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Hummingbird Facts and Symbolism

Updated on January 6, 2017
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Hummingbird Facts

Hummingbirds are part of the order Apodiformes and the family Trochilidae. They are tiny little birds that are typically three to five inches in length; some species (and there are hundreds of species) are no larger than a bumblebee.

They are named for the sound their wings make, which sounds like a hum. This is caused by how fast they beat their wings, which can be anywhere from 12 to 80 beats per second, allowing them to hover similar to a dragonfly. They are also the only family of birds that can fly in reverse, and they are able to fly at speeds of 34mph or faster.

These fascinating little birds have the ability to go into a hibernation-like state, called torpor, which allows them to conserve their energy in times of food scarcity or while they are sleeping. They drink nectar, and are able to determine the amount of sugar in the nectar, similar to bees. They have quite a sweet tooth, and will not drink any nectar that is less than 10 percent sugar. However, nectar doesn’t provide all the nutrients the hummingbird needs. To make up the difference, they snack on insects and spiders.

The Home of the Hummingbirds

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Symbolic Beliefs Among Civilizations

Hummingbirds are only found in North, Central and South America. All the myths and folklore surrounding them come from ancient civilizations found in these areas including the Mayans and Aztecs among others.

The Mayans

The Mayans believed that the very first wedding ever performed on Earth was between two hummingbirds. They also believed hummingbirds were created by the Great God using the leftover pieces of all the other birds he had made. Because of their tiny size, the Great God gave them an incredible flight ability enabling them to hover, fly backwards and upside down.

The Aztecs

The patron god of the Aztecs was named Hitzilopochti, which means “The Hummingbird on the Left.” He was also the God of the Sun and War and could be identified by the bracelet of hummingbird feathers he wore around his left wrist. The Aztecs believed the hummingbird was a symbol of rebirth, and that if they died in battle they would be reincarnated as one of the tiny birds.

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The Taino

The Taino people were indigenous to the areas that we currently know as Columbia, the Bahamas, and the Greater Antilles and Lesser Antilles and were relatives of the Arawak people located in South America.

The Taino saw the hummingbirds as a symbol of rebirth. In fact, the hummingbird was the symbol for the one who spread life across the world. The Taino myth of the hummingbirds states there were at one time flies that had been transformed by Agueybaba, the Sun God. They were a symbol of peace and protection. Interestingly, however, the Taino warriors were called Calibri Warriors, or Hummingbird Warriors.

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Other Traditions

Several other traditions have different myths about the hummingbird.

  • The Cherokee believed their medicine men would take the form of a hummingbird in order to find a missing plant.
  • The Hopi and Zuni thought hummingbirds intervened and spoke with the Gods convincing them to bring rain to humankind. Because of this they painted water jars with the image of hummingbirds.
  • The people of the Caribbean thought the spirits of relatives resided in the tiny birds.
  • The Spanish called the birds Joyas Voladores which meant Flying Jewels.

Hummingbird Symbolism

Hummingbirds represent the element of Air, and therefore take on the meaning of the Air element, which is associated with intelligence, higher thought processes, logic and the ability to see the “big picture.”

The pattern created when a hummingbird flaps their wings is the symbol for infinity, which explains why they are a symbol of eternity, infinity and continuity. They are also symbols of persistence because they are constantly on the move looking for nectar.

Magical Attributes

Like the peoples of the Americas, pagans also believe hummingbirds have meaning and magical attributes. Because it is an air element, it has many similarities with the dragonfly and the butterfly. It is associated with rebirth, dreams and messages. The hummingbird feather has been used in spells for love. The bird itself can be invoked for performing magic related to happiness, truth, balance and relaxation.

As a totem, and because of its ability to fly backwards, the hummingbird reminds us that we should reflect on our past, but not get stuck in it; we have to move forward. The bird urges us to be persistent in life, and to never give up. The hummingbird also reminds us that balance is the key; we must find harmony in our lives in order to be truly happy.

© 2012 Melissa Flagg OSC

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    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @frogyfish, I love that video as well, although it's not mine. I found it on youtube. :D

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      frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

      Intriguing hub about these fantastic little birds. Enjoyed the video - you had so many flying round...and I did love that rooster crowing! How did you catch that one in the house? I am envious of your birdies here1 :-)

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Thank you deamseeker2! I love birds as well, and I'm fascinated by the symbolism many cultures associate with them!

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      dreamseeker2 5 years ago

      Great hub. Will be back to read again to absorb all the content. I love birds! : )

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @phoenix, I think I might have found the problem... it was really stupid lol. Anyway, I read your email, just haven't had a chance to answer, with all this legal stuff going on, it's hard to get anything else done. But I promise to get back to you as soon as I can.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi DOM,

      I thought that might have been the case. Like I said, there's no rush. I'm just glad it didn't disappear into cyberspace. lol

      Talk to you soon.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Ok, I used a contextual link, it was easier to introduce your hub that way! :D I do love the pictures in your wonderful hub! It's one of your best hubs I think.

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Indeed!! :D

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      whowas 5 years ago

      Well, I'll happily link to yours if you'll link to mine. Deal?

