13 Jaw-Dropping Facts About Hummingbirds

Discover fascinating facts about hummingbirds, like what materials they use build their nests, where they migrate and how fast they fly.

hummingbird at sugar water feederCourtesy Alicia Casey

1. Hummingbirds Return to Feeders

If you think the same hummingbirds come to your feeders and flowers every year, you might be right! Banding research shows they are likely to return to the area where they hatched. Check out 13 questions about hummingbird feeders answered by experts.

hummingbird and pentas flowerCourtesy Nancy MacDonald Uggla

2. Hummingbirds Drink Nectar and Sugar Water

A hummingbird uses its tongue, which functions as a tiny pump, to suck the sought-after sweet liquid from feeders and flowers. Learn how to make hummingbird sugar water.

Rufous hummingbirdCourtesy Deborah Whiting

3. Hummingbirds Are Long Distance Migrants

Rufous hummingbirds migrate farther than any other North American species. They travel 4,000 miles from Mexico to Alaska every spring. Most ruby-throats spend the cold months between southern Mexico and northern Panama. Learn more about where hummingbirds migrate in winter.

Hummingbird nestCourtesy Nancy Marshall

4. Hummingbird Nests Are Tiny

The average nest is about the size of a half-dollar coin. The eggs inside the tiny structure look like mini white jelly beans. Here’s everything you need to know about hummingbird nests.

hummingbirds fightingCourtesy Stacy Campa

5. Hummingbirds Are Territorial Birds

Hummingbirds can be very territorial and will try to protect their food sources: both flowers and feeders. They spend a lot of time chasing other birds away. Learn more about hummingbird behavior.

Bee balm and hummingbirdCourtesy Melissa Brewer

6. Hummingbirds Take Quick Breaths

While resting, the average 4-inch hummingbird takes about 150 breaths per minute. Next, learn where hummingbirds sleep at night.

anna's hummingbirdCourtesy Sal Ahmed

7. Hummingbirds Can Hover and Fly Backward

They can hover in midair at flowers and feeders, and they’re the only birds that can fly backward. Their wings move in a figure-eight pattern, which allows them to maneuver with ease. Discover the truth about common hummingbird myths.

Baby hummingbird in nestCourtesy Elsie Jones

8. Some Hummingbirds Sing

Some species, specifically male Anna’s and Costa’s, are regular singers. With other species, the most common sounds are aggressive calls, which resemble chattering or squealing. You’ll hear them when several hummingbirds are gathered near a food source. Learn more about the many sounds of hummingbirds.

hummingbird at red flowersCourtesy Cynthia Bibb

9. Hummingbirds Are Fast Fliers

Known for erratic and agile movements, hummingbirds beat their wings more than 50 times per second, and even faster in extreme flight mode. Psst—this is how long hummingbirds live.

An Allen's hummingbird perches peacefully on a branch.Robert Ho

10. Hummingbirds Migrate Alone

Hummingbirds are solitary migrants, so you won’t see them traveling in flocks. Wintering grounds vary by species. This is why you should keep feeders up for late migrating fall hummingbirds.

hummingbird eating a mosquitoCourtesy Jasmin Robinson

11. Hummingbirds Eat More Than Sugar Water

You typically see hummingbirds at nectar blooms and sugar-water feeders, but they also eat tree sap and small insects when flowers are hard to find in the wild. Learn more about the foods hummingbirds eat.

Hummingbird flies near a birdbathCourtesy Desiree Skatvold

12. Hummingbirds Love Bird Baths

A birdbath with a small mister, bubbler, or sprayer attracts hummingbirds. It’s a rare sight, but they might fly through the mist of a lawn sprinklers, too! Learn how to attract birds to use a birdbath.

Hummingbird nestCourtesy Sally Harris

13. Hummingbirds Build Nests With Spiderwebs

It takes less than a week (about five to seven days) for a hummingbird to build its nest. Built by females only, nests are made of lichen, moss, and spiderwebs. Check out 10 adorable pictures of baby hummingbirds.

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten is the executive editor of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.