Hummingbirds are unique in the avian world, and there are many unique words that apply to these special birds. By understanding hummingbird vocabulary, birders can appreciate these flying jewels more and share their beauty with others.
Click on any term for a more detailed definition.
The bony, keratin-covered projection of a bird's mouth. A hummingbird's long, thin bill is specially designed for sipping nectar and is one of the most distinctive features of these types of birds. The length, thickness, color and curve of the bill varies by species.
Having distinct physical differences between genders. Most hummingbird males are brightly colored and iridescent, while females are much plainer to stay camouflaged while nesting. Young male hummingbirds often resemble females but will get more colorful as they mature.
A brightly colored throat patch. Many male hummingbirds have distinctly colored gorgets that serve as key field marks for proper identification based on the gorget's color and shape. The gorget is often flared to show off its brilliance while breeding or defending territory.
A hormonally-induced state of extreme appetite and overeating prior to migration. Hummingbirds may increase their mass by 50 percent or more before migrating so they have enough energy for the journey. Bird feeders are especially important to help hummingbirds gain this weight.
A diet that consists primarily of insects. While hummingbirds are known for drinking nectar, they also eat a great number of insects as a source of protein, often picking them from spider webs or out of the air. Insects are especially important for young birds so they will develop properly.
Shimmering feathers with metallic-like colors that may change color when seen from different angles. Many hummingbirds have iridescent throats and upperparts, and the exact colors, when seen in good light, are a key to proper hummingbird identification.
The sugary water produced by many flowers that is a main food source for hummingbirds. The exact sugar concentration of nectar from different flower types can vary, and artificial nectar can be made commercially or from a simple recipe to fill hummingbird feeders.
A diet that consists primarily of nectar. All hummingbirds are nectivorous and may feed dozens of times a day, visiting different flowers and feeders. Hummingbird feeding is important for the pollination of many flowers, and hummingbirds will frequently visit nectar feeders as well.
A bird that breeds in North America but winters south of the Tropic of Cancer, often traveling to Central or South America and other tropical climates where flowers, fruits and insects are abundant. Most hummingbirds that visit North America are neotropical migrants.
To spend the winter far outside the typical non-breeding range. While most of North America's hummingbirds are neotropical migrants, rufous hummingbirds will often overwinter in the southeastern United States, as will other species on rare occasions when the winter is mild.
A pollen-eating bird, or a diet that consists of mostly pollen. While a hummingbird's diet does not have a large proportion of pollen, it is common for hummingbirds to eat some pollen while sipping nectar from flowers.