Hummingbird Facts, Myths, and FAQ

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Hummingbirds are by far among the most popular type of birds that people like to attract to their yards. They are so different from other birds and a real treat to see. Not knocking other birds, but hummers are just really… cool. Because of that there are tons of cool hummingbird facts out there that most people don’t know.

There’s also a ton of myths about hummingbirds and even more frequently asked questions. In this article I’m going to try and cover all three topics; facts, myths, and FAQs about hummingbirds.

Let’s start with hummingbird facts!

Hummingbird facts

1. Hummingbirds are the only known birds that are able to fly both frontwards and backwards. In addition, they are also the only birds that can hover for extended periods.

2. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate alone each year for up to 500 miles and 22 hours straight, some species of hummingbirds travel much further.

3. Hummingbirds can fly forward at about 30 mph and, during courtship dive between 45 and 60 mph.

4. Hummingbirds do not have a sense of smell.

5. Ruby-throated and Rufous Hummingbirds are the most common and widespread in the United States.

6. The average hummingbird will feed every 10-15 minutes, visit up to 2000 different flowers, and consume at least half its bodyweight in food in a day.

7. An adult Ruby-throated Hummingbird weighs around .11 oz, or about as much as a penny.

8. Hummingbirds are the smallest type of birds in the world.

9. A hummingbirds heart beats more than 1200 times a minute while it is flying.

10. Their wings can beat up to 200 times per second!

11. A hummingbird drinking nectar will flick its tongue in and out 18 times per second.

12. A group of hummingbirds is called a charm.

13. With 163 different species, Ecuador has more species of hummingbirds than any other country.

14. Sometimes hummingbirds will sleep hanging upside down. They do this to preserve body heat and slow down their metabolism, especially when it’s cold. This is called Torpor and other animals such as bats do it regularly.

15. There are 16 known species of hummingbirds in the U.S.

16. The Bee Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world and is about the size of a bee and weighs less than .1 oz. They can be found in Cuba and the Cuba archipelago.

17. We mentioned that hummingbirds are experts at flying in any direction but they are unable to walk or hop with their tiny legs, just perch.

18. Hummingbirds can be highly territorial and defend their food sources from other larger birds.

19. There may be as many as 365 species of hummingbirds in the world, you’ll find various numbers (338, 356, 365, etc) all over the internet for the exact count but everyone agrees it’s over 300.


5 Hummingbirds myths

I hear a lot of misinformation about hummingbirds. Some of the misconceptions about hummingbirds are pretty understandable, while others leave me scratching my head wondering why people would even think that.

Here are some of the most common myths about hummingbirds:

Myth 1. Hummingbirds die when they stop flying

This is a big myth. Hummingbirds can land, rest, and even sleep and certainly do not die if they stop flying.

Myth 2. Hummingbird nectar should be red

This is false, not only that but red dye in hummingbird nectar can be harmful to hummingbirds.

Myth 3. You should take in hummingbird feeders so they’ll migrate

You can leave your feeders out all year if you want as some species are permanent residents in certain areas. For the ones that do migrate, they know when it’s time and no amount of free food will make them skip migration.

Myth 4. Hummingbirds don’t have feet

Another common myth about hummingbirds is that they don’t have feet. It’s somewhat understandable for people who aren’t familiar with them. They keep their little feet tucked in when flying and you don’t see them land very often. I can assure you though that hummingbirds do have feet, they’re just tiny!

Myth 5. Hummingbirds mate for life

If you haven’t noticed, everything hummingbirds do is fast fast fast. This includes mating and the male moving on, they pretty much don’t help with anything and let the female do everything. Hummingbirds do not mate for life.


Hummingbird FAQ

Below are some of the more commonly asked questions about hummingbirds. Some of these may seem obvious to some of us and that’s ok. Remember when you first gained an interest in these little birds and had a million questions about them?

How do I attract hummingbirds?

This is really an article in itself but here a few quick tips

  • Put out hummingbird feeders
  • Keep your feeders clean and full of fresh nectar
  • Plant flowers and plants that attract hummingbirds like Salvia, Columbine, Begonia, Roses, or Cardinal Flower

What do hummingbirds eat?

The majority of a hummingbird’s diet is… you guessed it, nectar! However about a third of a hummingbirds diet consists of small insects and spiders for protein.

Do hummingbirds eat ants, wasps, or bees?

I think the reason these three insects are commonly asked about is because they are among the main hummingbird feeder pests. People may want to know if the hummingbirds will just eat the intruders that have overtaken their food source.

