Are you ready to learn some amazing facts about hummingbirds?
Seriously, these tiny birds are some of the most interesting creatures in the world. And today, I’m listing some of the neatest things to know about them.
Keep reading to learn the most exciting facts about hummingbirds, from their insatiable appetite to their tenacious migration habits.
Here are 16 FUN Facts About Hummingbirds!
#1. Hummingbirds love the color red.
Hummingbirds are naturally attracted to things that are red. While it’s not entirely understood why, many people believe that hummingbirds like red flowers because they typically have the most nectar!
There are plenty of ways to add a pop of red to your garden if you want to attract hummingbirds. Flowers like the red cardinal flower and trumpet honeysuckle are two of their favorite red blossoms.
You can also buy a nectar feeder with red accents on the feeding ports or base. However, resist the temptation to add red dye to your hummingbird nectar! It isn’t necessary to attract hummingbirds, and it can make them sick.
This 8 oz Jewel Box Window Hummingbird Feeder is one of my favorite red hummingbird feeders. It attaches to your window, so you can watch hummingbirds while you have your morning coffee!
#2. They eat more than just nectar.
Although hummingbirds eat lots of nectar to stay active and keep their energy up, they also need additional food sources for protein and other nutrition. There are three main foods that hummers eat besides nectar:
Hummingbirds eat insects for protein and other nutrients that nectar doesn’t provide. So the next time you have some fruit that’s getting old, instead of throwing it away, put it outside! The reason is that rotting fruit attracts lots of fruit flies, which is a favorite food of most hummingbird species!
Many species of hummingbirds also eat small spiders. They will pluck these arachnids right off their webs or while hiding on a plant. If you want to provide a buffet of fresh spiders for your local birds, my recommendation is to fill your yard with native flowers, shrubs, and trees! In addition, many hummer species use spider silk to build their nests!
C. Tree Sap
Believe it or not, many hummingbird species rely greatly on sugary tree sap at certain times of the year. When hummingbirds migrate north, they arrive before many flowers have started to bloom, which creates a big problem. Hummingbirds need sugar constantly to support their high-energy lifestyle.
To ensure they have adequate nutrition, hummingbirds will time their northward migration to follow sapsuckers. These woodpeckers drill large holes into trees to release their sap. Once the woodpeckers drill a well into a tree, hummingbirds follow to drink the sugary sap!
The coolest fact about hummingbirds eating sap is that they prefer maple tree sap. Of course, pancake-loving humans have this in common with hummingbirds!
#3. Hummingbirds are tiny!
Two of the most common hummingbirds in North America are the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird and Rufous Hummingbird. They measure just 2.8-3.5 inches (7-9 cm) long! Despite their small size, they migrate enormous distances each year and pollinate thousands of flowers along their route.
Even among other birds, which are some of the lightest animals for their size, hummingbirds are incredibly lightweight. Fully grown Ruby-Throated and Rufous Hummingbirds only weigh about three grams, which is the same as a single penny!
#4. Their nests are impossibly small.
These tiny birds make equally tiny nests. Their size varies slightly from species to species, but on average nests are only 1-2 inches wide and an inch deep!
Although the size of their nests is amazing, I think the coolest fact about hummingbird nests is how they’re made.
Like most other birds, hummingbirds start with a base of leaves, twigs, and grasses. But once the base is constructed, the rest of the nest is made from spiderweb silk!
Hummingbirds take the silk from webs and weave it into a soft, springy nest for their young. While they’re collecting the silk, they sometimes even pluck a fruit fly from the web for a snack!
After the nest is created, hummingbirds lay eggs that are 0.5-0.6 in (1.2-1.4 cm), about the size of a small jellybean. Ruby-throats lay one to three eggs at a time, and as you can imagine, the eggs completely fill the inside of the nest!
#5. Hummingbirds are aggressive and territorial.
If you have a particularly territorial hummer, you may need to hang more than one feeder!
Despite their small size (or perhaps because of it), hummingbirds are one of the most territorial backyard birds. It’s not uncommon to see fights between hummingbirds near the feeders in your backyard. Hummingbirds will even dive-bomb and zip toward much larger birds to let them know who’s boss!
The most aggressive behavior happens in spring when male hummingbirds are claiming new territory to breed. Males claim territory by discouraging other birds from staying too long, which means they will target intruders at feeders and resting spots.
#6. They aren’t able to walk or hop.
Although they use their legs to perch while they rest and drink nectar, hummingbirds don’t walk or hop like most birds.
They can scoot sideways but prefer to hover or fly to get around.
Even though they can’t walk, their legs are small for a very good reason. Their small limbs help hummingbirds fly faster by making them more aerodynamic and reducing the amount of energy they use while flying.
#7. Hummingbirds eat a ton of food!
Hummingbirds need to consume enormous amounts to maintain their energy levels.
They eat every 15-20 minutes and consume half their body weight in nectar and insects each day! However, hummingbirds can eat much more than that during migration and times of heavy travel. Some estimates show hummingbirds can eat up to eight TIMES their body weight in a single day!
To help sustain their energy requirements, hummingbirds can visit up to 2,000 flowers per day, searching for nectar. All that traveling from flower to flower is one of the main reasons hummingbirds are such important pollinators.
#8. Hummingbird flocks have fun names.
