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Hummingbirds – The World’s Smallest Birds

Hummingbirds Quiz
Hummingbirds Quiz

Hummingbirds, the world’s smallest birds, are called hummingbirds for the whirring or humming sound their wings make. These tiny birds can beat their wings up to 200 times per second. Sometimes, the wings beat so quickly that you see nothing but a blur.

Hummingbirds Facts For Kids

  • Hummingbirds are the smallest birds.
  • They can hover in mid-air.
  • Flap their wings up to 80 times a second.
  • Primarily drink nectar for energy.
  • Have iridescent feathers.
  • Migrate thousands of miles each year.
  • Heart rate can exceed 1,200 bpm.
  • Some species are found only in high altitudes.
  • Their tongue is shaped like a “W”.
  • Can fly forwards, backward, and upside down.


Hummingbirds have a particular fondness for nectar, a sweet liquid obtained from certain flower types such as honeysuckles or bleeding hearts which serve as a crucial energy source for them. This nectar aids these petite creatures to achieve remarkable flight speeds.

Their unique anatomy featuring a long, slender beak and an even lengthier tongue, is ideally suited for reaching into the interiors of flowers and savoring their nectar. Interestingly, hummingbirds can ingest nectar equivalent to their own body weight daily, a dietary regimen high in energy that sustains their rapid metabolism and facilitates the constant, rapid fluttering of their wings.

Rapid wing beats

Hummingbirds are remarkable organisms, especially recognized for their extraordinary rapid wing flaps, ranging between 50 to 200 times per second. This incredibly fast wing movement not only provides them with the unique ability to hover mid-air, but also endows them with remarkable flight capabilities such as flying forwards, backward, and even upside down.

The high-speed wing motion generates a distinctive humming sound, which is the origin of their name. However, this rapid movement demands a tremendous amount of energy, necessitating hummingbirds to consume nearly half their body weight in food daily to sustain their high-speed existence.


Hummingbirds are renowned for their distinctive hovering ability, a signature skill that distinguishes them from most avian species. This remarkable ability stems from their powerful, swift wingbeats, which can reach an astonishing frequency of 80 flaps per second. This high-speed wing motion provides them with the capability to maintain a stationary position in mid-air, resembling the function of a helicopter.

Consequently, this ability facilitates easy access to nectar from flowers without the necessity to perch and also enables them to alter their flight path rapidly. Therefore, hummingbirds exhibit impressive flight flexibility, being capable of moving forwards, backward, and even inverting their flight orientation.


Belonging to the Trochilidae family, hummingbirds are among the world’s smallest birds, with the majority of species ranging between 7.5 to 13 centimeters in length. Despite their diminutive size, they are renowned for their remarkable speed, with the ability to flap their wings up to 200 times per second.

This speed, coupled with a unique wing structure, allows them to defy avian norms and fly backward – a distinctive trait among birds. Their name is derived from the humming sound produced by their rapid wing movements. Their bright, iridescent feathers, capable of changing color depending on the light angle, give them an appearance akin to tiny, airborne jewels.

Hummingbirds are equipped with a long, slender beak, an adaptation ideal for extracting nectar from flowers, which constitutes the bulk of their diet. However, their diet is not purely vegetarian, they are also proficient predators, feeding on insects and spiders for protein, belying their small size and charming appearance.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Kids will delight in learning about the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a captivating creature that holds the title of the smallest bird species in Eastern North America. These agile, fast-moving avian acrobats, named for the striking red patch that adorns the throats of males, can fly in multiple directions including upside down, and can reach speeds up to 20 miles per hour with wings that beat roughly 53 times per second.

Despite their petite size, they undertake one of the longest migratory journeys of any bird, covering a non-stop distance of 500 miles over the Gulf of Mexico to winter in their warmer homes. Beyond their impressive physical feats, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds also play a significant ecological role as pollinators, helping the environment by consuming nectar from flowers.


Known for their remarkable migration voyage, hummingbirds – despite their minute size, weighing less than a nickel – make an impressive journey of hundreds and even thousands of miles from their breeding grounds to their winter homes.

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, for example, embarks on an over 500-mile trek across the Gulf of Mexico, moving from North America to Central America. Equipped with a rapid metabolism that necessitates almost continuous feeding, these tiny creatures can attain speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, increasing even more when in haste.

