How Long Do Hummingbirds Live? – Hummingbird Lifespan

Hummingbirds with 3 to 5 year lifespan

The lifespan of hummingbirds is a topic of great interest to many avian enthusiasts. These tiny, vibrant birds attract attention with their rapid wingbeats, but how long they live remains a lesser-known fact to most.

In general, many factors contribute to the duration of their lives, including the environments they inhabit and the challenges they face daily. Hummingbirds also have many predators that threaten their survival.

Luckily for you, this article sheds light on some of the secrets surrounding the hummingbirds’ life expectancy — including what kills them most often and which among their species are now declining in numbers.

How Long Do Hummingbirds Live?

A pair of hummingbirds getting nectar

The life expectancy of a hummingbird ranges from about 3 to 5 years on average. Yet, some individuals from the nearly 350 species have a long lifespan of up to 14 years. Tragically, however, note that many hummingbirds do not survive their first year, especially those living in the wild.

Generally speaking, hummingbirds, which are the smallest birds in the world, live around 3 to 5 years. They spend most of their lives in the air, flying from flower to flower and sipping nectar to fuel their flight muscles.

That said, bear in mind that many factors can influence how long a hummingbird will live.

For one thing, the majority of hummingbirds face many threats, such as predators and harsh environmental conditions, causing them to die during their first year of life.

Typical Lifespan of Different Hummingbird Species

The lifespan of hummingbirds varies significantly between species. Most can live up to only three years, while other hummingbirds survive for more than ten years.

For your reference, the following is a table that compares the life expectancies of various hummingbird species:

Hummingbird Species Life ExpectancyLongest Documented Lifespan
Broad-tailed Hummingbird4–12 years12 years & 2 months
Black-chinned Hummingbird8–11 years11 years & 2 months
Buff-bellied Hummingbird7–11 years11 years & 2 months
Rivoli’s Hummingbird3–11 years11 years
Broad-billed Hummingbird6–9 years9 years & 1 month
Ruby-throated Hummingbird3–9 years9 years & 1 month
Rufous Hummingbird3–9 years8 years & 11 months
Costa’s Hummingbird5–8 years8 years & 9 months
Anna’s Hummingbird3–8 years8 years & 2 months
Calliope Hummingbird3–8 years8 years & 1 month
Blue-throated Mountain-gem3–8 years7 years & 11 months
Lucifer Hummingbird3–7 years7 years & 5 months
Allen’s Hummingbird3–5 years5 years & 9 months
Buffy Hummingbird3–4 years5 years

Based on the table above, it’s evident that hummingbird species live shorter lives than many other types of wild birds. Their lifespan typically falls between 3 and 8 years, but some can survive for as long as 12.

How Long Do Hummingbirds Live in the Wild?

Two hummingbirds flying in the wild

The average hummingbird’s life expectancy spans about 3 to 5 years in the wild. However, some hummingbirds can live significantly longer, with a few reaching up to 12 years.

For example, the lifespan of some wild North American hummingbirds has been known to exceed 12 years — one of which includes the Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

More specifically, it was a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird that was banded in 1976 and recaptured again in 1987. It was basically the oldest wild hummingbird ever recorded.

How Long Do Hummingbirds Live in Captivity?

In controlled environments such as zoos and sanctuaries, hummingbirds tend to live longer, sometimes outliving their wild counterparts.

In one notable instance, although this has not been officially documented, two Black-chinned Hummingbirds at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum lived up to 13 or 14 years.

This extended lifespan in captivity is often due to the lack of predators and the consistent availability of food, which helps captive hummingbirds maintain good health and vitality as they age.

The Average Hummingbird Life Cycle

A pair of hummingbirds playing around

Now that you know how long hummingbirds live on average, the next step is learning about their life cycle. Knowledge of this process will help you understand how these tiny birds grow and develop.

Below are the different stages of development that every hummingbird goes through:

Egg Stage

The beginning of a hummingbird’s lifespan starts with the egg stage. It is a fragile period where female hummingbirds lay and incubate tiny eggs, often no larger than a pea.

During my time working in a sanctuary, I encountered the delicate process of the hummingbird’s egg stage.

It was a profound experience to observe how, over a span of 11 to 18 days, the tiny eggs of hummingbirds develop, hatch, and emerge into the world.

Hatchling Stage

The next exciting phase is the hatchling stage. As baby hummingbirds appear from their shells, they are altricial. Simply put, they are blind, featherless, and highly vulnerable.

These delicate creatures depend solely on their mother for warmth and nutrition, which lasts about 18 to 21 days.

Fledgling Stage

In the fledgling stage, young hummingbirds are on the move, but you’ll notice that they will still remain close to the nest.

In other words, while fledgling hummingbirds begin to develop feathers and their flying skills start to appear, they’re still not fully independent.

So, the mother will continue to feed them until they are ready to fend for themselves.

Juvenile Stage

Juvenile hummingbirds are the adolescents of the hummingbird world. They’ve left the nest but still have much to learn.

At this point, however, these teen birds will start to forage for their own food. They will also focus on honing their flying skills.

In fact, some juvenile hummingbirds may even begin their first migration journey, particularly species that live in Central and South America.

Adulthood Stage

Upon reaching maturity, adult hummingbirds are now fully grown and capable of mating. In short, this phase marks the peak of their physical abilities.

On the one hand, adult males display vivid colors, especially during the courtship season. They also often perform intricate aerial displays to impress potential mates.

On the other hand, female hummingbirds, after mating, will search for suitable locations to build their nests and lay their eggs, ensuring the continuity of the cycle.

See the following video for a visual overview of the life cycle of an Anna’s Hummingbird:

Anna's Hummingbird Life Cycle - complete footage documenting life from egg to hatchling!

