Quick Guide to Hummingbirds

As part of the Celebrate Urban Birds program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Celebrate Hummingbirds was created with the purpose of aiding scientists in achieving a better understanding of hummingbirds in urban areas. Like Celebrate Urban Birds, Celebrate Hummingbirds is a citizen science project that uses the help of participants everywhere to gather data on hummingbirds.

Participation in this program is easy, fun, and open to everyone!

In order to participate, simply select a date, time, and place to watch birds for about ten minutes. Once your time is up, all you have to do is let us know whether or not you saw hummingbirds. For those who are up to the challenge, you can even try to identify the hummingbird(s) you saw! And don’t forget: not seeing any hummingbirds is just as significant as seeing them!

You can learn more about our 8 hummingbird focal species down below:

Anna’s Hummingbird
(Photo © Andrew Reding)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
(Photo © Will Randall)
Rufous Hummingbird
(Photo © Dawn Beattie)
Black-chinned Hummingbird
(Photo © Francesco Veronesi)
Calliope Hummingbird
(Photo © Tim Hopwood)
Costa’s Hummingbird
(Photo © visualmemories_)
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
(Photo © Maureen Leong-Kee)
Allen’s Hummingbird
(Photo © Mike's Birds)

Further Resources on Hummingbirds

Check out this great book on hummingbirds by María del Coro Arizmendi and Humberto Berlanga!
It is completely free. You can download it by clicking on the link below.

Hummingbirds of Mexico and North America

This book is a great guide to learning about hummingbirds not mentioned on this page, but all hummingbirds in general! The book discusses hummingbird anatomy, feeding, reproduction, migration, ecological significance, and so much more. Hummingbirds of Mexico and North America is a bilingual Spanish-English book that you can download here for free, thanks to the support from CONABIO and UNAM in Mexico.

How You Can Help the Hummingbirds!

There are a couple of things that you can do to help the hummingbirds in your area. For those interested in gardening, we recommend certain plants that are particularly nutritious for hummingbirds. Plants that benefit hummingbirds tend to be bell- or tube-shaped and produce delicious and nutritious nectar for the hummingbirds! These plants won’t just help feed hummingbirds, but will look beautiful in your home too! These are great even for those of you that are not all that interested in gardening, since they’re so easy to plant and maintain. They can be planted in your yard or in a container, making them easy to move around.

To help feed the hummingbirds in your area, try growing these plants:

Trumpet Creepers
(Photo © Sally and Andy Wasowski)
Red Columbine
© Alan S. Heilman University of Tennessee Herbarium

Another way you can attract and help hummingbirds is by placing hummingbird feeders just about anywhere! These can be placed on a window, tree, shrub, or anywhere else you can think of that hummingbirds will be able to find. Be sure to keep it away from the sun and predators and in a place that won’t receive too much wind. Feeders should be washed at least once a week, and if mold begins to appear, clean it very carefully to keep it safe for the birds.

Try making a special homemade sugar-water solution for hummingbirds to feed on, by mixing 1/4 cup sugar per cup of water. Be sure not to add any dyes or additives, since these may be toxic to birds. Fill your feeder with this sweet solution to give the hummingbirds in your area a nice treat!

Cool Facts About Hummingbirds

(Photo © Jim Burns)

  • Hummingbirds use spider webs and fine fiber to build a thick inner cup for their nests. Then they camouflage the outside of their nests with lichens, moss, and bark fragments.
(Photo © Mike's Birds)

  • The spider webs that hummingbirds use to build their nests allow the nests to expand as the chicks grow. Now those are some prepared parents!
(Photo © Kathy West)

  • Hummingbird nests have been seen in some really cool places in cities, such as wires, clothespins, wind chimes, Christmas lights, and more!
(Photo © Steve Berkowitz)

  • Hummingbirds can flap their wings from 50 to about 200 times per second while hovering and maneuvering in mid air. Talk about fast!
(Photo © Holly Miller)

  • Hummingbirds enjoy balanced diets consisting of flower nectar, small insects, and spiders. Yum!
(Photo © Kelly Colgan Azar)

  • Some tube- or bell-shaped flowering plants, like Columbine and Trumpet Vine mentioned above, not only feed hummingbirds with their nectar, but they also rely on hummingbirds for pollination.
(Photo © Richard Griffin)

  • Can you imagine being able to slow your heart rate more than 90% and drop your body temperature more than 50%? Well this is exactly what hummingbirds do when they enter a state of “torpor”. This mechanism is meant to help them survive cold nights and save energy!
(Photo © Keith Carver)

  • Hummingbirds have such good color vision that they can detect ultraviolet light that humans can’t even see!
(Photo © Penny Hall Photography @ Flickr)

  • Hummingbirds are known for having great memories. Even after migrating, they’re able to return to the previous location of a feeder, even if the feeder is gone.
(Photo © Holly Miller)

  • Hummingbirds aren’t found everywhere! These beautiful birds are unique to the Americas and the Caribbean Islands. They exist from Canada in North America, to Patagonia in South America.