Hummingbirds

Fast, feisty, and full of life, hummingbirds are a popular subject for photographers and artists. Get ready for some fun facts about nature's amazing miniature aeronauts.

Hummingbirds
image by Anchor Lee

Native to the Americas, hummingbirds may be the smallest of birds, but they are amazing creatures. They have incredible abilities and take on a surprising array of appearances, as you will see in this exhibition.

The name hummingbird comes from the humming sound made by the beating of their wings as they hover in mid-air. The beating varies by size of bird, from 12 beats per second for larger birds, to over 80 for the smallest. That burns a lot of calories so hummingbirds need a constant supply of calories their diet of plant nectar and insects; however, they can rest for extended periods of time by slowing down their metabolism and entering a state of torpor, rather like hibernation.

Most species of hummingbird are less than five inches in length (under 13cm), and the smallest, the bee hummingbird, is only two inches long (5cm). Yet despite their diminutive size, hummingbirds are not as delicate or as frail as you might think. They can be quite aggressive towards each other but have also been known to fend off larger birds. In some species those long beaks used for sipping nectar are also used to poke and “fence” with competitors. These tough little birds live in a wide range of climates. When the weather gets cold they fluff up their feathers to act as insulation when taking a break from feeding.