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Facts about Hummingbirds for Kids


  • They are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring in the 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) range.
  • Indeed, the smallest extant bird species is a hummingbird, the 5-cm Bee Hummingbird.
  • They can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 12–80 times per second (depending on the species).
  • To conserve energy while they sleep or when food is scarce, they have the ability to go into a hibernation-like state (torpor) where their metabolic rate is slowed to 1/15th of its normal rate.They are also the only group of birds with the ability to fly backwards.
  • Their English name derives from the humming sound made by the very fast beating of their wings.
  • They can fly at speeds exceeding 15 m/s (54 km/h; 34 mph).
  • Hummingbirds drink nectar, a sweet liquid inside certain flowers.
  • Like bees, they are able to assess the amount of sugar in the nectar they eat; they reject flower types that produce nectar that is less than 10% sugar and prefer those whose sugar content is stronger.
  • Thornbills have short, sharp bills adapted for feeding from flowers with short corollas and piercing the bases of longer ones.
  • While it had been believed that hummingbirds drink via capillary action, high-speed photography has revealed that the hummingbird’s tongue’s tubes open down their sides, and close around nectar.
  • Writing in Nature, the biomechanist Douglas Warrick and coworkers studied the Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus, in a wind tunnel using particle image velocimetry techniques and investigated the lift generated on the bird’s upstroke and downstroke.
  • The majority of species occur in tropical and subtropical Central and South America, but several species also breed in temperate climates and some hillstars occur even in alpine Andean highlands at altitudes of up to 5,200 metres (17,100 ft).
  • The greatest species richness is in humid tropical and subtropical forests of the northern Andes and adjacent foothills, but the number of species found in the Atlantic Forest, Central America or southern Mexico also far exceeds the number found in southern South America, the Caribbean islands, the United States and Canada.
  • The Rufous Hummingbird is one of several species that breed in western North America and are wintering in increasing numbers in the southeastern United States, rather than in tropical Mexico.
  • Incubation lasts 14 to 23 days, depending on species, ambient temperature, and female attentiveness to the nest.
  • When courting, the male ascends some 30m before diving over an interested female at high speed and producing a high-pitched sound.
  • In many species, the coloring does not come from pigmentation in the feather structure, but instead from prism-like cells within the top layers of the feathers.