Catch the Buzz: 8 Facts About Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds travel thousands of miles per year, lay tiny eggs and have stunning wing speed. Here's how to attract these pollinators and help researchers who study them.

by Kristina Mercedes UrquhartSeptember 28, 2018
PHOTO: chrisdupe/Flickr

The teeniest, tiniest little birds pack a punch of personality, and you know it firsthand if you’ve seen (and heard) them zip past your head on the way to flowers or feeders. Hummingbirds are a marvel in flight: These buzzing birds fascinate humans for many reasons, and they’re also beneficial pollinators. These petite creatures are critical for wildflower pollination, and they’re endlessly entertaining.

Here are a few things you might not know about hummingbirds (and what you can do to support them on their migratory journeys).

1. Hundreds of Hummingbird Species Exist

More than 300 hummingbird species call the Americas home, and they travel several thousand miles yearly. But no hummingbirds exist on the continents of Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and Antarctica.

2. Hummingbirds Have Tiny Eggs

Hummingbirds lay the smallest eggs of all birds, measuring only ½ inch long. Adult individuals are only a few inches long, with the females being slightly larger to accommodate the eggs they lay.

3. Hummingbirds Are Versatile Fliers

These little birds can’t walk or hop—but they can fly backward (something no other bird can do).

4. Hummingbird Wings Have High RPMs

You might have heard marvelous things about how fast a hummingbird’s wings beat. Their wing speed corresponds largely on the type of activity. Also, a hummingbird’s wings can beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second.

Subscribe now

5. They Quickly Imbibe Nectar

When they feed, it might look like hummingbirds suck nectar through their long beaks, but they really lick up drops of the liquid with their exceptionally large, forked tongues. Each second, a hummingbird can lick as many as 15 drops of nectar, and its tiny body does exceptional work, converting the sugar into energy at nearly 97 percent efficiency.

6. Attract Hummingbirds Naturally

To attract hummingbirds, plant nectar-producing herbs and flowers in your gardens and containers. My personal favorite is hummingbird sage—the birds love it.

7. Attract Hummingbirds With Feeders

If you live in the Americas, you can support hummingbirds by providing feeders outside your home to sustain them along their migration routes. Mix unrefined, organic, white sugar 1:4 parts with warm water, and allow it to cool before placing in a designated feeder. Remember to hang them high, and out of reach out outdoor domestic cats.

8. You Can Help Hummingbird Researchers

You can monitor hummingbird activity near your area and report it to several sites, including Hummingbird Central. It gathers information to better understanding how climate change and changing weather patterns affect the migratory patterns of hummingbirds. While organizers appreciate all sightings, check the websites before reporting. Depending on the time of year, these organizations might be concerned mostly with certain activities and locations, such as late-season sightings in the Canadian provinces.

Hummingbirds are a joy to watch, and nothing beats the thrill of catching a glimpse of one hovering in action.