The 8 Most Spectacular Species of Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are the world’s second-largest family of birds. There are over 300 species of hummingbirds. 51 of these species are considered endangered or threatened.

Most hummers are found in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Only a handful of species are regularly seen in North America and they are migratory birds.

Hummers are unique and distinct. These tiny and distinct birds are the most coveted backyard birds. Most hummers are colorful. Their colors change with every reflection of light. Only a small portion of the hummingbird’s colors is visible to the human eye. Hummers produce a distinct humming sound.

Hummingbirds are acrobatic flyers. They can fly backward, upside down, and can change direction almost instantly. They have the highest in-flight metabolism of any bird species.

1. The Rufous Hummingbird- Has the Longest Migration Route of all Birds

The Rufous hummingbird is a tiny flying jewel with extraordinary flight skills. It flies 2000 mi during its migratory transit making it the bird with the longest migration route.

• The Rufous hummingbird has an amazing memory. It can locate a feeder that it saw the previous year.

• With sufficient shelter and food, this bird can survive in sub-zero temperatures.

2. The Giant Hummingbird- The Largest Member of the Hummingbird Family

It weighs 18-24 g and has a wingspan of 8.5 inches. It has the same length as a northern cardinal or a European starling. Its weight is twice that of the next heaviest species of hummingbirds. Despite its weight, it has a considerably lighter body because of having a long bill and a slender build. The body is a smaller portion of the total length.

• Giant hummingbirds have an eye-ring, a straight bill, very long wings, sturdy feet, and dull coloration. They occasionally glide in flight, a behavior that is uncommon among hummingbirds.

• They are widely distributed on the east and west sides of the Andes. They are fairly resilient to urbanization. They have a global population of 10,000 adults.

• The giant hummingbird has significant cultural value in some parts of the Andes. Some aboriginal inhabitants of Chiloe Island believe a woman will gain great fertility if she captures the giant hummingbird.

3. The Bee Hummingbird- The World’s Smallest Bird

This is the smallest living bird. It is scarcely larger than a bee. Females are slighter larger than males. They are 2.4 inches long and weigh 2.6 g. The bee hummingbird is a strong and swift flier. It appears plump and rounded compared to other small hummingbirds which are usually slender.

• This tiny jewel has brilliant, iridescent colors. It feeds mainly on nectar and insects. It plays an important role in plant pollination. In one day, it can pollinate 1500 flowers.

4. The Blue-bearded Helmetcrest- The World’s Rarest Hummingbird

This is an endangered species of hummingbirds suffering from a very rapid and on-going population decline. It is threatened by severe habitat loss. This hummingbird species is restricted to a small area of Western Ecuador. Less than five percent of its original rainforest habitat remains because of agriculture, cattle grazing, development, and logging.

5. The Sword-Billed Hummingbird- The Only Bird to Have a Beak Longer than the Rest of Its Body

This is the only member of the hummingbird family that is characterized by its unusually longer beak. Its tongue is also unusually long. These adaptations help the bird to feed on flowers with long corollas.

• The sword-billed hummingbird is one of the largest hummingbird species. It is found throughout the cloud forests of Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, and Bolivia. It prefers tropical cloud forest habitat due to the concentration of nectar-producing flowers in this habitat.

• This species has a wide geographic range of over 60,000 square km. However, it is difficult to research this species because of its uneven distribution.

• Deforestation and climate change are possible threats facing this species. It is frequently photographed by nature photographers because of its colorful and unique appearance.

6. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird- The Most Common Hummingbird in America

The ruby-throated hummingbird is among the most common species of hummingbirds in the United States. It occurs in nearly all US states. The ruby-throated hummingbird shares many physical features with the Rufous hummingbird. These two birds can easily be confused. Both of them are common in North America.

• Ruby-throated hummingbirds have adapted well to modernity. They easily take advantage of man-made gardens for nesting, shelter, and feeding.

• This species of hummingbirds occupies the largest breeding range of any North-American hummingbird. They breed in southern Canada and south to central and eastern USA.

• Ruby-throated hummingbirds are common in gardens. These birds are fearless. They usually chase rodents and other birds from their favorite flowers. Males have a glossy orange-red throat. Females have whitish speckled throats.

7. The Anna’s Hummingbird- Consumes More Insects than any North American Hummingbird

The Anna’s hummingbird is the most common hummingbird along the Pacific Coast of the United States. Its heart beats at 1260 beats per minute. Anna’s hummingbirds have greatly expanded their breeding range because of increased planting of flowering and ornamental plants in buildings in California.

8. The Fiery Throated Hummingbird- One of the Most Spectacular Species of Hummingbirds

Very few birds rival the spectacular iridescence of this bird. For bird lovers, this bird alone warrants a trip to Costa Rica.

• It has a blue tail, a shiny green body plumage, and a white spot behind the eye. It changes colors with light. When the light catches it at the right angle, it displays a brilliant blue crown.

• They feed on nectar and help with plant pollination. Insects are an important source of proteins. Males defend scrubs and flowers in their territories. Females are responsible for nest building and incubation. A female Fiery-throated hummingbird lays two eggs. Incubation takes 15-19 days.