Hummingbirds do eat ants, flying ants, beetles, and a host of other small insects as part of their diet. There are mixed reports as to whether or not hummingbirds feed on wasps or honeybees, but it’s quite possible they do on occasion.

However when a feeder is overrun with any of these insects the hummers tend to just avoid the feeder altogether. In this situation your best bet is to learn how to keep insects away from hummingbird feeders and not depend on the hummingbirds to take care of the problem. They’ll just go elsewhere for food.

Is it ok to feed hummingbirds sugar water?

Absolutely it is! In fact, that’s what you should be feeding them. Don’t buy store bought nectar, especially if it’s red. The ratio for humming nectar is 4:1 water to sugar. See our recipe for no-boil hummingbird nectar.

Why is organic sugar bad for hummingbirds?

When making hummingbird nectar and filling our feeders with it, we want to get as close to the real thing as possible. The refining process removes molasses, minerals, and other non-sugar elements. Many organic sugars may also contain iron which can be bad for hummingbirds. So stick to refined sugar, save some money, and just use the white stuff.

What time of day do hummingbirds eat?

Hummingbirds eat all throughout the day, but it would seem more often in the mornings and late afternoons. See this article for more info on when hummingbirds eat most frequently.

How do hummingbirds find feeders?

Hummingbirds primarily use their vision to seek out new food sources. Remember, they are actually looking for flowers that contain nectar. These flowers tend to have brighter colors which is why many hummingbird feeders have bright reds and yellows on them.

Once the flower (or feeder) is identified they then use their taste to see if it’s a viable food source. Once they’ve located your feeder, inspected it, and deemed it a viable food source, they will likely return for more.

When do you stop feeding hummingbirds?

Hummingbird perched in a tree in the snow

Simple answer is you don’t. As long as they keep showing up at your feeders it’s safe to continue offering nectar. Hummingbirds are programmed by nature to know when it’s time to migrate. You may even have year round hummingbirds in your area and if you do you should definitely offer food all year. Otherwise offer it until they all leave, then repeat next year when they return.

What do hummingbirds eat in the winter?

For those that migrate to warmer climates, they can continue as normal drinking nectar from flowers. However some are year round residents and stick around during the cold winter months. They will feed more on small insects and spiders, which are a great source of protein.

No flowers are blooming during this time which is why it is important for you to keep offering nectar and take extra steps so that it doesn’t freeze. Some tips for feeding hummingbirds in the winter are:

  • Insulate your feeders
  • Use a heatlamp
  • Change and clean them frequently
  • Use a slightly higher ratio of sugar to water, more sugar makes it harder to freeze

Do hummingbirds eat bugs?

Absolutely they do. Hummingbirds will eat a number of small bugs as a source of protein, especially in the winter as mentioned above. They may be seen bugs such as small beetles, ants, bees, or even wasps. It’s believed that hummers don’t prefer eating bugs but do so more as a means of survival.

What do baby hummingbirds eat?

Baby hummingbirds eat the same things that adult hummingbirds eat, just in much smaller doses. The mother will chew up small insects and insert them into their mouths and do the same with nectar.

How big are hummingbird eggs?

Super tiny. They are going to vary by species of course some are much smaller than others, but hummingbird eggs are about the size of:

  • a white bean
  • a tic-tac
  • your pinky nail
  • or a Tylenol

Where do hummingbirds live and nest?

There are over 300 species of hummingbirds in different parts of the world so habitats may include mountain meadows, cloud forests, woodland areas, tropical rainforests, deserts, and of course our own backyards and gardens. The one thing that any hummingbird habitat has in common is that it has an abundance of food.

How long do hummingbirds live?

The average hummingbird will live for about 3-5 years, however some have been known to live 10 years or longer. Unfortunately many hummingbirds do not make it through their first year of life.

What eats hummingbirds?

As you may have guessed, hummingbirds are not even close to the top of the food chain. Some common predators of hummingbirds or hummingbird eggs include:

Hummingbirds

  • Cats both domestic and feral
  • Birds of prey such as hawks and owls
  • Snakes

Hummingbird eggs

  • Bats
  • Squirrels, chipmunks, rodents
  • Egg eating birds like Blue Jays or Starlings
  • Lizards

Why do hummingbirds fight each other?

Hummingbirds can be very territorial and can regularly be seen fighting for food sources. They will claim to a food source as their own whether it be flowers or a feeder and will chase off any who invade their space. They see other hummingbirds as invaders and a threat to themselves and their young.

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