Hummingbirds small and beautiful birds known for their agility and speed. Their slick and precise motions through the air are possible due to how fast they flap their wings.
If you have ever seen one in mid-flight, the intricate and extraordinarily fast movements would look like nothing more than a blur. Despite their diminutive size, there is a lot of amazing things to learn about these incredible animals.
Let’s look at our 20 awesome facts! Which is your favorite?
- 1 1. There Are Over 325 Different Species of Hummingbird Around the World
- 2 2. The Real Cause of Their Vibrant Colored Throats
- 3 3. Fewer Feathers Than Any Other Species of Bird
- 4 4. Its Pectoral Muscles Account for ¼ of its Overall Weight
- 5 5. They Are Extremely Fast, In Various Ways
- 6 6. They Can Fly as Fast as Cars
- 7 7. Their Abilities in the Sky Are Unparalleled
- 8 8. They Also Rest In an Incredible Way
- 9 9. Smallest Birds and Smallest Eggs in the World
- 10 10. Females Build the Nests and Care for the Young
- 11 11. Some Species Make Incredibly Long Journeys
- 12 12. They Can’t Hop or Walk
- 13 13. They Have the Longest Bill To Total Body Size
- 14 14. They Are Extremely Aggressive
- 15 15. They Have a Mighty Appetite
- 16 16. They Don’t Use Their Long Bills to Eat
- 17 17. Fast and Efficient At Digesting Sucrose
- 18 18. Wide Range of Different Lifespans
- 19 19. Hybrid Breeding Makes Identification Difficult
- 20 20. Impressive Brain Power and Memory
1. There Are Over 325 Different Species of Hummingbird Around the World
While they all may look the same to the untrained eye, there are over 325 different types of hummingbirds found around the world.
Although 8 species are known to breed regularly in the US, there are as many as 24 other species known to visit the country. Most others don’t migrate and are found in tropical areas throughout the Caribbean, as well as South and Central America.
2. The Real Cause of Their Vibrant Colored Throats
It has nothing to do with the pigmentation of their feathers that hummingbirds have those beautifully vibrant throat colors. It has more to do with iridescence and its effect on how the feathers are arranged.
Therefore, wear and tear, the angle you are looking at one from, the level of moisture and the amount of light shining at the time, as well as other impacting factors, affect how vibrant and colorful their throat appears.
3. Fewer Feathers Than Any Other Species of Bird
Given how impressive their control and maneuverability is in the air, it may surprise you to learn that hummingbirds have fewer feathers than other birds. If it wasn’t for them having as little as 1,000 to 1,5000 though, they would not be able to fly so easily or with such agility because they would be too heavy.
4. Its Pectoral Muscles Account for ¼ of its Overall Weight
The pectoral muscles are the bird’s broad muscles that are used when it is flying. It may not be too surprising to learn a hummingbird’s accounts for approximately between 25 and 30% of its total weight.
5. They Are Extremely Fast, In Various Ways
As we noted at the beginning, hummingbirds are known for their speed. You may not have realized quite how fast they are as they flap their wings on average from 50 to 200 times a second depending on air conditions, the reason for their flight and direction they are going.
Their heart rate is over 1,200 beats per minute, compared to ours which is approximately between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
6. They Can Fly as Fast as Cars
Thanks to all that flapping and their heart rate, hummingbirds can fly at a speed of almost 30mph during a normal direct flight. Even more impressive is that during stunning courtship dives, they can reach speeds of over 45mph.
7. Their Abilities in the Sky Are Unparalleled
No other species of birds can fly like hummingbirds. Not only are they the only bird that can hover during a flight for any length of time, but they are also able to fly forwards, backward and, amazingly, upside down!
8. They Also Rest In an Incredible Way
Hummingbirds go into a state known as torpor. This is like a very trance-like deep sleep that involves their body temperature lowering and their metabolic functions slowing down to a minimum rate. There are not many birds that can do this, but hummingbirds need to, as their feathers are ineffective insulators and they have a high metabolic rate.
Putting themselves in torpor means they can survive when the climate and conditions make maintaining their normal body temperature of 105-degrees F impossible.
9. Smallest Birds and Smallest Eggs in the World
There are no birds smaller than hummingbirds, with one of the smallest varieties being the bee hummingbird which weighs around 1.95g, which is roughly the same as a ¼ worth of sugar. It follows that their eggs would be the smallest too, with the rub-throated hummingbird having eggs that are a similar size to peas and nests that are the same size as one half of a walnut shell.
10. Females Build the Nests and Care for the Young
While we are talking nests, it’s fascinating that it’s the female of the species who collect for and build their nests. Female hummingbirds lay just two eggs, but the males do not take part in childcare and typically look for another female to mate with once their young have hatched.
11. Some Species Make Incredibly Long Journeys
Take the Rufous Hummingbird as an example, which has a migration that covers the longest distance of any taken by a species of this bird. They fly over 3,000 miles to Mexico from where they nest in Canada and Alaska to spend winter.
While the ruby-throated species fly around 500 miles without stopping for its fall and spring migrations over the Gulf of Mexico.
12. They Can’t Hop or Walk
Curiously, considering how agile and fast hummingbirds are in the air, they are not so good on two feet. They are not able to hop or walk, but while they are perched, they can scoot themselves from side to side. Their feet are also used for preening and itching.
13. They Have the Longest Bill To Total Body Size
The species of the hummingbird with the longest bill size to its body size is the sword-billed hummingbird. This bill can measure as long in length as 4-inches and as it is so heavy, the birds often perch with their bills held pointing upwards.
14. They Are Extremely Aggressive
Don’t let their diminutive stature fool you, as hummingbirds are known for their territorial aggression. They will attack crows, jaws and even hawks that encroach what they consider to be their territory. Many backyard birders find among their regular visitors there is one hummingbird that is dominant over the others and guards the feeders against intruders.
15. They Have a Mighty Appetite
So many facts about hummingbirds revolve around their size. One of the best reasons to welcome hummingbirds into your backyard because they have an incredible appetite. Due to their high metabolic rate, they need to constantly eat just to stay alive.
They eat around half of their body weight in nectar and bugs, visiting between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers a day and dining every 10 to 15 minutes. As well as flower nectar and from feeders, hummingbirds will also chomp down wasps, mosquitoes, gnats, aphids, ants, beetles, and other annoying small insects.
16. They Don’t Use Their Long Bills to Eat
In fact, they use their forked, fringed tongues through capillary action to draw nectar into their mouths and throats to swallow it down. They can lick between 10 and 15 times every second during feeds.
17. Fast and Efficient At Digesting Sucrose
When they feed on nectar, hummingbirds can digest the natural sucrose it contains in around 20 minutes, efficiently converting around 97% of it into energy.
18. Wide Range of Different Lifespans
Hummingbirds can live anything from 3 to 12 years in the wild, depending on various threats, predators, habitat conditions and the species of the bird.
19. Hybrid Breeding Makes Identification Difficult
There are several different species of hummingbirds, such as broad-tailed, calliope, rufous, Costa’s, Allen’s, black-chinned and Anna’s that can breed with one another and create hybrids. This is one of the major factors that makes the identification of hummingbirds especially difficult.
20. Impressive Brain Power and Memory
The brain of a hummingbird accounts for 4.2% of its total weight, which makes it the biggest, to overall size, of any bird. To compare, human brains account for 2% of our total body weight.
This probably explains how hummingbirds can remember their migratory routes and every single flower they have ever visited. If that wasn’t impressive enough, they are also able to determine how long they need to wait before visiting flowers again for more nectar.