Hummingbirds are small birds of the family Trochilidae.

They are among the smallest of birds: most species measure 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in). The smallest living bird species is the 2–5 cm Bee Hummingbird. They can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings 12–80 times per second (depending on the species). They are also the only group of birds able to fly backwards. Their rapid wing beats do actually hum. They can fly at speeds over 15 m/s (54 km/h, 34 mi/h).

A color plate illustration from Ernst Haeckel’s ”Kunstformen der Natur” (1899), showing a variety of hummingbirds.

In Myth and Culture

  • Aztecs wore hummingbird talismans, the talismans being representations as well as actual hummingbird fetishes formed from parts of real hummingbirds: emblematic for their vigor, energy, and propensity to do work along with their sharp beaks that mimic instruments of weaponry, bloodletting, penetration, and intimacy. Hummingbird talismans were prized as drawing sexual potency, energy, vigor, and skill at arms and warfare to the wearer.
  • The Aztec god Huitzilopochtli is often depicted as a hummingbird. The Nahuatl word huitzil (hummingbird) is anonomatopoeic word derived from the sounds of the hummingbird’s wing-beats and zooming flight.
  • One of the Nazca Lines depicts a hummingbird.
  • The Ohlone tells the story of how Hummingbird brought fire to the world.
  • Trinidad and Tobago is known as “The land of the hummingbird,” and a hummingbird can be seen on that nation’s coat of arms and 1-cent coin as well as its national airline, Caribbean Airlines.
  • Chrysler‘s gear-reduction starter motor used from the early 1960s to the late 1980s was nicknamed the “Highland Park Hummingbird” after Chrysler’s hometown and the starter’s distinctive cranking sound.
  • In the past hummingbird feathers were used due to its beauty and iridescent colours and hues to decorate different articles, like for example to dress some of the miniature birds fitted in the singing bird boxes.
  • In the late 19th century, hummingbirds were sometimes stuffed and mounted on women’s hand fans.

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