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @whowas, thank you!! Your hub on hummingbirds gave me the idea, so I do have to give you some credit! :D

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Dang it, I just checked his inbox and it did indeed land in there. This is what I get for using one email program for 4 email addresses. I'll read it tonight and get back to you. So, sorry, its not just you this time, I found a bunch of emails that I've been looking for in his box. I might have a hunch as to why though lol. :D

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      whowas 5 years ago

      Hi Daughter of Maat,

      That's a beautiful and fascinating hub. I'd never looked into the mythology of hummingbirds before - only the natural history. I found this, therefore extremely enlightening and interesting.

      Great stuff as ever!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi DOM.

      I responded to your last email but don't know if it's been misdirected again. If you're busy that's cool. I can wait. I just wanted to be sure you got it this time.

      Catch you later.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Oh I'll have to checkout your poem about Hummingbirds! They are just so beautiful!

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Indeed! I think they are beautiful and the strength of their little wings is astounding! I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about them myself!! :D

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      Zipper 5 years ago from United States

      Thank you for the historical facts about Hummingbirds. I wrote a poem about Hummingbirds because they are so dear to my heart.

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      Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

      What an interesting and beautiful hub! I loved learning more about hummingbirds and the symbolism with them. They are such magnificent creatures, aren't they? Thanks for teaching us!

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Awe, why thank you epigramman! Such a wonderful compliment. You made my day! Please send some of your cold weather from Ontario on down to Florida along with that wonderful energy! And I'll send some tropically warm and fuzzy energy your way! :D lol

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      ...as far as hummingbird hubs go and I've seen quite a few - I must say this one is pretty definitive and it's pretty to look at and of course I have learnt even more than I already know - for I am the prettiest hummingbird at Hubpages -didn't ya know - take a closer look at my profile photo - lol - birds of a feather flock together as they say - and you offer an awesome array of wonderful hubs to entertain and to enlighten and also to improve our lives - hubbravo to you - lake erie tiem 12:12am and sending warm wishes and good energy from ontario, canada

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @aviannovice Thank you!! Those pics were difficult to pick, there were just so many of them that I wanted use!

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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very nicely done with excellent historical references. You also chose wonderful pictures to accompany the article.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @Eiddwen, thank you, I enjoyed writing this one! :D

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      lol nice!!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      What a wonderful hub ;I love anything to do with animnals/birds etc and this one was a treat.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

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      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      DOM, protector of the potty puppy! :) *giggle*

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @iguidenetwork thank you!! I love writing about nature, it's very relaxing!!

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @TToombs lol that's funny. Many birds here in Florida dive bomb, actually. I had a mockingbird dive bomb my poor dog while she was going to the bathroom. I guess it had a nest in the tree she was under... lol I had to get a broom cuz it actually hit her and injured her... that mockingbird wasn't too happy with me! lol Thanks for stopping by!! Love hearing from you!!

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @Pamela Thank you! They are beautiful, we planted more hibiscus bushes in the hopes of next year drawing in more. I want to get my own pictures of them for this hub! :D

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 5 years ago from Austin, TX

      I love reading about nature; needless to say, it's fascinating. Thanks for putting a great hub about the tiny but great creature, the hummingbird. :)

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      My husband's grandmother adores hummingbirds. She has them made out of everything imaginable all around her house. It's easy to buy gifts for her...anything resembling a hummingbird. :)

      I did get dive bombed by one in Palm Coast, FL while I was outside grilling dinner. It was lucky it didn't end up on the dinner table. :)

      Great hub with a LOT of interesting information, DOM! :) Voted up and shared.

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      Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

      Hiumingbirds are so adorable. I put a Humingbird feeder out every years and it gets a lot of activity, particularly when they are feeding their young. This is an interesting hub with many new facts that I had not known before. Voted up, beautiful and interesting.

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @effer, I agree, the sound of their wings alone can be hypnotic!! They are gorgeous birds! Thank you for commenting, I always love hearing from you!

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      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      The hummingbird is a beautiful, colorful little flying creature......I have a HB feeder aside our deck.......and if we're really quiet and very lucky, there are 2 that will come and feed as we are sitting just a few feet away.

      They are intriguing to watch......they almost hypnotize. UP+++

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @Billybuc, Thank you!! and I agree! They can both hover and fly backwards. And they're both very colorful!! Beautiful creatures indeed!

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @Janine Thank you! I actually saw one myself a few weeks (really strange considering the time of year ) ago which gave me the idea. They are so beautiful up close!

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wonderful hub my friend. It's interesting that you mentioned the dragonfly; I have always looked at the dragonfly as some sort of distant cousin to the hummingbird. :) They are so similar in my mind.

      Anyway, great pictures and hub!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Melissa, this was absolutely beautiful and so very informative. We took the girls to the Queens Zoo this past summer and they have a 'bird zoo' and we actually saw this bird up close and personal, but truly didn't know the half of what you wrote here. Thank you so much for sharing all this information about the hummingbird and have of course voted up and shared all over too :)

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      Melissa Flagg OSC 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      I've only seen once once as well actually. He (or she) was hovering around a hibiscus bush that we have on the side of our porch. By the time I grabbed, the camera he was long gone! I was surprised at all the photos I found on wikipedia for this one! There were more I just didn't have room, and I wanted to used them all! lol

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is a very pretty hub to look at with all the hummingbirds. I've only ever seen one once. When I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Puerto Rico I saw one hovering near one of the orchids in his back garden. I couldn't get a decent photo because he moved so quickly.