The Bottom-Line

Hummingbirds play an important role in the world’s ecological system. They are amazingly adapted pollinators. They have long and slender bills that are adapted for pollination. Over 75% of the world’s flowers depend on birds like hummingbirds for pollination. Without hummingbirds, some flower species would become extinct.

Shocking Hummingbird Moth Facts

Hummingbird moths are colorful moths with incredibly ornate designs. More importantly, these moths look and act so much like hummingbirds that the two are often indistinguishable. Their ability to imitate their namesakes to such a convincing degree is the result of a natural phenomenon called convergent evolution. Following are several hummingbird moth facts that are guaranteed to blow your mind.

They Are Two Separate Species

Although these two flying creatures belong to entirely separate species, it is virtually impossible to tell them apart when viewing them from any significant distance. Only those who are adept in identifying hummingbirds, and who’ve had the chance to see these moths up close are able to easily differentiate between the two. Not surprisingly, this is exactly how nature meant it to be. The uncanny resemblance to birds helps these moths flit about unnoticed, which is important because moths make for pretty desirable bird food. Their natural disguise allows the species to survive, despite the fact that they are hardwired to live and feed during the day and sleep at night.

These Insects Are Diurnal

Most moths are nocturnal. This is why you generally only see them at night, flying around your porch light, or hanging out on exterior building walls. Given that birds are diurnal, or up and about during the day, moths can avoid becoming bird food by nature of their nighttime habits. For hummingbird moths, however, the protection of night isn’t a reality. They have to look for and consume their food during the daylight hours, which is when their very own predators are also foraging. As such, they use the act of deception to keep themselves safe. With their hummingbird-like appearance, their similar colors, and their relatively rapid movements, they can be quite convincing. They blend seamlessly into their environment and are just as indistinguishable from hummingbirds to their predators as they are to humans.

They’ve Got Strong Wings Like Hummingbirds

One of the most interesting hummingbird moth facts is that like hummingbirds, these moths also have strong and fast-moving wings. This allows them to drink nectar from plants while they hover over them. Their act of deception is so impressive that even their movements are convincing. As you likely already know, hummingbirds beat their wings so fast that it’s virtually impossible to make them out. When watching these birds in motion, you’ll find that their wings are little more than a colorful blur. Surprisingly, this is also the same with hummingbird moths. Mimicry, however, is never as good as the real thing and thus, even though they’re definitely fast-moving, they remain slightly slower than their namesakes.

These Moths Even Make The Same Distinctive Humming Sound

These moths are cleverly disguised by their bright colors and their fast-moving wings, but they also make the same distinctive sound that hummingbirds do. This makes them all the more convincing in their natural ruse. Their wings move just fast enough to produce this noise. Moreover, if they’re ever detected, their strength and speed is often sufficient for making a quick getaway.

Hummingbird Moths Can Be Found Throughout Much Of The World

You don’t have to travel to an exotic location to catch a glimpse of these wonderfully strange creatures. They are found throughout much of North America, as well as throughout parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. They’re breeding, however, is generally reserved for warmer climates. Breeding for these creatures generally takes place in Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and various eastern regions.

Their Copycat Looks Aren’t Their Only Line Of Defense

One thing that really sets them apart from hummingbirds (apart from their smaller sizes, slower wing movements, and separate genus and species) is their large, menacing eyes. These are not the same eyes that you’ll find staring out at you when looking at an actual hummingbird. If their ruse is ever discovered by actual predators, they can sometimes use their large eyes to warn them away.

They Like What Hummingbirds Like

It is not surprising that these moths prefer to eat what hummingbirds eat. After all, they have quite similar calorie needs due to their similar expenditure of energy. You can find them sipping away at nectar in your garden. They tend to be particularly fond of salvia, verbenas, red valerian, cardinals, and butterfly bush. In fact, if you have these moths in your area, you may even see a few flitting about your very own hummingbird feeders. If you catch them feeding at twilight or during the early portion of night, they can also be found hovering over jasmine, primrose, and other night-blooming flowers.

True hummingbirds love nectar. However, they also supplement their nectar-rich diets with an ample variety of insects. Conversely, a hummingbird moth, irrespective of its species, will always thrive solely on nectar alone.

There Are Three Different Species Of These Moths

There are three species of hummingbird moths. Moreover, each of these moths has its own genus. These include White-lined Sphinx, Clearwing, and Hawkmoths. Each has its own distinctive look, and this look closely mirrors the hummingbirds of the region that each inhabits.

The Life Cycle And Larvae Of Hummingbird Moths

Much like all other moths, female hummingbird moths lay eggs. These eggs then hatch into larvae. It can take up to one full month for these eggs to reach full development. During the larval stage, the moths will go through a number of insar periods. During these times, they will feed frequently, routinely shed their skins, and undergo rapid phases of growth. For gardeners, their need to feed can make these insects quite a pest despite their colorful and eye-catching appearances. Female hummingbird moths are not hardwired to remain with their young, and this means that larvae must reach maturity on their own. As with many other insects, male hummingbird moths are typically a bit larger than females. Once mature, these moths can live for up to two full years.