They often undertake these lengthy migrations alone, demonstrating exceptional endurance and navigation skills by memorizing and recalling the route year after year. This is a truly awe-inspiring display of stamina and orientation from such a small creature.

Hummingbird feeders

Hummingbird feeders offer an excellent opportunity for children to study and appreciate these intriguing creatures in detail. Typically containing a sugar-water mixture designed to mimic natural flower nectar, these feeders draw hummingbirds in droves, enabling kids to witness firsthand the birds’ unique ability to consume up to half their body weight in sugar daily.

This high-energy intake powers their extraordinary wing beats, which can reach a staggering 200 beats per second. In addition to this, children can observe the hummingbirds’ unique flight abilities such as hovering, flying backward, and even upside-down flying, which is a rarity among bird species.

It’s also essential to remember to regularly clean these feeders to prevent harmful mold growth, ensuring a healthy environment for our diminutive avian friends.

Iridescent feathers

Hummingbirds, renowned for their strikingly vibrant and iridescent feathers, are truly unique creatures. Iridescence, a phenomenon whereby their feathers seem to shift color based on the viewing angle, is attributed to the feathers’ microscopic structure that operates like prisms, dividing light into various colors.

Consequently, as a hummingbird darts around under the sunlight, it appears to shimmer in a dazzling display of greens, blues, reds and occasionally purples. Rather than being a result of any pigment or dye present in the feathers, this dazzling display of colors is a product of the unique structural composition of the feathers – a truly fascinating spectacle!


Hummingbirds, captivating in their beauty and agility, significantly contribute to the critical process of pollination, which underpins the propagation and survival of numerous plant species. They are instinctively drawn to the sweet nectar found in vibrant flowers, flitting and hovering from one bloom to the next with a remarkable precision. As they indulge in their sugary feast, they inadvertently carry pollen on their beaks and feathers, which is subsequently transferred to the subsequent flowers they visit, facilitating their fertilization. This remarkable interaction between hummingbirds and flowers not only aids in plant reproduction and seed creation but also underscores the hummingbird’s pivotal role in the ecosystem beyond their aesthetic appeal.

Coevolution with flowers

Hummingbirds and flowers share a unique bond known as ‘coevolution’, a process characterized by their simultaneous evolution over millions of years, each adapting to aid the other’s survival. Hummingbirds have evolved to have long, slender beaks and extended tongues, enabling them to access the nectar nestled deep within certain floral types.

Correspondingly, these flowers have evolved to produce nectar which hummingbirds find irresistible, and their colors and forms have adapted to attract these birds. The process of a hummingbird feeding on a flower’s nectar results in it being dusted with pollen, which is then transported to other flowers, assisting their reproduction. This intricate coevolution process between hummingbirds and flowers is a significant contributor to maintaining nature’s equilibrium.

Hummingbird Flying Image - Science for Kids All About Hummingbirds
All About Hummingbirds, the world’s smallest birds: they are called hummingbirds for the whirring or humming sound their wings make.

Hummingbirds use a lot of energy flying. In fact, they must eat constantly to fuel their active bodies. Hummingbirds can eat almost twice their body weight in one day! That’s like you eating around 400 hamburgers each day. Hummingbirds use their tongues to suck the nectar out of flowers. They also eat bugs.

Hummingbirds Playing Around Image
Hummingbirds are smallest birds.

Fun Facts about Hummingbirds for Kids

  • Hummingbirds can fly sideways, backwards, up and down and even hover in midair.
  • Hummingbirds sometimes migrate south, flying more than 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico without stopping.
  • Hummingbirds’ feet don’t work very well. In fact, these birds can hardly walk.
  • Hummingbirds can perch on flowers or branches to rest.
  • Hummingbirds don’t sing, but they do make chirping sounds.
Hummingbird Flapping its Wings Image
These tiny birds can beat their wings up to 200 times per second.

Hummingbird Vocabulary

  1. Whirring: humming, buzzing sound
  2. Blur: Fuzzy, hazy image
  3. Energy: fuel
  4. Nectar: Sweet liquid
  5. Hover: stay in one place
Hummingbird Eating a Fruit Image
Hummingbirds can eat almost twice their body weight in one day!

Learn More All About Hummingbirds

Watch hummingbirds in action:

A video documentary about hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Q&A

Question: What color are hummingbirds?

Answer: Hummingbirds have jewel-like feathers. They might be green, purple or blue.