Hummingbirds are fascinating little creatures known to be some of the strongest migrants in the bird kingdom. With a family of 330 species and 115 genera, the breeding ranges of hummingbirds cover most of the United States.
However, with the frequent migration of hummingbirds, the risk of survival increases. So, the question arises, how long do they live?
On an average scale, hummingbird species live 3 to 5 years. Most of them die during their first year. However, once they complete a full annual cycle, their life expectancy increases. This varies from one species to another. Generally, the lifespan of hummingbirds found in North America is 3 to 4 years.
Among 350 hummingbird species, the survival rate can differ widely. Let’s dig a little deeper to know the lifecycle of commonly found hummingbirds to understand their lifespan.
How Do Hummingbirds Complete One Lifecycle?
Belonging to the Trochilidae family, the most common species found in the United States are the ruby-throated and rufous hummingbirds. In order to know about their lifespan, you need to understand how they complete their annual cycle. Here’s all you need to know about a hummingbird’s lifecycle:
Nesting: The nest size is small, generally no bigger than a ping-pong ball or a walnut shell. Nesting is done by the female who builds the nest on a tree branch with tiny leaf pieces, spider silk, and even lichens.
Mating: Hummingbirds start to mate and reproduce at the age of around a year. Males have their own area known as a territory. Females visit the territory and males execute displays to attract and convince females. If she likes the display, she will mate. If not, she moves to another male’s territory. After mating, males and females don’t live together. The female raises and nurtures the chicks alone.
Eggs: Hummingbirds have multiple broods per year. The females usually lay two white eggs in a clutch that take up to 2-3 weeks to incubate. Ruby-throats take 11-16 days to hatch while Rufous incubates for 15-17 days.
Babies: The females incubate, feed, and raise the babies alone. Baby hummers grow feathers around the 8th to 10th day of life and start flying after 21 days. Once ready to fly, they leave the nest and are referred to as fledglings. They become self-sufficient after a month or two.
Adult life: Adult hummingbirds have the highest metabolism amongst all the animals. They visit up to 2000 flowers daily for their food; their diet is made up of flower nectar, and they need to eat two-thirds of their body weight every day. To explore flowers, catch insects and ingest fruit juices, these little creatures use large beaks and grooved tongues.
If the hummingbird does not die during this cycle and completes one full cycle, its life expectancy drastically goes up and most likely lives up to 3 to 5 years. In some cases, it also covers a lifespan of up to a decade, but this happens in rare species.
How Long Do Hummingbirds Live?
Frequent migration causes survival risks for hummingbirds as changes in habitat affects their life. It is difficult for a hummingbird to complete a full cycle in the wild, but if it does, its lifespan increases, making the average lifespan of a hummingbird around 6 years. However, the lifespan can also vary due to certain factors.
It is easy for a biologist to track down the age of a banded hummingbird, several hummingbirds have been recaptured and released and several long-lived ruby-throated were found. Let’s have a closer look at the lifespan of a hummingbird.
How Do Hummingbirds Die?
Most hummingbirds die a natural death, but various factors can cause their death. Here are a few reasons that can cost them their life:
Predators: Many hummingbirds die from predators. Their common predators include small and fast raptors such as Hawks and Mississippian Kites, and cats also hunt them while they sit or sleep outdoors on a porch or yard. In winters, hummingbirds become prey for lizards and snakes. They are also preyed on by bats, squirrels, and chipmunks while they are in their nests.
Weather: Due to severe weather conditions, hummingbirds can succumb to various diseases and ailments. Weather can also lead to fewer food resources which can cause death due to starvation. Young birds usually don’t make it through the first winter
Plants: Changes in flora and fauna of a particular region and the use of pesticides in plants cause illness and death of hummingbirds.
Urbanization: Rapid increase in urbanization, agriculture, and development threatens the living pattern and habitat of hummingbirds. Vehicles also make their migration difficult. Flying into stationary objects sometimes also leads to their death.
Which is the Oldest Hummingbird Recorded?
The oldest hummingbird to be found on record was a female broad-tailed hummingbird. In 1976, the bird was banded in Colorado at the age of one year. 11 years later, in 1987, she was recaptured in the same region, making her at least 12 years old.
However, the most common specie of hummingbird – the ruby-throated hummingbird was recorded to be 9 years and 1 month old in West Virginia.
What Are The Most Common Species of Hummingbirds and Does their Lifespan Vary?
Different species of hummingbirds have different lengths of lifespan on average. Here’s a list of commonly known species and estimates of how long they live:
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds: It is the most common species to be found in the United States and the only species to be seen in the eastern region. It is known to be the oldest living member of its species to have a lifespan of around 9 years.
Rufous Hummingbird: It is the most common and widespread species to be found in North America, seen in every state and province. The oldest rufous hummingbird recorded was 8 years and 1 month old.
Black Chinned-Hummer: Black-chinned hummers are exceptionally widespread and mostly found in the western United States. The oldest hummer to be found was a female being at least 10 years and 1 month.
Does the Lifespan of Males and Females Vary?
Hummingbirds don’t live together, as the male leaves after mating, and they live their respective lives apart. Similarly, their lifespan also varies from one another. Male hummingbirds do not live as long as females. The mortality rate of males is higher than females because of their high energetic need to defend a territory, migrate, and weight loss during breeding. Male hummingbirds hardly live more than 5 years. Whereas females normally survive up to 5 years or more.
How Can You Determine the Age of a Hummingbird?
It’s easier to determine the age of young hummingbirds as the body size differs from the adults. The feather development is thicker and the color is brighter. However, the age of older hummingbirds is difficult to tell. They have smoother bills than young hummers. Due to increased blood flow, their beaks are smooth, and wear over time is paler. The inside of the mouth (known as the Gape) of a mature adult is paler. Whereas the young have a brighter gape to attract the mother for feeding.
Hummingbirds are tiny but active creatures that are usually found in the Western Hemisphere. Half of the species live along the equatorial belt. Around two dozen species migrate to the United States and Canada.
Despite being tiny creatures and strong migrants, hummingbirds surprisingly have long lifespans. Not all make it past their first year due to weather conditions and predators, but those who survive the annual cycle tend to have an average lifespan of 6 years which can go up to 10 years in exceptional cases.