The Sounds of Hummingbirds

Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird enjoying a full nectar feeder.
Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird enjoying a full nectar feeder. | Source

Buzzing Sounds of Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Hummingbirds' Voiceboxes Are So Tiny

Believe it or not, hummers do have songs—well, sort of. They don’t have a large enough voice box to create vocalizations like other birds. But they do communicate very efficiently nonetheless. My Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds use various-pitched squeaks, chips, pits, squits, twitters, chitters*, whirrs and buzzes in different ways.

As a hummingbird flies past I can tell if it is a male or female by the pitch of its wingbeats. The male's wings emit a low-pitched 'bumblebee' buzzing sound, while the female's wing beats are quieter and slightly higher-pitched than that of the male.

*My word that combines twitters and chatters!

Intruder Alert!

When they spot another diner at what they perceive to be their personal nectar feeder, they approach quickly with a high-pitched series of squeaks. I’ve watched as both females and males indulge in this behavior. Presumably those sounds serve as a warning alert to the intruder as well as any other hummingbirds near enough to hear them.

The Sounds of Hummingbirds Fighting from dawnvonholt

The Sounds of Battle and Territorial Defense!

After successfully chasing away the usurper, they fly off to land on a nearby branch awaiting the next territorial invader. While in flight I hear the hummer utter 'chittering' sounds in sets of 2 or 3 separate segments, which are sometimes repeated for emphasis; as if to say, ‘put that in your pipe and smoke it’! This will happen many times during the day as territories are most fiercely defended.

Hovering while eating, this hummer's wings are a translucent blur!
Hovering while eating, this hummer's wings are a translucent blur! | Source

Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at Feeder

Hummingbird nectar sources provide quick energy after their long migration.
Hummingbird nectar sources provide quick energy after their long migration. | Source

Happy Relief

When my hummingbirds first arrive in May and find a full nectar feeder in the same spot as last year, they actually fly very close to my face at eye level and hover for 3 or 4 seconds. They quickly speed off to the feeder and take a long drink, then several short sips before flying to another part of the yard. All the while they emit a kind of bubbly chatty twitter that is slightly different from their other sounds. It’s such a happy little sound that I can’t help but feel their joy to have finally made it ‘home’ again safely.

Courting Time

Now when it comes time for the male to court the female, he performs a magical pendulum dance in mid-air that is fascinating to witness. The female sits motionless and seemingly mesmerized as the male flies in a ‘u’-shaped arc. An ‘other-worldly’ whirring sound like those made in the old sci-fi alien spaceship movies can be easily heard. Rather than a vocal sound, this whirring is made from the movement of air passing over the hummer’s tail feathers as he performs his amazing aerial ballet.

Do You Make Nectar Feeders Available for the Hummingbirds?

  • Yes, I love to watch them enjoying a rich nectar meal.
  • No, I figure they have enough flowers to choose from.
  • No, but I intend to add nectar feeders in the near future.
  • I would if I had hummingbirds around here!
See results without voting

I have learned to listen and watch for this wondrous maneuver a couple of weeks after the females have arrived. You see the males usually return approximately one week before their potential mates. Research now confirms the unthinkable: my returning hummingbirds have flown non-stop, over more than 600 miles of water in the Gulf of Mexico in hopes of finding nectar sources when they finally reach land! And if that isn’t enough, they still continue their migration northward to end up in my yard, and points north as far as Canada. This is why I so appreciate the stamina and sheer fortitude of this tiny flying jewel.

Swashbucklers

Have you ever seen hummingbirds ‘sword fighting’ as they ascend vertically? I have watched as males and females both engage in this curious non-lethal battle. They use their long beaks for more than just sipping nectar and picking spiders out of webs. While climbing higher and higher, their beaks cross back and forth just like dueling swordsmen!

These little powerhouses are feisty characters indeed. During these aerial battles, you can hear a more low-pitched series of twitters uttered all the way to the top of the flight. Each then speeds away: one back toward its territory and the feeder, and the other disappears into the distance. These conflicts occur quite often on the warmer days of summer.

from rollosphotos: Female Hummer In the Rain

Singing in the Shower

While sitting on the clothesline in a rain shower, hummers frequently spread their tails and shake them. They do the same for their wings and head. You can tell they are really enjoying the warm water cascading over their feathers as they make their constant rain ‘squit ‘sounds. I think this is equivalent to singing in the shower for them!

