25 Facts About Hummingbirds

Nest by Airstream
  1. Let’s get the science out of the way first: Hummingbirds are in the taxonomical family Trochilidae, within which there are upwards of 340 species. There are nine main groupings (the zoological term is clades): Topazes, Hermits, Mangoes, Brilliants, Coquettes, Patagonia, Mountain Gems, Bees, and Emeralds.
  2. The majority of hummingbird species reside in the tropical regions of Central and South America, but they can be found all the way from Alaska to the tip of Tierra del Fuego. Most northern species migrate south and many southern hemisphere species head north during their winters.
  3. They are the smallest of all birds, with most growing to between 3 and 5 inches. The smallest hummingbird is the bee hummingbird of Cuba, which only grows to 2.25 inches. It is the smallest known bird on earth.
  4. Speaking of size, the tiny bee hummingbird weighs only 2 grams. The ruby-throated hummingbird – one of the most common species in the United States – averages 3 grams. For comparison, a nickel weighs only 4.5 grams.
  5. The hummingbird gets its name from the fact that its wings make a distinctive humming sound when they flap. Some species can flap their wings more than 80 times a second.
  6. Talk about speedy! The fastest hummingbirds can fly upwards of 30 mph, and can dive at speeds fasters than 50 mph.
  7. Fueling that incredible motion is an incredibly high metabolism. Hummingbirds drink tremendous amounts of flower nectar – sometimes up to half their body weight every day. Divide your own weight in half and imagine drinking that many pounds of juice every day!
  8. Nectar isn’t the only thing hummingbirds consume. They also eat a variety of small insects like gnats, fruit flies, and aphids.
  9. You might think a hummingbird’s beak would act like a straw to suck up all that nectar, but you’d be wrong. Hummingbirds actually lap up the nectar with their long, brushy tongues – ten to fifteen licks per second! Each species of hummingbird has a beak specifically evolved to match the specific curve of a particular species of flower.
  10. Up, down, left, right, forwards, backwards – hummingbirds can fly in any direction. Even upside down!
  11. While hummingbirds are capable of acrobatic flight, they are unable to walk or hop. Their feet have evolved to grip and perch, and are incredibly light so they can fly with ease.
  12. A human being’s average heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. By contrast, the average hummingbird heart beats 1,200 times every minute!
  13. Hummingbird flight isn’t just acrobatic. They are also marathon fliers, with some migrating up to 3,000 miles from their summer homes to winter habitats. The rufous hummingbird’s migration is the longest, from Alaska to Mexico, while the ruby-throated hummingbird makes a daring, 500-mile, non-stop crossing of the Gulf of Mexico twice a year.
  14. Many hummingbirds perish during their first, delicate year of life. But if they survive that early tumult, they can live a decade or more. Most hummingbirds live three to five years.
  15. Hummingbird nests – as opposed to Nest by Airstream (haha…sorry, couldn’t resist) – can be as small as a walnut. Amazingly, hummingbirds use spider silk and lichen in their nest construction, allowing the nest to expand as the babies grow. For our Nest, Airstream needed something a little stronger than spider silk. We went with fiberglass.
  16. Two eggs are laid in the nest, each smaller than a jellybean. The mother hummingbird incubates the eggs for 14 to 23 days.
  17. When not flying, a hummingbird’s lungs pump an average of 250 breaths every minute.
  18. Vibrant color is a hummingbird hallmark. Some of that bright coloration comes from pigment in the feathers. But many hummingbirds also feature iridescent coloring due to the prism-like cells in their feathers that splits the light and gives it that shiny sheen.
  19. A distinct adaptation to their environment means that habitat loss is the main threat to hummingbirds.
  20. There are no hummingbirds in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, or Antarctica. They are confined to the Western Hemisphere.
  21. Hummingbirds are incredibly territorial and will defend their food sources against bigger birds like jays, crows, and even hawks.
  22. The ancient Aztecs worshipped the god Huitzilopochtli, who was depicted as a hummingbird.
  23. The hummingbird is featured on the coins of Trinidad & Tobago.
  24. If you want to attract hummingbirds to your home feeder, a mixture of one part sugar and four parts water works well.
  25. Some hummingbirds suffer from a serious case of kleptomania and are unable to refrain from stealing a Nest by Airstream when searching for a new place to relax. (e.g. Dave the hummingbird)