Identifying the sounds the hummingbirds make can be a time-consuming, but rewarding task. They don’t really have a song like some birds do, and their sound can be as hard to hear as their bodies are to see. However, with patience and perseverance, you’ll be able to catch all of the sounds the hummers make and start knowing what their calls mean. Here are a few examples of the sounds a hummingbird can make.
There are many reasons why a hummingbird will send out a chirp into the world. For some, it will be to address their territory and keep other hummers away. Others will just be chirping because they are happy and healthy. You will hear chirps during the mating season to alert others where to find them for courtship.
Pay attention to how soft and aggressive these chirps are. Males will send out more combative sounds when they are protecting their food and want to remove others from the area. Hummingbirds are very territorial, so you will often be able to identify warning sounds coming from them. Soft and short chirps are often from birds that are delighted about their nectar. Young birds may send out intrusive chirps that sound like a male defending his food source, however they are actually just demanding attention from their mother.
Each species of hummingbird offers it’s own style of chirping, and once you learn these by observing the little hummers, you’ll be able to identify the species by sound without making a visual connection with them. As you learn to bird by ear, you’ll find your hummingbird community will actually try to communicate with you. They will offer chirps when the hummingbird feeder is empty, alerting you that it is time to refill it. They will also send sounds when they hear noises that they can’t identify asking, “Who is there?” When you’re learning to pick out the specific sounds by ear, pay attention to tone, pitch, softness, and aggression of the chirp. Try to locate the hummer as they are speaking to have a better idea of what they are trying to communicate.
The wings of a hummingbird are unlike anything on the planet. Because of the rapid rate they can flap their wings, they are able to suspend in mid-air, move forwards, backwards, and even speak to one another. The wings of the hummingbird make a specific sound that can alert others in the area they are coming. In fact, the name “hummingbird” comes from the humming sound of the wings. Depending on the speed the hummer is traveling, it can actually sound like more of a buzz. The sound changes based on the speed they are traveling, if they are diving, or if they are hovering.
A great place to start identifying the sounds of the hummingbird’s wings is to buy a hummingbird feeder without a perch, and listen as they feed while hovering over the feeding portal. For the most part, hummingbirds are a very quiet species, but with practice and dedication, you’ll soon be identifying these little birds without seeing them first.