Yes, Hummingbirds sing! While some subspecies of Hummingbirds are more vocal than others, some species of Hummingbirds in North America sing. Anna's Hummingbird, for instance, has an unmistakable trilling song. Most species of hummingbirds have unique songs that they sing for courtship.
While most birdwatchers can identify a Hummingbird by the furious buzzing of their wings, they also have a series of calls, songs, and vocalizations to communicate with each other. These highly territorial birds aren’t very vocal but will use their tiny voices to tell other Hummingbirds to back off! If you ever wondered what the Hummingbirds at your feeders sound like up close, check out this breakdown of the various calls of the Hummingbird and what they mean.
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Hummingbird Songs and Sounds
Some species of Hummingbirds have songs, but not all. The male Anna’s Hummingbird has unique courtship displays, including a quiet, trilling song. While most subspecies of Hummingbirds have short and abbreviated songs and calls, the courtship song of Anna’s Hummingbird is surprisingly long.
Each piece lasts up to ten seconds and consists of a mash-up of trills, squeaks, and whistles to attract a potential mate. For the untrained ear, the call of Anna’s Hummingbird sounds very similar to that of a songbird! It’s rare to hear a Hummingbird singing, but Anna’s Hummingbird is a very avid singer (during the breeding season) if you listen carefully.
Anna’s Hummingbird isn’t the only song in town. Other Hummingbirds utilize songs during breeding seasons, such as the male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, male Costa’s Hummingbird, and the Calliope Hummingbird. The Calliope Hummingbird, for instance, utilizes an impressive (albeit strange) aerial display in addition to sharp zinging chirps to attract a mate. It’s quite a fantastic sight for birders!
The most recognizable tune of the Hummingbird doesn’t even come from its beak! Hummingbirds flap their wings, on average, 50 times per second. That means by the time you finished reading this sentence; a hummingbird flapped its wings at least 100 times. That high-speed humming noise you hear when a hummingbird approaches is a sound of air pressure moving across their furiously fluttering feathers.
In most instances, you can listen to a hummingbird before spotting it. In addition to their wing sounds, they also make a chirping, trilling, and squeaking sounds. Their wings aren’t the only part of the hummingbird that makes noise.
Researchers of the University of California noticed that a fluttering Anna’s Hummingbird made a high-pitched squeak mid-flight, but these sounds didn’t come from their beaks. The tails of hummingbirds have bars on their wings that vibrate at high speeds. The sound that their tail feathers make is similar to that of the sound a blade of grass makes when you blow on it between your hands!
Why Do Hummingbirds Chirp?
Have you ever noticed an aggressive hummingbird chirping furiously at another hummingbird, only to flutter away? Hummingbird chirping is one of their most unusual vocal sounds across all subspecies of hummingbirds. So, why do they chirp so furiously? For instance, the chirping of a Rufous Hummingbird tells other hummingbirds to stay away from their food source.
Hummingbirds (especially the Allen’s Hummingbird) are fiercely territorial around hummingbird feeders and are not very likely to share. However, not all chirping is bad. Sometimes, hummingbirds chirp because they are happy. Hummingbirds will gather around a food source and chirp cheerily to show gratitude and delight at the wonderful nectar spring they have discovered.
Hummingbirds have weak vocal cords compared to songbirds, and their chirping and chattering don’t carry as far. If you want to hear the chatting of a hummingbird, you have to listen very closely. Young hummingbirds often trill or chirp to communicate with their mother, while males make louder alarm calls to warn of a nearby predator. While some hummingbirds have mating calls and courtship displays, others are relatively silent (except for their fluttering wings). Many North American hummingbirds have simple and short trills, chirps, and tweets that sound almost mechanical and don’t have the same whistling quality as other songbirds.
Some hummingbird calls may be so high-pitched that human ears cannot perceive them. A study out of OHSU led by Claudio Mello, M.D., Ph.D., found that Hummingbirds have an unusual vocal organ to produce these high pitch sounds that other birds do not possess. These hummingbirds’ sounds were more similar to that of a bat than a songbird. Perhaps hummingbirds aren’t as silent as we thought- we can’t hear what they’re saying!
How To Listen For Hummingbird Calls
Just like songbirds have unique bird calls, different species of hummingbirds make additional calls. The song of Anna’s Hummingbird is drastically different from that of a Broad-Tailed Hummingbird. Additionally, some hummingbirds may not be native to your area, depending on where you live. Do a little research on the hummingbirds that flock to your location, and study their unique chirps and calls. Set out a clean