How Long Do Hummingbirds Live? Their Incredible Life Cycle

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Hummingbirds are some of the most fascinating creatures on Earth. Their delicate beauty and remarkable flying skills make them a favorite among nature enthusiasts.

But how long do hummingbirds live, and what happens during their incredible life cycle? Join us as we explore the world of hummingbirds and discover the amazing things they can do.

Hummingbird Lifespan

Hummingbirds found in North America generally have average life expectancies of 3-5 years. On average, male hummingbirds live shorter lives than females due to high-risk activities in securing and maintaining territories.

The mortality rate is high for juvenile hummingbirds. They are vulnerable to predation, and many do not make it to their first birthday.

However, once a hummingbird reaches adulthood, its chance of survival increases dramatically. Healthy (and lucky) hummingbirds have been recorded reaching ages of up to 10 years. Survival to adulthood is estimated at 45%.

So, although they have short lifespans compared to other animals, hummingbirds still manage to pack a lot of living into their little lives.

The Oldest Hummingbird on Record

The longest-lived wild hummingbird on record was a female broad-tailed hummingbird banded in 1976. She was recaptured in the same place in 1987, which means she was at least 12 years old. This is an incredible age for a hummingbird, as they typically only live for 3-5 years in the wild. It is possible that she lived even longer, but we will never know for sure.

We do know that this little bird was an amazing example of the resilience and tenacity of nature.

How To Tell How Old a Hummingbird Is

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to tell exactly how old a hummingbird is. However, a few clues help to make an educated guess. The first and most obvious clue is the bird’s physical appearance.

An adult male hummingbird will have glossy feathers, whereas a juvenile bird will often have duller plumage. However, keep in mind that juvenile hummingbirds are often confused with females due to this lack of luster.

Another clue is behavior. Juvenile hummingbirds are often shyer and less likely to approach humans than adults.

Typically, any banded or otherwise identified bird is likely an adult. Age and sex identification vary across species.

Factors Influencing Survival

How Long Do Hummingbirds Live

A hummingbird’s lifespan can be affected by many factors, both in the wild and in captivity.

In the wild, predators, parasites, and diseases all take their toll on hummingbird populations. While humans are not usually a direct threat to hummingbirds, indirect threats such as habitat loss and climate change can also impact their survival.

Predation

One of the biggest dangers to hummingbirds is predation. In North America, common predators of hummingbirds include:

  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Hawks
  • Owls
  • Snakes

In South America, where the majority of hummingbird species are found, common predators include:

  • Giant centipedes
  • Mongooses
  • Potoos
  • Tayras

Severe Weather

Every fall, millions of hummingbirds begin their journey south, flying non-stop for days or even weeks. The migration is an amazing feat of endurance, but it is becoming increasingly difficult as severe weather events become more common.

High winds and heavy rains can knock birds off course, making it hard for them to find food and shelter. In addition, extreme weather can damage the delicate flowers that hummingbirds rely on as sources of nectar, leaving them without a vital source of nutrition.

As a result, climate change is having a direct impact on hummingbird survival.

Food Shortages

Another threat to hummingbirds is food shortages. Hummingbirds rely heavily on sugary nectar for sustenance, and they will visit hundreds of flowers each day to get the sugar they need to survive.

As human populations grow and development encroaches on natural habitats, the available flower resources are diminishing.

Various pests and diseases can also decimate populations of nectar-producing plants, leaving hummingbirds without a food source.

Man-Made Hazards

Windows are a common source of injury or death for hummingbirds. The birds mistake the reflections for open space and fly into the glass, sustaining serious injuries.

Another hazard is pesticides. Pesticides in gardens can contaminate hummingbird food sources, and the chemicals can build up in their system, causing severe health problems.

It is important to keep windows covered and avoid using pesticides in your yard or garden to protect hummingbirds.

The Complete Hummingbird Lifecycle

Life is a never-ending cycle of birth, death, and regeneration for the tiny hummingbird.

These delicate creatures hatch from eggs no larger than a jellybean, eventually venturing out into the wide world, where they will spend the rest of their lives searching for sweet nectar and mates.

Though their lifespans are short, hummingbirds live life to the fullest, filling every moment with song and dance.

Breeding Season

The breeding season for adult hummingbirds varies depending on the species and location, but it typically occurs between late spring and early summer.

Migration signals the beginning of the breeding season as hummingbirds move into their family homes for the summer. Lucky bird-lovers may succeed in attracting hummingbirds to their yard by putting out feeders and planting native plants.

During this time, males will establish territories and begin vying for the attention of potential mates.

Courtship

The hummingbird courtship ritual is a complex dance that involves incredible aerial maneuvers. Males will perform a series of acrobatic displays to impress the females. If a female is interested, she will signal her acceptance with a special call.

Nests, Eggs & Chicks

Once a female has accepted a male, she will begin meticulously building a nest. Hummingbird nests are usually made out of plant material and spider webs, and they are often lined with soft moss or down.

The female hummingbird will lay 1-3 eggs, incubating them for about two weeks. When the chicks hatch after 11-16 days, they are pink, blind, and completely helpless. The mother hummingbird will care for them for the next few weeks until they are ready to fledge, or leave the nest.

Fledging typically occurs between 21 and 30 days after hatching. During this time, the baby hummingbirds will grow their feathers and learn how to fly. Once they are ready to leave the nest, they will be on their own.

A Life Well Lived: A Hummingbird’s Incredible Memory

One of the most amazing things about hummingbirds is their incredible memory. These tiny birds can remember every flower they visit and where it is located. A typical hummingbird will visit around 1,500 flowers per day to consume up to two-thirds of its body weight in nectar it needs because of its rapid metabolism.

They can also recall which flowers have the most nectar and when those flowers bloom. This remarkable memory enables them to make the most efficient use of their time and energy.

This memory allows hummingbirds to return to the same places, gardens, and feeders year after year. Despite flying thousands of miles away each year, your friendly neighborhood hummingbirds may well be the same characters from last season!

Final Thoughts

An average hummingbird’s life is truly amazing when you think about all that these little creatures endure during their lifetime.

From the constant search for food to fighting off predators, these birds have to work hard every day just to stay alive. And yet, they still manage to live prosperous lives thanks to their impressive physical abilities and strong will.

Though their lives are short, hummingbirds make the most of every day, filling our world with beauty and wonder.

So the next time you see one of these delightful creatures, take a moment to appreciate all they represent and everything they’ve been through to get where they are today.

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Sophie Herlihy

After an early start in the veterinary industry and as a conservation educator at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, Sophie has since been a successful Zookeeper and Conservationist, specializing in native New Zealand species. When she isn't bird watching in native forests or crawling through the underbrush at midnight searching for rare frog species, she can be found with her husband on their sheep and beef station, far from civilization.