Hummingbird Folklore, Meaning, and Symbolism

hummingbird folklore
Hummingbirds have long been seen as messengers between Gods and people. Native Americans honored and celebrated these brightly-colored birds. Today, many people still believe in the magic of hummingbirds and their connection to the spirit world.

Hummingbirds are native to the Americas. They fly incredibly fast in all directions and feed on sugar water—they can even fly upwards and downwards as helicopters do! If that’s not impressive, they are also migrating birds, some flying thousands of miles yearly. Noted for their stunning colors, these tiny birds have made quite the impression across many different cultures. American Indians told of the magic these creatures possessed from Canada to the Caribbean.

The Aztecs and Pueblo tribes thought hummingbirds were messengers between the people and the Gods. Other Native tribes believed hummingbirds to be good luck symbols, bringing love and joy to the people. Today, people believe that hummingbirds represent persistence because of how diligent they are at searching for food. Hummingbird feathers are thought to represent love, beauty, and intelligence.

The Meaning of the Aztec Hummingbird Symbolism

The Aztecs had a Patron God named Huitzilopochtli. The Aztec people Huitzilopochtli was half man and half bird and made of hummingbird feathers that had fallen out of the sky. He was represented by the symbol of a hummingbird, whose name means ‘Hummingbird of the South.’ The Aztecs could identify him by the bracelet of hummingbird feathers around his left wrist.

As their primary God of War, Huitzilopochtli was credited with both victories and losses on the battlefield. The Aztecs believed that their warriors would return in the form of a hummingbird after they died. They would then join Huitzilopochtli and assist him in battle.

Taino sculpture

The Meaning of the Taino People’s Hummingbird Symbolism

The Taino People were American Indians who lived in what we now know as Columbia and the Bahamas. The Taino’s believed that hummingbirds were a symbol of rebirth. They also believed that hummingbirds signified peace and protection. The Taino Warriors were even called Hummingbird Warriors.

The Taino People told a legend about hummingbirds. The folktale follows lovers Alida and Taroo, who were from separate tribes. Banned from seeing each other, Alida’s father arranged for her to marry someone from her tribe. Alida was devastated and prayed to God to save her from this marriage. The Gods answered her prayer and turned her into a beautiful red flower.

Taroo did not know about what was happening to Alida and kept returning to the forest where they first met, hoping she would meet him there. Finally, the moon informed Taroo of what had happened to Alida, and Taroo prayed to the Gods to help him find his beloved. The Gods honored Taroo’s request and turned him into a hummingbird. When the Taino People saw a hummingbird feeding from a red flower, they believed it may have been Taroo and Alida’s spirits meeting together.

mayan relic

The Meaning of the Mayan Hummingbird Symbolism

According to Mayan legend, hummingbirds signified the ‘sun in disguise.’ They believed that these magic creatures were created by their Great God, who covered them with the leftover feathers of other birds. Because hummingbirds were so small, they were given extra abilities, such as flying incredibly fast and having long bills and tongues.

Another Mayan legend tells that the first wedding on earth was between two hummingbirds. At first, these tiny birds were very dull in color. When they were married, however, the other birds gave the hummingbirds some of their feathers to create a beautiful wedding outfit.

The sun made the hummingbird feathers shine, and the hummingbirds were so beautiful that they were allowed to keep the feathers. Another version says that because the hummingbirds never complained about their dull feathers, they were always allowed to wear their wedding outfits.

Zuni and Hopi cultural writing

The Meaning of the Zuni and Hopi Hummingbird Symbolism

In Native American culture, hummingbirds are often portrayed as helpful creatures, interceding between the people and the Gods, to ask for rain. Hummingbirds, therefore, are good luck in Native American tribes. It was a common theme amongst most stories to put hummingbirds alongside the gods.

Another Hopi legend tells of a time when great famine was upon the land. A young boy and his sister were left alone while their parents searched for food. The boy crafted a toy Hummingbird from a sunflower stalk, and his sister threw it high into the air. The toy bird came to life and brought the two siblings ears of corn to eat.

The hummingbird then flew to the earth’s center and asked the God of Fertility to bring rain and plants to the barren land. Rain clouds came, and the earth was renewed. Soon plants began to grow, and the children’s parents returned.

The Zuni, a Pueblo Indian tribe, also tells a legend of how the hummingbird saved their people. Once, a demon lost a bet with the sun and spewed lava onto their land. A hummingbird gathered clouds from all over and brought rain to prevent the fires that were destroying plants and killing people. The hummingbird flew through a rainbow once his work was finished, and the bright colors remained on him.

legend of hummigbirds

The Cherokee Legend About Hummingbirds

The Cherokee told of a legend about how the hummingbird brought the tobacco plant to their people. Long ago, people and animals had many similar characteristics. During this time, the Cherokee had only one tobacco plant, which the geese stole. At the same time, an older woman was near death, but no one could help her without the plant.

A hummingbird offered to rescue the tobacco plant and help the older woman, but the people thought this little bird was too small. After the hummingbird proved how fast and useful he could be, he was given a chance to rescue the tobacco plant. He flew to the land of the geese and stole a few plants and some seeds. The hummingbird brought the tobacco plant back to the Cherokee and had the older woman inhale it, he not only saved her but brought prosperity back to the people by returning this important plant.

Hummingbirds mean that you know how to celebrate the little things in life and the good moments.

Hummingbirds as Spirit Animals

Hummingbirds, as spirit animals, mean many different things. Hummingbirds mean that you know how to celebrate the little things in life and the good moments. You inspire others and work to bring out the best in them.

If the hummingbird is your spirit animal, you can think fast and can make decisions quickly. Though you enjoy being social, you can protect your personal boundaries and not allow people to walk over you. You are playful and know how to experience life to the fullest.

What does it mean when a hummingbird crosses your path?

Some believe that seeing a hummingbird means that the soul of a loved one is trying to connect with you. If you’ve ever had a hummingbird hover in mid-air and stare at you, perhaps you’ve imagined a departed loved one nearby. Others believe it symbolizes that challenging times are over and that healing is beginning. Most believe that a hummingbird crossing your path brings good luck and joy to your life.

Hummingbirds are thought to bring peace, joy, and healing. Through the ages, many stories and legends have surrounded these little birds and how they have helped many people and cultures survive. Attracting hummingbirds is simple—all you need are hummingbird feeders, homemade sugar water, and patience.

[Native American tribes have celebrated the hummingbirds for centuries. Hummingbirds are thought to be helpful creatures, bringing good luck and communicating with the Gods.]

Sarah Pearce

Sarah enjoys feeding hummingbirds in the warmer months, and a range of finches, woodpeckers, and cardinals in the cooler months. She enjoys researching and learning more about birds, gardening, and preserving food. She is learning how to maximize her small city backyard and is amazed at all the possibilities. She lives in southwestern Indiana with her family.

Recent Posts