Hello Old Friend!

You can tell I appreciate and enjoy my hummingbirds and all their sounds. I look forward to their arrival each year, and plan my outdoor activities to make sure I’m on hand to greet them when they get here. Like old friends who have been apart for a long time, we are very happy to see each other again!

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How Many Sounds Do Your Hummers Make? 14 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Thank you for the reminder, Pearl. Hanging up the feeder was on my to do list for this week and you now reminded me. I love these little fellas and I need to set up dinner for them.

I also love your love for birds. It shines in your writings about them.

Well done my dear friend.

bill


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you Billy! I do love my birds, and I'm glad to hear that you can tell in my writing. It's obvious you are a bird lover as well. Each one has something different to offer, whether it be song, general behavior, or specific antics. Frankly, I'd rather watch the birds than tv!

I always look forward to your comments, my friend ;) Pearl


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

This as always Pearl is so so beautiful.You are a wonderful writer and I am so honoured to be your friend.

Eddy.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

I love Hummingbirds; they're fascinating little creatures. I see them in my yard occasionally. They like the same flowers that attract butterflies. I'll have to see about getting a Hummingbird feeder, for sure!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi bravewarrior! You are a person after my own heart! The more butterflies, beneficial insects and birds, especially little hummers, the better I like it. Being surrounded by nature makes me very happy. You will enjoy watching the hummingbirds at the nectar feeder, I'm sure. And they will be very grateful for the extra nourishment. The more food available, the more hummers that will visit!

Have a wonderful day ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Dear Eddy, how sweet you are! You have literally 'made my day' with your supportive comments. I too am very grateful to have a caring and sweet friend in you ;) Pearl


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Yes, indeed, Connie, one can tell that the hummers are safe and sound when they are finally home. I am anxiously awaiting mine at the lake. Perhaps I will get a good photo or two...


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

How cool is this. While I have seen these lovelies often, I have not been privy to the sounds they make. Right now I have none in my yard at all...I am going to try to encourage them to come.

Thanks for sharing...loved this. Angels are on the way :) ps


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Hi Deb! I'm so glad to report that the female hummers just arrived back 'home' safely last evening. I was so very happy to see them, and so was the male! They zipped around me this morning as I refilled the ant moats.

My male grosbeak arrived this morning as well! And along with him I spotted an indigo bunting. I was able to snap some pictures of each of them. I was so excited to see them!

I hope your hummers arrive in your area very soon ;)

Connie


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

pstraubie, I'm so glad you enjoyed hearing the many sounds that hummingbirds make. They do have quite a repertoire, even though it is much different from songbirds. Just adding a few red or orange flowers in containers placed in clusters or individually will make it easy for them to see that your yard is a friendly hummer dining stop!

Your visits are always fun ;) Pearl

P.S. Thanks for the Angels!


precy anza profile image

precy anza 3 years ago from San Diego

Really enjoyed reading your hub and learning more about this cute, little birds :) I had watched an aerial battle, and yes to the low-pitched series of twitters! Amazing that you can tell the bird's gender by the wing beats. I enjoy watching those little jewels too and their sounds :) I have a male hummer here that perches where ever he wants on our patio just to keep an eye on the feeders, sometimes makes me laugh too on his choices. Up and shared!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

precy anza, I'm so glad you stopped by to visit. I really enjoyed reading your comments about the hummers at your house. I have a male hummingbird that 'stands guard' on a special branch that's within sight of the feeder, but hidden from any hummer that tries to grab a quick sip! It's quite comical to watch the antics of these tiny jewels! Thank you so much for your votes and share; they are very much appreciated, my friend ;) Pearl


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

I love this! We put a hummingbird feeder up last year and it was so funny. We had never seen a hummingbird, although the nectar was disappearing. I lamented the fact out loud to my daughter and within minutes there was our first sighting. It was as if he was saying to us, "Don't give up. We need this food, lady." Very nice article chock full of useful information. Voted up, beautiful and shared.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

FlourishAnyway, thanks so much for stopping by and visiting me and my hummers! They are comical little guys, and I love to watch their antics. I'm glad you didn't give up on your hummingbirds. It's very likely they will return every year to your nectar feeder. Thanks so much for the votes and share--they are appreciated for sure ;) Pearl

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