler. The Portuguese coined the rather lovely Beija-Flor, meaning flower-kisser, and, in certain Caribbean dialects, the hummingbird is known as El Zunzun, the hummer!
Pocahontas Has Her Own Little Hummingbird Friend
Given all these extraordinary hummingbird facts, it’s actually quite surprising that they don’t appear in popular culture or children’s shows more often. But here are some hummingbird facts for kids! One little hummingbird got a star turn as an animated sidekick in Disney’s 1995 film Pocahontas. In the film, Pocahontas is friends with Flit a ruby-throated hummingbird with a green back. Flit’s design was based on previous depictions of hummingbirds, notably in Disney’s 1946 hybrid film Song of the South. Children often mistake Flit for a girl because of his bright plumage.
Hummingbird Facts – Facts about Hummingbirds Summary
A hummingbird is a small bird found in the Americas, with often very bright feathers. There are over 325 species of hummingbird. Hummingbirds have an astonishingly high metabolism, and their hearts beat, on average, at around 1260 beats per minute. This allows them to fly in a fast and agile manner, often hovering as they use their beaks and tongues to lap up nectar from inside flowers. A hummingbird can flap its wings up to 200 times in a second, so to the human eye it appears as a blur, and creates a humming sound which is how the bird got its name. Hummingbirds are known for their colorful plumage, incredible aerial stunts during courtship, and for being surprisingly aggressive for such small birds.