hummingbirds 101 guide

Here's All You Need to Know About Hummingbirds: 101 Guide

Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures that have captured the imagination of bird lovers and scientists alike for centuries. With their colorful feathers, small size, and unique flying abilities, these birds are truly remarkable. In this guide, we'll take a closer look at hummingbirds and explore some of the most interesting facts and information about them.

What are Hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds are a family of birds known as Trochilidae. They are among the smallest birds in the world, ranging in size from 2 to 8 inches in length and weighing between 2 and 20 grams. These birds are found only in the Americas and are particularly abundant in Central and South America. There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds, with the smallest being the Bee Hummingbird, which is only 2.25 inches long. Bee Hummingbird is also the smallest bird in the world.  

Physical Characteristics

One of the most distinguishing features of hummingbirds is their colorful feathers. These feathers are iridescent, meaning they change color depending on the angle of the light. Male hummingbirds have more colorful feathers than females, and their colors are often brighter and more vivid. 

Hummingbirds also have long, slender bills that are adapted for probing deep into flowers to reach nectar. The hummingbird tongue inside the bills works as a suction pump to suck out nectar from the flowers. Their wings are unique, with a figure-eight pattern that allows them to hover in mid-air and fly backward. Hummingbirds are considered to be the only birds in nature that can fly backward. 

Diet and Feeding

Hummingbirds are primarily nectarivores, meaning they feed on nectar from flowers. They have a high metabolism and need to consume large amounts of nectar each day to fuel their active lifestyle. In fact, they need to eat almost constantly throughout the day to keep up with their energy needs.

On average, hummingbirds consume between 50% to 100% of their body weight in nectar each day. To put this into perspective, a 3-gram hummingbird might consume anywhere from 1.5 to 3 grams of nectar per day. 

Besides, hummingbirds also feed on insects and spiders, which provide them with essential protein and other nutrients. Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to red and orange flowers, as these colors are most visible to them.

Metabolism and Flying Capabilities

Hummingbirds have an incredibly fast heartbeat rate that is necessary to support their high metabolism and active lifestyle. The average resting heartbeat rate for a hummingbird is around 500-600 beats per minute, but it can increase to more than 1200 beats per minute during flight or intense activity.

Hummingbirds are also known for their impressive flight capabilities. The length of time a hummingbird can fly without stopping depends on factors such as the species, weather conditions, and available food sources. Generally, the flying speed of hummingbirds ranges from 20 to 30 miles per hour.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which is a common species in North America, can fly continuously for up to 18 hours during migration. The male ruby-throated hummingbird is found to be traveling up to impressive 1,300 miles during migration. 

During the flight, hummingbirds can reach speeds of up to 34 miles per hour, and they are capable of hovering in mid-air, flying backward, and even flying upside down. Their wings beat incredibly quickly, with some species capable of beating their wings up to 80 times per second.

Habitat and Range

Hummingbirds are found in a variety of habitats, from tropical rainforests to desert scrublands. They are particularly abundant in areas with a high concentration of flowering plants, such as tropical rainforests and mountain meadows. Hummingbirds are also found in suburban and urban areas, particularly those with gardens and flowering plants. 

Hummingbirds in the US 

There are over 300 species of hummingbirds in the world, but only a few species are found in the United States. Only about 8 to 10 species of hummingbirds regularly occur in the US.

The most common species of hummingbirds in the US include:

  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird - This is the only species of hummingbird that regularly breeds in the eastern United States. They are commonly found in gardens and woodlands.
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird - This species is found in the western United States, particularly in desert and mountainous regions.
  • Anna's Hummingbird - This is a non-migratory species that is found in the western United States and along the Pacific Coast.
  • Rufous Hummingbird - This is a migratory species that is found in the western United States and Alaska during the breeding season, and in Mexico and Central America during the winter.
  • Calliope Hummingbird - This is the smallest bird in North America, and is found in the western United States during the breeding season.
  • Allen's Hummingbird - This is a migratory species that is found in the western United States during the breeding season, and in Mexico during the winter.
  • Broad-tailed Hummingbird - This species is found in the western United States, particularly in mountainous regions.
  • Costa's Hummingbird - This is a desert species that is found in the southwestern United States and Mexico.

Hummingbird Migration

Hummingbird migration is a fascinating phenomenon that involves these tiny birds traveling long distances in search of food and suitable breeding grounds. While not all hummingbird species migrate, many of them do, including several species that breed in the United States.

Hummingbird migration is triggered by changes in daylight hours and food availability. As the days grow shorter and temperatures begin to drop, hummingbirds begin to prepare for their long journey. They increase their food intake and start building up fat reserves, which will fuel their migration.

Unlike other birds that fly in flocks hummingbirds during migration typically fly alone and they follow specific routes and stopover sites. Many species fly long distances, often crossing open water, to reach their wintering grounds in Central America or South America.

Once they reach their wintering grounds, hummingbirds spend several months feeding and building up their strength for the return journey. In the spring, they begin their journey back north, stopping at specific locations along the way to rest and refuel.

Breeding and Reproduction

Hummingbirds are solitary birds, and males do not play a role in raising their offspring. Females build their nests from materials such as spiderwebs, moss, and plant fibers. They typically lay one or two eggs, which hatch after about 14 days. The chicks are born with their eyes closed and are completely dependent on their mother for food and protection. After about three weeks, the chicks fledge and leave the nest.

Predators and Threats

Hummingbirds face a number of threats in the wild, including predation by birds of prey, snakes, and other animals. They are also vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation, which can limit their access to food and breeding sites. Climate change is also a significant threat, as it alters the timing of flowering and migration, which can disrupt the timing of breeding and feeding for hummingbirds.


Q. How long do hummingbirds live?

  1. Hummingbirds have a relatively short lifespan, with most living only 3 to 5 years. However, some species have been known to live up to 10 years in the wild.

Q. How fast do hummingbirds fly?

  1. Hummingbirds are incredibly fast flyers, with some species capable of flying up to 60 miles per hour. Their wings beat at a rate of 50 to 80 beats per second, allowing them to hover in mid-air and fly backward.

Q. What is the best way to attract hummingbirds to my garden?

  1. Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly colored flowers, particularly those with red and orange blooms. You can also attract them to your garden by hanging hummingbird feeders filled with a nectar solution. Make sure to keep the feeders clean and replace the nectar solution every few days to prevent mold and bacteria growth. (You can check out our colorful hummingbird fountain and other hummingbird accessories)

Q. Can hummingbirds be kept as pets?

  1. No, it is illegal to keep hummingbirds as pets in the United States and many other countries. Hummingbirds are protected by law, and it is illegal to capture, sell, or transport them without a permit.

Q. How do hummingbirds survive the winter?

  1. Most species of hummingbirds migrate to warmer climates during the winter months, where they can find an abundance of food and suitable breeding sites. Some non-migratory species, such as Anna's Hummingbird, are able to survive the winter in their breeding range by entering a state of torpor, which is similar to hibernation.

Q. What is the state of torpor in hummingbirds?

  1. During torpor, a hummingbird's metabolic rate and body temperature are significantly reduced, allowing the bird to conserve energy and survive on minimal food resources. During this state, a hummingbird's heart rate can drop from several hundred beats per minute to as low as 50 beats per minute, and its body temperature can drop by as much as 50°F (28°C) or more. Hummingbirds can enter into torpor on a daily basis, and some species will do so every night to conserve energy while they sleep. Torpor can also occur during periods of cold or inclement weather when food resources may be scarce.
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