7 Declining Hummingbird Species

Hummingbirds are colorful, swift-moving animals that play a crucial role in the ecosystem. Sadly, several species are now in decline.

This section highlights seven hummingbird species that may be candidates for conservation efforts:

1. Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Broad Tailed Hummingbird with declining population

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird is found mainly along field edges in the mountainous areas of the United States and Mexico. Their magenta gorgets, or throat feathers, distinguish them from other hummingbirds.

Alarmingly, their population has been declining at around one percent annually. As a matter of fact, in the last half-century, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of this species has vanished.

2. Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird with declining population

Being only three inches long, the Calliope Hummingbird proudly holds the title of North America’s smallest hummingbird. These tiny wonders breed in the mountains of the United States and Canada.

Over the past 50 years, though, their numbers have dropped about nine percent, which, although not drastic, is still concerning for their future.

A close friend who also specializes in wildlife research once shared his deep concern for Calliope Hummingbirds. He observed that their limited winter range in Mexico makes them particularly vulnerable to population losses.

3. Costa’s Hummingbird

Costas Hummingbird with declining population

The Costa’s Hummingbird, known for its striking purple gorgets and ability to fly at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, usually lives in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts.

Yet, note that their population has sharply declined by over 50% in the previous half-century. The most significant threat to their existence is likely the loss of their distinctive desert scrub habitats.

4. Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird with declining population

The Rufous Hummingbird, with its rufous-orange throat feathers, is distinguished by its northernmost breeding range, which reaches as far as Alaska. They also belong to the list of birds with orange chests.

However, note that since the 1960s, they’ve been experiencing a yearly decline of about two percent, culminating in a 60% population loss.

It’s so alarming that these hummingbirds are now listed as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Overall, the fact that hummingbirds of this species are nearing endangered status is highly concerning.

5. Scintillant Hummingbird

Scintillant Hummingbird with declining population

Native to Costa Rica and Panama, the Scintillant Hummingbird is the smallest in its range, measuring only about 2.6 inches long.

Moreover, they weigh merely under a quarter of an ounce and have a wingspan of just over three inches.

Beyond their build, however, note that these bird species are experiencing a moderate decline, with less than 50,000 individuals currently existing.

6. Buffy Hummingbird

Buffy Hummingbird with declining population

Unique in its genus Leucippus, the Buffy Hummingbird is native to Colombia, French Guiana, and Venezuela. Further, they thrive in desert shrublands and mangrove areas at elevations reaching 500 meters.

A more pressing concern, though, is the declining population of these hummingbirds. They are estimated to be under 1,000 mature individuals and are on a downward trend due to habitat loss.

7. Allen’s Hummingbird

Allens Hummingbird with declining population

The Allen’s Hummingbird, similar in appearance to the Rufous but with green feathers on its back, can fly at speeds exceeding 55 miles per hour.

Yet, despite their fast flight, they haven’t been able to escape a drastic population decline of 83% over the past 50 years. The loss is mainly attributed to habitat destruction in their breeding and wintering areas.

What Do Hummingbirds Usually Die From?

Unfortunately, hummingbirds do not die from old age like most other birds. Instead, they stop living due to various causes that are out of their control.

The following are the most common reasons why hummingbirds live short lives:

  • Predation: Once hummingbirds leave the nest, they are at risk from many predators. For one thing, cats and birds of prey are major threats to the Trochilidae family. Even spiders have been known to prey on these small birds.
  • Weather conditions: Most of the time, hummingbirds can tolerate all types of weather. However, when it comes to extreme climate conditions such as rain, snow, and strong winds, they might not be able to handle it.
  • Diseases and parasites: Diseases, particularly those caused by parasites, can notably shorten the lifespan of a hummingbird. These illnesses might attack organs, lead to abnormalities, or even interfere with a hummingbird’s ability to fly.
  • Limited food source: Hummingbirds live in areas where floral nectar, their primary food source, is available. Unfortunately, if this becomes scarce due to environmental factors or competition, hummingbirds may face starvation.
  • Window and vehicle collisions: As creatures of the air, wild hummingbirds often don’t understand the concept of clear glass. They might fly into windows, mistaking reflections for open spaces. Collisions with vehicles, especially when hummingbirds are darting across roads, are also common.
  • Territorial disputes: Male hummingbirds will usually be involved in fierce territorial disputes. These fights can sometimes be fatal as they involve high-speed chases and pecking.
  • Habitat loss: While people don’t directly pose threats to hummingbirds, they contribute to the loss of these small avians’ natural habitats. Deforestation and pollution are just two examples of how humans can negatively impact the environment in which these birds live.

As you can see, hummingbirds die from all sorts of causes, ranging from diseases to starvation to injury. This is why the hummingbird population has decreased significantly over the years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hummingbird getting nectar from a bunch of flowers

What Is the Longest-Lived Hummingbird?

The longest-lived wild hummingbird on record is a female Broad-tailed Hummingbird. It was banded in 1976 and recaptured in the same location in 1987, indicating it was at least 12 years old.

While two Black-chinned Hummingbirds at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum have been known to live for more than 13 years, they were not formally documented and, thus, cannot be verified as having lived that long.

How Long Do Hummingbirds Live Without Food?

Hummingbirds typically survive no more than five hours without food. Keep in mind that given their high metabolism and little body weight, going beyond this timeframe may be fatal.

What Are the Predators of Hummingbirds?

Typically, hummingbirds die in their first year of life due to predation. For instance, other avian species, such as owls, blue jays, and herons, are known to eat hummingbirds.

Apart from birds, they can also fall victim to spiders, frogs, snakes, and even the venom in bee and wasp stings.

If you have any thoughts to add or questions to ask about hummingbird lifespans, feel free to reach out in the comments!

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