36 Fun Facts About Hummingbirds

Anna's hummingbird

The Spruce / jskbirds

Brightly colored and mesmerizing, hummingbirds are some of the most interesting of the over 18,000 bird species in the world. If you live in the United States, you've probably seen them fluttering around during the summertime. Perhaps you've heard them, too—the name hummingbird comes from the buzzing sound of their fast-flapping wings. From distinctive physiological features to intriguing migration patterns, the following facts will get you acquainted with the world's smallest birds.

What Is a Hummingbird?

Hummingbirds, which are tiny, colorful, thin-beaked birds, get their name from the humming noise that occurs when they flap their wings very fast (averaging from 10 to 80 times per second, depending on species). The over 300 species of hummingbirds are natives of the New World (North and South America circa the early 16th century during the European “age of discovery”).


8 Little-Known Facts about Hummingbirds

Physical Characteristics of Hummingbirds

  • A hummingbird’s brilliant throat color is not caused by feather pigmentation, but rather by iridescence in the arrangement of the feathers. Light level, moisture, angle of viewing, wear and tear, and other factors all influence just how bright and colorful the throat may appear.
  • Hummingbirds cannot walk or hop, though their feet can be used to scoot sideways while they are perched. These birds have evolved smaller feet to be lighter for more efficient flying.
  • Hummingbirds also will use their feet for scratching and preening.
  • Hummingbirds have over 900 feathers, the fewest number of feathers of any bird species in the world.
  • Not only do they not need as many feathers because of their tiny size, but fewer feathers also keep them more lightweight for easier flight.
  • Roughly 25 to 30 percent of a hummingbird’s weight is in its pectoral muscles. These are the broad chest muscles principally responsible for flying.
  • An average hummingbird’s heart rate is more than 1,200 beats per minute. In comparison, a human's average heart rate is only 60 to 100 beats per minute at rest.
  • Hummingbirds have no sense of smell but have very keen eyesight.
  • Hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs of all birds. Their eggs measure less than 1/2 inch long but may represent as much as 10 percent of the mother’s weight at the time the eggs are laid. A hummingbird egg is smaller than a jelly bean!


  • A hummingbird must consume approximately one-half of its weight in sugar daily, and the average hummingbird feeds five to eight times per hour.
  • In addition to nectar, these birds also eat many small insects and spiders, and may also sip tree sap or juice from broken fruits.
  • Capillary action along the fringe of a hummingbird's tongue helps draw nectar up into its throat so the bird can swallow.
  • A hummingbird can lick 10 to 15 times per second while feeding.
  • Hummingbirds digest natural sucrose—the sugar found in floral nectar—very quickly with 97 percent efficiency for converting the sugar into energy.

Hummingbird Species

  • There are more than 300 unique hummingbird species in the world.
  • Of 300 species, only 17 hummingbird species regularly breed in the United States, and nine species may visit the country or be reported as regular vagrants.
  • Most hummingbird species are primarily tropical and do not regularly migrate. They are found in Central and South America as well as throughout the Caribbean.
  • Many hummingbird species, including Anna’s, black-chinned, Allen’s, Costa’s, rufous, calliope, and broad-tailed hummingbirds, can breed together to create hybrid species. This is one factor that makes identifying hummingbirds very challenging.
  • The calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird species in North America and measures just 3 inches long.
  • The bee hummingbird is the smallest hummingbird species in the world and measures 2 1/4 inches long.
  • The average ruby-throated hummingbird weighs just 3 grams. In comparison, a nickel weighs 4.5 grams. It would take more than 150 ruby-throated hummingbirds to weigh one pound.
  • The rufous hummingbird has the longest migration of any hummingbird species. These hummers fly more than 3,000 miles from their nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada to their winter habitat in Mexico.
  • The bill of the aptly named sword-billed hummingbird, found in the Andes Mountains, can reach up to 4 inches long, and it can be so heavy that the birds may perch holding their bills straight up. These birds hold the record for the longest bill relative to their overall body size.
  • Depending on the species, habitat conditions, predators, and other threats to hummingbirds, the average lifespan of a wild hummingbird is three to five years.


  • A hummingbird’s maximum forward flight speed is 30 miles per hour.
  • Hummingbirds can reach up to 60 miles per hour in a dive, and they have many adaptations for unique flight.
  • A hummingbird’s wings beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second depending on the direction of flight, the purpose of their flight, and the surrounding air conditions.
  • The ruby-throated hummingbird flies 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during both its spring and fall migrations.
  • The peak fall migration period for hummingbirds is from mid-July through August or early September, depending on the route and the exact species. Species that nest further north begin migration earlier.
  • At rest, a hummingbird takes an average of 250 breaths per minute. Their breathing pace will increase when they are in flight.

Myths About Hummingbirds

  • Despite their small size, hummingbirds are not always docile creatures. Hummingbirds are actually one of the most aggressive bird species. They will regularly attack jays, crows, and hawks that infringe on their territory. Backyard birders often find they have one dominant hummingbird that guards all the feeders, chasing intruders away.
  • You might have heard that hummingbirds "ride" on the backs of other birds during migration. This is a myth—hummingbirds that do migrate fly the distance entirely on their own.
  • Hummingbirds do not sip or suck nectar through their long bills, instead, they lick it with fringed, forked tongues.
  • Adding red dye to the water doesn't always attract hummingbirds. A red feeder or a feeder with red parts will attract a hummingbird to the area.
  • Hummingbirds also do not rely on only red flowers for nectar. They like all types of brightly colored flowers for nectar, such as purple salvia and blue delphinium.
  • A hummingbird's brain may be tiny but it's mightier than it seems. Hummingbirds have superior memories, which allows them to migrate and feed more efficiently than many other bird species.
hummingbird facts

Illustration: The Spruce / Mary McLain

  • Do hummingbirds return to the same place every year?

    Yes, many hummingbirds will return to the same feeders and gardens at approximately the same time every year.

  • Do hummingbirds have benefits for humans?

    Besides being adorable to watch, these birds are prolific pollinators of wildflowers.

  • Are hummingbirds friendly?

    Hummingbirds can be very gentle when not defending territory, but they are not very social, either. However, they have been known to perch on human fingers if they feel safe enough.

  • What are hummingbird predators?

    Not surprisingly, there are many hummingbird predators. Cats, other larger birds such as hawks, and surprisingly spiders, frogs, and praying mantises are all known to eat the tiny birds. Blue jays, crows, and snakes are known to snatch hummingbird eggs from nests.

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Plant It and They Will Come. National Audubon Society. 

  2. Spatial memory allows hummingbirds to rule the roost. Cornell Chronicle. Cornell University.

  3. How do they find their way back? Hummingbird migration. University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.

  4. Pollinators-Hummingbirds. National Park Service.

  5. Hummingbird Predators. The International Hummingbird Society.