©Getty Images

©Getty Images

There are more than a hundred species (kinds) of hummingbird.  They are tiny birds, most species being between 7.5 -13 cm long.

In fact, the smallest of all birds is the bee hummingbird. 

Distribution (where in the world they are found) and habitat

Hummingbirds are found in both American continents, from the southern part of Alaska to the tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego. They are also found in the Caribbean islands. However, most species of hummingbird are found in the warmer parts of Central and South America:   for example, in the South American country of Colombia there are more than 160 species and in Ecuador there are about 130 species.  There are less than 10 species in the cooler countries of Chile and Canada.

©Getty Images

©Getty Images

Body Facts

Depending on which species they are, hummingbirds flap their wings 10-90 times per second. The Giant Hummingbird’s wings beat 10 times per second, and medium sized hummingbirds beat their wings around 20-25 times per second.

 

Hummingbirds fly up, down, forwards and sideways, can hover in one spot, and are the only birds that can fly backwards or upside down.  They can fly faster than 24 km per second!  The rapid wing beats of their tiny wings makes a faint humming sound, which is how they got their name. Their feet are made for perching, not walking.

A broad-billed hummingbird ©Getty Images

A broad-billed hummingbird ©Getty Images

Hummingbirds have long, fairly straight bills but some species have different shaped bills to allow them to feed in specialised ways, depending on where they live. For example, there are some with curved bills that fit into flowers with curved corollas (inner parts), some have short, sharp bills so they can feed from flowers with short corollas.

Male hummingbirds have patches of flat brilliantly coloured feathers that flash when they catch the sunlight at certain angles.  These colours are shiny and iridescent, like the colours you see in bubbles.  These are called gorgets (say gaw-jits) and are part of a male’s courtship display to attract a female’s attention.  

Hummingbirds make chirping sounds but do not sing.

Diet

Female incubating eggs ©Getty Images

Female incubating eggs ©Getty Images

Hummingbirds feed on nectar from inside flowers. They have long, grooved tongues which they insert deep into flowers to reach the sweet nectar inside, along with any tiny insects that are inside the corolla. They do not spend all day flying as it would use up too much energy, so they spend about 75% of their day perched, allowing their food to digest. They have many small meals all through the day, consuming about their body weight in food.

Life Cycle

Females make a cup-shaped nest, the size depending on which species it is – some are the size of a walnut shell.  It is believed that the males do not help with the nesting. The nest is bound together and held to a branch with spiderweb. Spider silk allows the nest to expand as the young grow.

The spider silk used to make the nest means it expands when the eggs hatch and the young grow. ©Getty Images

The spider silk used to make the nest means it expands when the eggs hatch and the young grow. ©Getty Images

A ruby-throated hummingbird ©Getty Images

A ruby-throated hummingbird ©Getty Images

Two white eggs are laid in the nest, and the female incubates them for 14 -23 days, depending on the species.

When they hatch, the mother feeds them small insects and nectar.

The life span of a hummingbird is between 3 to 10 years, depending on the species.

Choose videos of a rufous hummingbird.

Read about some hummingbird facts.

Read the kidcyber page about birds.