Do Hummingbirds Recognize Humans?

do hummingbirds recognize humans

Hummingbirds are one of nature’s most beautiful creatures. A little known fact is that they’re not just beautiful and fast, but they also have incredible levels of memory for a bird.

Hummingbirds, according to Science Mag, have such good recollection that they could give “the largest land mammal a run for its memory”. The incredible memory hummingbirds possess is actually useful for keeping track of when flowers they’ve already visited for nectar refill, which in a natural setting is stupendously fascinating.

The hummingbird is tiny in comparison to the great elephant, and the phrase “an elephant never forgets” could soon be interchangeable with hummingbirds. With the elephant having a massive overall size advantage, it also has a much larger brain. The much smaller brain of the hummingbird certainly packs a lot more performance per brain cell.

It stands to reason that with such a large amount of memory, it’s entirely possible for a hummingbird to remember humans they have regular contact with.

The problem is that it’s unlikely to be academically tested widely because of ethical concerns. If humans feed hummingbirds instead too often, then they’ll become unafraid of humans opening them up to the threat of malicious human contact.

How Do Hummingbirds Recognize Humans?

Hummingbirds have massive brains for a bird. To put that into perspective, a human’s brain usually makes up around 2% of the weight. For a hummingbird however, their brains make up approximately 4% of their body weight.

That massive brain will likely have a huge impact on their ability to remember things. Here are a few things their brains help with:

  • Remembering their environment – Hummingbirds are able to remember their environment incredibly well, including how long flowers in their territory take to refill their nectar. If a human feeds them regularly, they’ll remember what their human feeder looks like.
  • Human Threats – The threat to these beautiful avian creatures from humans is real. Humans can swat at them or try and capture them to sell them as love charms as National Geographic reports. If these birds manage to escape someone they perceive as a threat, they may well recognize the human that poses a threat in the future.
  • Feeder Stockers – For those noble enough to stock their hummingbird feeders, it’s been known that hummingbirds recognize a person that stocks their food source. Even with other species of animal, a common theme is animals recognizing the human that feeds them.

Do Hummingbirds Interact with Humans?

Hummingbirds have been known to interact with humans in different ways. The most interaction with humans comes to humans that buy and stock hummingbird feeders. There’s anecdotal evidence that people watching hummingbirds using the feeders have been approached by the hummingbirds.

They hover around the face or within an arm’s length of them. They usually do this when the feeder is empty and they’re trying to tell the human the feeder needs to be stocked again. One anecdote can be found at World of Hummingbirds.

There are stories of people who’ve been out in nature and had interactions with hummingbirds. These stories range from hummingbirds hovering in front of people’s faces and inspecting them in a really cute manner, right through to a hummingbird landing on someone’s head for a few seconds.

Hummingbirds may hate each other and be antisocial with their own kind, but they lack a certain level of fear with humans.

They’re still cautious creatures, and only ones that have been repeatedly fed are going to willingly interact with humans. All birds are naturally cautious to avoid threats on the ground, like snakes, cats and even malicious humans.

Do Hummingbirds Know Who Feeds Them?

They certainly do. Hummingbirds are very intelligent animals in general, with a memory span that rivals that of an elephant. The anecdote above from World of Hummingbirds shows that hummingbirds not only know who keeps stocking the feeder, but they also have their ways of trying to communicate with us.

Animals are very adept at reading cues when it comes to being fed. This isn’t just specific to hummingbirds, but hummingbirds have the cutest way of asking in the bag.

Just think, a tiny bird hovering in front of you because its hungry and you need to restock the feeder. That’s just adorable.

why do hummingbirds hover in your face

Why Do Hummingbirds Hover In Your Face?

When hummingbirds are hovering in front of you, the first thing you should do is take in the view. When a hummingbird hovers right in front of you, there lies the opportunity to see the beauty and functionality of nature wrapped in one big-brained, tiny bodied package. Hummingbirds are majestic and deserve to be admired.

As for the reason why they tend to hover in front of you, it’s usually not because they see you as a friend to interact with. Instead, it’s likely down to the situation with your feeder. If your feeder is empty or the contents of the feeder has gone past its use-by date, a hummingbird will be the first to let you know.

They do this by hovering in front of you, not unlike a cat following you around meowing when hungry!

Is It Safe To Touch a Hummingbird?

There are laws that prevent the handling, trapping or controlling of hummingbirds. There are also laws relating to their nests and eggs. These laws help to protect the future of the hummingbirds and protect the well being of the hummingbird population.

The ban on trapping and handling them has helped genuine non-malicious bird watchers feed them and get closer looks because they’re losing their human fear, that doesn’t mean there’s a future of having a hummingbird as a pet though.

Here’s a great video of trusting hummingbirds being hand fed!

To Summarize

The answer to the main question of “can hummingbirds recognize humans?”, is yes. Hummingbirds do recognize humans and this can be attributed to their large memories, their observance of their environment when it comes to who and what is in it, and them intentionally remembering who stocks their feeders to keep their bellies full.

The key thing to remember if you want to be recognized, keep their feeders well stocked.


  1. I love our hummingbirds but it makes me sad to think that they do not like each other. So they are completely solitude Birds? No interaction except for mating and then there is none after

  2. Hughlene Dunn

    I love this information!!!
    I had a feeling that they did over the year and now that I know they return every year to my feeders. I look forward to continue talking to them as I’m out and about in my yard.
    Thank you for your work and information.
    Hughlene Dunn
    Claremore, Oklahoma

  3. I have a passionflower vine. I live in Oakland Ca. Every year in mid August for the last 4 years, a male Anna’s hummer arrives to fiercely defend his territory thru November. He demonstrates all of the behaviors of recognizing me: he hovers and dives in front of me, and sits in the same spot to rest about 10 feet away from me in a tree, flashing his red cap. He has even followed me on hikes in the neighborhood. He’s not asking for food because I don’t have a feeder. I think your explanation is an assumption that all animals are only motivated by food. I have no explanation for his behavior. And it certainly doesn’t fit with what you are saying.

  4. I have hummingbirds in front of me or orbiting me at arms length just yards away from the very full freshly filled feeders daily. So the theory that they only hover when feeders are empty is disproven; I really think that they do know I fill the feeders but they seem to be curious about seeing the faces of the people who care for them.

  5. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up and the rest of the website is also very good.

  6. Kimberly Calderon

    Hi! This is my first summer to experience hummingbirds. I put up two feeders and had one regular female at one, and a male at the other. They are very social
    I whistle for them and they come to the feeders
    I talk to them and they sit on the perch and look at me back and forth as they feed. It has been the mist delightful thing. My puppy died this year, so I am so grateful for my little hummers!!!

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