Hummingbirds include the world’s smallest bird and the world’s most brightly colored birds. There are about 330 different kinds of hummingbirds. The bee hummingbird is just 2 inches (5 cm) long and the world’s smallest bird. The rainbow hummingbird with forehead feathers that are an iridescent spectrum of green, yellow, orange, red, and blue is just one of many colorful hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds live only in the Americas. They get their name from the humming sound made by the fast beating of their wings. A hovering hummingbird may beat its wings between 70 and 200 times per second. The hummingbird’s fast-beating wings enable it to hover in one place, move forward and sideways, or fly backward. A hummingbird can even fly upside down. Hummingbirds are known for their acrobatic flight.
Hummingbirds are nectar-sippers They feed on the sugary nectar produced inside flowers. As they hover in front of flowers, hummingbirds insert their, long slender bills to sip up the nectar. Hummingbirds fly from plant to plant and visit hundreds of flowers every day. Nectar provides hummingbirds with the energy they need to hover in place and dart about.
Some hummingbirds are migratory. Hummingbirds native to parts of North America–as far north as Canada–fly to Mexico and Central America in the winter. Ruby-throated hummingbirds spend most of the winter in southern Mexico and Central America. In spring, they return to eastern North America, a distance of thousands of miles. During part of their migration, ruby-throated hummingbirds fly non-stop for more than 500 miles (800 km) over the Gulf of Mexico.
Hummingbirds have compact, muscular bodies, and relatively small feet, and few feathers. Hummingbirds struggle to walk or hop due to their small, weak feet, but they are very adept at clinging to the stems of flowers and moving from side to side when they perch. Hummingbirds have the fewest feathers of any bird species in the world–just 1,000 to 1,500 feathers. Small feet and few feathers keep hummingbirds lightweight for easier flight.
The 2-inch (5 cm) bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) is the smallest hummingbird and the smallest bird in the world. It lives in Cuba. The giant hummingbird (Patagona gigas) is the largest hummingbird; it grows to 9 inches (22 cm) long and lives in western South America.
Hummingbirds live 3 to 5 years. They belong to the biological family Trochilidae.