One of my favorite facts about hummingbirds is the different names people call their flocks. Some of these include a “bouquet”, a “glittering”, a “hover”, or my personal favorite, a “shimmer”. I think this last name describes the beautiful iridescence of their feathers perfectly!
Although hummingbirds are solitary migrators, they will visit nectar feeders in large flocks. This hummingbird feeding station in California is a great example!
#9. Hummingbirds are FAST!
You might think that because hummingbirds are so tiny, they aren’t powerful. But the undeniable fact about hummingbirds is that they are athletic powerhouses!
The fastest species, Anna’s Hummingbird, can fly up to 50 mph (80 kph) and reach diving speeds of 61mph (98 kph). Imagine something the size of a ping pong ball hurtling past you at highway speed, all under its own power. It’s amazing to think about!
And it’s not just their speed that makes hummingbirds impressive. They flap their wings an incredible 80 times per second, completely blurring their wings to the human eye. When they hover in the air, it can sometimes look like they don’t have wings at all!
#10. Hummingbird migrations are unbelievable feats.
Hummingbirds are some of the toughest travelers around! Especially when you consider how SMALL they are.
Rufous Hummingbird Range Map
The Rufous hummingbird makes the longest migratory trip, traveling up to 3,900 miles (6,276 km) from Mexico to Washington State! If we look at that distance from the hummingbird’s perspective, it’s about 78.4 MILLION body lengths!
This distance is even more astounding when you consider that Rufous hummingbirds complete the journey in only three short months. And then, they repeat it only a couple of months later! Most Rufous hummingbirds begin migrating south in August, after arriving at their summer home in May.
#11. They go dormant in cold weather to survive.
Torpor is a state of near-hibernation that hummingbirds can enter during cold weather. They slow their heart rate and breathing to conserve energy and can appear to be deeply asleep or even dead while they’re in this state.
Hummingbirds use this survival mechanism during migration when unseasonably cool nights make for harsh conditions. Their body temperature, which normally hovers around 102-104 degrees F (40 degrees C), can drop to 50 degrees F (10 degrees C). As a result, their heart rate drops, and they become incredibly still.
The most unsettling part of torpor is that hummingbirds in this state tend to hang upside down! It can look like the hummingbird has died, which is scary for any bird lover. If you notice a hummingbird hanging upside down, wait for the weather to warm up and see if the hummingbird starts to become active again.
#12. Hummingbirds can fly backward.
Without a doubt, the coolest fact about hummingbirds is that they can fly backward!
Their powerful wings allow them to hover, change direction, and stop in midair in the blink of an eye. If you have hummingbirds in your yard, you’ve probably seen them doing acrobatic tricks.
One of my favorite things to watch is a hummingbird hovering at a flower while it takes a drink of nectar!
#13. Hummingbirds love moving water.
One strategy to get more hummingbirds to visit your yard is to give them a MOVING water source. Although bird baths are fantastic, most hummingbirds will ignore them unless a bubbler or mister is agitating the water.
Having a fountain is a great way to get the attention of hummingbirds. Many decorative outdoor fountains are available, which will look great in your flower garden.
Or you can purchase an inexpensive solar fountain that should fit inside an existing birdbath. The best part about a solar fountain is you won’t have any annoying cords to deal with.
Hummingbirds LOVE flying through mist. The light spray is perfect for their tiny bodies. Not to mention, having a mister around is great for human enjoyment too! If you need a recommendation, here is an inexpensive, highly-rated misting system on Amazon.
Getting water movement can be as simple as having a dripper. And it’s easy to make your own by filling a used milk jug with water and creating a tiny hole at the bottom. Then, hang the jug over a plant so the water will slowly drip out and soak the leaves, leaving an excellent place for hummingbirds to get a drink. You can also purchase a dripper, which are made for pet reptiles!
#14. Hummingbirds don’t have a sense of smell.
Although we associate them with flowers and sweet nectar, hummingbirds don’t have any sense of smell at all. Instead, they primarily use their eyesight to find their way to food and shelter.
This is why it’s so effective to use the color red and sparkling, bubbling water to attract hummingbirds. When they see something they like, they can’t help but investigate!
#15. They have excellent eyesight!
One of the most important facts about hummingbirds is their incredible eyesight! Thinking about how they use their vision will help you decide the best way to attract hummingbirds to your yard.
If a hummingbird wants a drink of water, it will look for sparkly bubbles or a fine mist and head straight for it. A bright flower garden or fiery red feeding port will draw their attention if it’s time for a meal. Make sure to include these eye-catching elements to see the most hummingbirds!
In addition to seeing well, hummingbirds can see colors humans can’t see at all! It’s hard to imagine colors besides the ones we can see, but hummingbirds can perceive colors outside our color spectrum. Their world is truly technicolor!
#16. Hummingbirds ONLY live in the western hemisphere!
An incredible fact about hummingbirds is just how many species there are – over 330! And every single one lives in the western hemisphere, either in North, South, or Central America.
What’s more, most of these species will never travel more than 700 miles from the equator, preferring to stay in the warmest part of the globe.
Only 8 species of hummingbird are commonly seen in the United States. The rest spend all their time closer to the equator, particularly in Central and South America.
What are your favorite facts about hummingbirds?
Let us know in the comments!