Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)


The hummingbirds (of order Apodiformes) are very small birds, mostly with iridescent plumage. Their ‘wrist and hand’ wing articulation derives lift on both the up‐ and down‐strokes, permitting stationary, upward and reverse hovering. They subsist on flower nectar, tree sap and small insects.

Keywords: Aves; Apodiformes; smallest birds; pollinators; nectarivores; coevolution; hovering flight; metabolism; energetics

Figure 1.

Male Costa′s Hummingbird.


Further Reading

Calder WA (1999) Hummingbirds in Rocky Mountain meadows. In: Able KP (ed.) Gatherings of Angels: Migrating Birds and Their Ecology. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Carpenter FL, Paton DC and Hixon MA (1983) Weight gain and adjustment of feeding territory size in migrant hummingbirds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 80: 7259–7263.

De Joyo J, Elliott A and Sargatal J (eds) (1999) Handbook of Birds of the World, vol. 5: Barn Owls to Hummingbirds. Barcelona: Lynx Editions.

Greenewalt CH (1975) The flight of birds. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (new series) 65 (part 4): 1–67.

Greenewalt CH (1990) Hummingbirds. Mineola NY: Dover. [First published 1960.]

Greenewalt CH, Brandt W and Friel DD (1960) Iridescent colors of hummingbird feathers. Journal of the Optical Society of America 50: 1005–1015.

Johnsgard P (1997) The Hummingbirds of North America, 2nd edn. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Kingsolver JG and Daniels TL (1983) Mechanical determinants of nectar feeding strategy in hummingbirds: energetics, tongue morphology, and licking behavior. Oecologia 60: 214–226.

López‐Calleja MV, Bozinovic F and Martinez del Rio C (1997) Effects of sugar concentration on hummingbird feeding and energy use. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 118A: 1291–1299.

McWhorter TJ and Martinez del RRo C (1999) Food ingestion and water turnover. I hummingbirds: how much dietary water is absorbed? Journal of Experimental Biology 202: 2851–2858.

Miller SJ and Inouye DW (1983) Roles of the wing‐whistle in the territorial behavior of male broad‐tailed hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus). Animal Behaviour 31: 689–700.

Poole A and Gill F (eds) Birds of North America, numbers 16 (1992), 53 (1993), 134 and 135 (1994), 204, 221, 226, 251 (1996), 430 (1999) (other species in press). Philadelphia: Academy of Natural Science; Washington DC: American Ornithologists' Union.

Skutch AF (1973) The Life of the Hummingbird. New York: Crown.

Suarez RK (1992) Hummingbird flight: sustaining the highest mass‐specific metabolic rates among vertebrates. Experentia 48: 565–570.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Calder, William A(Nov 2001) Hummingbirds (Trochilidae). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003432]