35 Interesting Facts About Hummingbirds

  1. There are more than 300 identified species of hummingbirds. They are easily distinguishable due to their small size and other unique features. 
  2. The hummingbird’s most important sense is its vision. It has excellent color vision and sees colors similar to that of humans. They also can see UV (ultraviolet) light. (Source)
  3. Hummingbirds have the largest brain relative to their size among all birds. Their brain is 4.2% of their body weight. (Source)
  4. Hummingbirds have one of the best memories in the animal kingdom. They also may have episodic memory that is present only in human beings. (Source)
  5. Many hummingbird species spend winter and summer in different areas. For this purpose, they migrate long distances twice a year. In contrast to most other bird species, hummingbirds migrate individually instead of in flocks. Before these long migrations, these birds gain up to 40% of their original weight. Their unique flying technique assists them in flying faster and consuming less energy and fat to reach their destination.
  6. Rufous humming covers the longest migratory distance among hummingbirds, around 2,700 miles. It is also the longest bird migration in terms of body length (49,000,000 body lengths).
  7. Hummingbirds have the highest BMR (basal metabolic rate) among animals. Their metabolic rate is 100 times faster than that of an elephant. Their small size plays a vital role in shaping this high BMR.
  8. According to a common assumption, hummingbirds have no sense of smell. However, few studies show that these birds have a sense of smell. (Source)
  9. Hummingbirds are found only in the Americas (from Alaska in North America to Chile in South America). Most of the species are present in South and Central America.
    Drawing of various species of hummingbirds
    All species of hummingbirds are in the Americas

  10. Unlike most other birds, hummingbirds can fly like insects. Birds usually lift themselves by flapping their wings downwards. However, hummingbirds can also do so with an opposite motion of wings, similar to insects. (Source)
  11. Hummingbirds are one of the few birds that can hover. They can do so thanks to their flexible wrists. (Source)
  12. Hummingbirds are intelligent enough to know the right place to build their nests. Black-chinned hummingbirds in the US state of Arizona build their nests close to the nests of Cooper’s hawk and goshawk. These large birds protect the nests of hummingbirds from their main predators, Mexican jays. (Source)
  13. Ecuador has the highest number of hummingbird species in the world. More than 160 hummingbird species are present in this country.
  14. Hummingbirds generally live for 3 to 4 years. The oldest known is the female broad-tailed hummingbird that remained alive for more than 12 years. Hummingbirds can live up to 14 years in captivity with proper nutrition. (Source)
  15. Different species of hummingbirds can interbreed. Hybrid species of Allen’s hummingbird and Rufous hummingbird have been discovered. (Source)
  16. Hummingbirds are one of the smallest species of birds. Bee hummingbird, present only in Cuba, is the world’s smallest bird, with 57 mm (2.24 in) in length and just around 1.6 grams of weight. Warm-blooded animals can not weigh less than that. (Source)
  17. Hummingbirds also lay the smallest egg among all the birds. The smallest egg ever measured from a bird is laid by a vervain hummingbird. This species of hummingbird is present in Jamaica and its nearby islands. (Source)
  18. But not all hummingbirds are so tiny. The giant hummingbird is the largest member of this family. Its average length is 21.5 cm (8.5 in) and can weigh up to 24 grams.
  19. The legs of hummingbirds are small and weak, not fit for walking. They use their feet only for perching. Due to this reason, they remain on the flight for most of their life.
  20. Ruby-throated hummingbirds have the fastest wing beat among birds. These birds can achieve a rate of 200 beats per second. The average wing beat rate of other hummingbirds is 90 beats per second. (Source)
  21. The quick wing movement of hummingbirds is due to their strong pectoralis and supracoracoideus muscles. Both these muscles assist in the downstroke and upstroke movement of wings. (Source)
  22. Blue-throated hummingbirds have the fastest heartbeat in the bird kingdom. The heart rate of this hummingbird is 1,260 beats per minute.
  23. Hummingbirds can generate lift more efficiently than the best helicopter. Few species can do this process at 27 percent more efficiently than a helicopter. (Source)
  24. Hummingbirds are the only known birds that can fly backward effectively. These birds spend the same energy flying backward as they use in forwarding flight. (Source)
  25. A female hummingbird lays two eggs every season. Each egg is the size of a jelly bean. The nest is close to the size of a ping-pong ball and is made from materials like spider silk, hairs, lichen, twigs, etc. The incubation period for eggs is about 15 to 16 days. (Source)
  26. Hummingbirds eat food equal to half of their body weight every day. It is necessary for their survival due to their high metabolism.
  27. Hummingbirds also have the fewest feathers among birds (averaging around 1000 to 1500). The ruby-throated hummingbird has the lowest number of feathers among birds, with just 940 feathers. (Source)
    A feather
    Hummingbirds have fewest feathers among birds

  28. The beak of the sword-billed hummingbird is larger than the bird itself. It is the largest beak per body size of any bird.
  29. It is a common belief that the long beaks of hummingbirds are for extracting nectar from flowers. However, it is not correct for all types of hummingbirds. Research has proved that few male hummingbirds in South America use their beaks quite effectively as a weapon. Their beaks are most suited for fighting than feeding. (Source)
  30. Hummingbirds use their tongues as elastic micropumps while consuming nectar from flowers. Previously, it was believed their tongue works as a capillary tube for this purpose. (Source)
  31. Female hummingbirds build nests 10 to 90 feet high on trees. They usually prefer deciduous trees: birch, poplar, oak, etc. 
  32. Hummingbirds can become very aggressive and attack and chase birds and animals near their nests. Aggressive hummingbirds are usually present near their feeders and nests. (Source)
  33. Due to the smaller size of hummingbirds, a few small animals are also among their predators. These include spiders, frogs, and dragonflies. (Source)
  34. Hummingbirds survive winters by going into hibernation. During this period, they conserve energy and reduce their heart rates tremendously. (Source)
  35. Hummingbirds do not mate for life. Male hummingbirds take no part in building nests or taking care of chicks. The male is always ready to mate with a new female.

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