Hummingbird Facts

Hummingbird

1. There are 340 species of hummingbirds making them the second most diverse bird family on earth.

2. Hummingbirds do not produce musical sounds. Hummingbird sounds are often chattering sounds. Scientists often describe these sounds as call notes. We now know that some hummingbird sounds originate from their tail feathers.

3. The average hummingbird weighs only about 3 grams (less than a nickel by comparison)

4. Hummingbird migration – This is probably the most sought after of the hummingbird facts. Most hummingbird species cannot tolerate cold. Early and late frosts can take a toll on these little birds. That is not to say you will never see a hummingbird in winter. Scientists are beginning to notice the overwintering Rufous in some parts of North America. The Rufous hummingbird has the longest migration, flying as much as 3,000 miles from Alaska to Mexico. The Ruby-Throated hummingbird also has a long migration route which includes the incredible task of flying 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico! Don’t worry, hummingbirds usually return to the same feeder every year.

5. Hummingbird mating involves incredible diving rituals. A male will mate with more than one female. The female chooses whether to accept the males. She usually bases this decision on whether or not the male has acquired a suitable territory for the sustenance of her offspring.

6. In the early Spring, before the females arrive, the males will fight over a territory and feeders to claim as his own. This is a sparring match which can last for hours until one has little energy left and surrenders. (I had the fortune of capturing this ritual of two hummingbirds fighting at one of our feeders on video.)

7. The hummingbird nest are built by the female alone. They are a wonderful piece of architecture that is not only tiny but also flexible. They expand to accommodate the eggs and then later reduce in size once the fledglings have left. Would you like to learn how to find a hummingbird nest to witness the amazing birth and first days of a hummingbird’s life?

8. Hummingbirds cannot walk.
Hummingbirds can only perch or scoot sideways. They belong to the bird order Apodiformes (meaning “footless”), which also includes other great aerialists with tiny feet, the swifts. Small feet are an asset both for swifts and hummingbirds because they reduce drag in flight, making these birds more aerodynamic.

9. Hummingbirds make amazing migration journeys.
The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest long-distance migratory bird in the world, travelling more than 5,000 miles each year. The Rufous Hummingbird is also a long-distance traveler, taking on a 3,900-mile-long journey. Thanks to the birds’ incredible flight ability, hummingbird migration can be surprisingly fast: The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, for example, makes a nonstop 500-mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico in less than a day.

10. Hummingbirds existed in Europe 30 million years ago.
Today, hummingbirds are exclusive to the Americas, but that was not always the case. The oldest hummingbird fossil was discovered in Germany in 2004. Scientists have yet to explain why hummingbirds disappeared from Europe.

11. Hummingbirds can migrate regardless if it’s night or day.
Generally, hummingbirds eat plenty in the morning. However, in places with artificial light such as porch lights, hummingbirds may eat hunt and eat during night time, especially during warmer seasons. When it comes to migration, hummingbirds can fly regardless of time.

12. Hummingbirds have a hibernation-like mode.
As soon as the hummingbirds fall asleep, they go into a hibernation-like mode called torpor. This state allows the birds to have a deep sleep, which enables them to slow down their metabolism to one-fifteenth of its normal state. Their heart rate can drop around 50 beats per minute, slowing down their breathing. As a result, they can save up to 60% of their energy in this state.

13. Some hummingbird species prefer not to migrate.
For unknown reasons, some hummingbirds would stay in their place and prefer not to migrate during the winter season. One theory suggests that due to its ability to hibernate, several hummingbirds can survive even without migration. For instance, some of Anna’s Hummingbird species do not migrate anymore, staying on the northwestern coast of the United States and some other parts of Canada all year long.

14. Hummingbirds can look like a dead bird while in Torpor state.
When hummingbirds go into a state of torpor, they hang themselves upside-down. To an observer, a sleeping hummingbird can look like dead bird – even if someone touches them, it’s unlikely for them to wake up. On average, it takes around 20 minutes to 1 hour for a hummingbird to awaken from the Torpor state.

15. Hummingbirds will eat 25% of their daily intake after the Torpor state.
As soon as hummingbirds wake up from their torpor state, the first thing they will do is to look for food. They will consume over 25% of their daily consumption intake to restore energy and stack up nutrients.

16. Hummingbirds are the world’s smallest warm-blooded animals.
Aside from the fact that the hummingbirds are the world’s smallest warm-blooded animals, they lack the insulating feathers commonly found in birds. Hummingbirds have a unique way of conserving enough energy to endure cold nights by reducing their internal thermostat at night.

17. Hummingbirds can have long lifespans
While most hummingbirds only live an average of 3-4 years, some older hummingbirds have been recorded by hummingbird banders and wildlife conservationists. One ruby-throated hummingbird was confirmed to live more than nine years, while an Allen’s hummingbird was banded and recorded with a lifespan of nearly six years.

Sword-billed hummingbird

18. Hummingbirds are also known as “the flying jewels”.
Most bird species have around 1,500-25,000 feathers. However, hummingbirds have less than 1,000 feathers. They are known as “the flying jewels” because they can change their feather colors in flight.

19. Hummingbirds are an important part of the ecosystem
In addition to providing a sweet bite for some hungry predators, hummingbirds have other important roles in the ecosystem. All the insects hummingbirds eat help control bug populations, and as hummingbirds sip flowers, they transfer pollen from flower to flower to help fertilize plants and promote growth to keep meadows, forests, and flowerbeds lush and beautiful.

20. Hummingbirds are at risk from diseases
While these small birds may be fierce, energetic, and popular, they are still at risk from a range of diseases and infections. Dirty feeders and flowerbeds contaminated with mold, fungus, and pesticides are a grave threat to hummingbirds, especially since just a small amount of toxins can have a big impact on such tiny birds. Cleaning feeders well is essential to keep hummingbirds healthy.

21. Hummingbirds face many different threats
It isn’t just chemicals, molds, and predators that threaten hummingbirds. These birds are also at risk from habitat loss, particularly meadow and prairie areas that would naturally provide rich flowers for hungry hummingbirds, as well as forests where hummingbirds nest. Window collisions, outdoor cats, climate change, and invasive plants are other threats that cause problems for hummingbirds.

22. They Have Extraordinary Vision
Hummingbirds see many colors that are invisible to humans due to an additional cone in their eye. This gives them the ability to see UV wavelengths and nonspectral colors.14 Researchers testing this vision said that the UV+green looked the same as the green without UV to them, but not to the birds. They use this vision to locate nectar, navigate, and judge mates.

23. One study found that the hummingbird’s hippocampus is significantly larger, relative to telencephalic volume, than any bird examined to date.13 Why? Because they need to know which flowers they visited to collect nectar. Hummingbirds remember the quantity and quality of nectar, when they visited the flower, and where it is located. This allows them to feed efficiently.