Do Hummingbirds Chirp or Sing?

What Kind Of Sounds Do They Make?

By Richard Worden

Many people recognize birds by the unique sound they make, including a tweet, whistle, or tuneful melody. But with a name like a hummingbird, it’s unclear whether these birds even make a recognizable chirp, sound, or song. 

Hummingbirds can chirp, and many species can sing. A pattern of several chirps and other sounds comprise songs unique to certain hummingbird types. These birds also produce these sounds using traditional vocal cords or fluttering feathers.

The chirps and songs of hummingbirds aren't as melodic or sweet-sounding as other birds, but they're incredibly unique, as you'll discover in this article. 

Do Hummingbirds chirp or sing?

Do Hummingbirds Sing Like Other Birds?

Many birds' songs are melodic and made of whistles, chirps, twits, and other sounds. Do hummingbirds chirp or sing just like other birds do? The singing of hummingbirds is different in that it isn’t as melodious, but they are distinct enough to be considered unique. 

Hummingbirds do not sing like other birds. Their songs aren't as melodious because they are usually a simple series of punctuated chirps, squeaks, tweets, and different sounds. However, they stand out for non-vocal songs made by their feathers instead of vocal cords.

Only Selected Hummingbird Species Sing

Not all hummingbird species have a song. According to Vassar College's The Gall Lab, one of the non-singing hummingbirds is the ruby-throated hummingbird. They make up for their lack of singing by having a complicated call they make to indicate aggression and combative behavior. 

Thus, you'd know when this tiny bird is ready to put up its fists. 

Besides the ruby-throated hummingbird, other types that do not sing are the Lucifer hummingbird and the broad-tailed hummingbird. Although they don’t have songs, you can check their profiles at the Cornell Lab's All About Birds and see they have unique calls they use to communicate. 

On the other hand, these are hummingbird variants known to sing: 

  • Costa's Hummingbird: The male birds of this species sing by starting with whistles and delicate notes followed by a diving song, which is a whistle resulting from the fluttering of feathers, as I'll expound on later. 
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird: Only males are known to sing from this species. Their song is described as "sweet and low" and involves a high-pitched warble. 
  • Anna's Hummingbird: This species is probably the most famous singer in the hummingbird family because they sing longer than others. Their song consists of chirps, buzzes, and whistles done by males. 
  • Blue-throated Mountain-gem: This is the only species I've observed where both males and females are known to sing. The two genders do a "whisper" duet during courtship. 
  • Rivoli's Hummingbird: The song of the Rivoli's hummingbirds is yet to be fully understood. However, it is described to be squeaky and scratchy and done amid chasing rivals.      
  • Ecuadorian Hillstar Hummingbird: This hummingbird species is famous for its "ultrasonic song" used during courtship. The male birds sing at a frequency of 13.4 kilohertz, higher than the standard 9 to 10 kilohertz. Because of that, only its own species can hear the song, which is remarkable. 

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Hummingbirds Can Sing With Their Tails

One of science's greatest fascinations was the discovery that hummingbird songs are produced by tail feathers. They can do so because of their fast-speed dives, causing the wind to rustle or flutter their feathers, resulting in distinct sounds. 

To do this, male hummingbirds first fly 5 m (196.85”) to 40 m (1574.8”) up, which is a little more than 131’ (39.9 m). Once they're at the top, they perform a crazy fast dive. Before the dive ends, they splay their tail feathers, which produces a song as the wind rustles them. 

The science and mechanisms behind these "diving songs" are intricate. 

The wind must be the right speed, while the feathers must have the correct stiffness and shape to produce the unique sounds attributed to a certain hummingbird species. Thus, the tail feathers of male hummingbirds are distinct from each other. 

Moreover, the hummingbirds' tail feathers are structured to amplify each other. Some are arranged to produce a sound of another frequency, making the songs even more complex and unique. 

The "diving" capabilities vary per hummingbird species. One of the most powerful is Anna's hummingbird, which can cover 26.95 m (88.4’) per second. Such high dives allow this bird to chirp with its tail and sing the longest song among hummingbirds. 

To learn more about the phenomenon behind the hummingbirds' non-vocal song, you can watch this YouTube video: 

You might also be enthralled to discover that not only hummingbirds sing with their feathers. Broadbills, nighthawks, ruffed grouse, crested pigeons, and woodcocks use their wing feathers to make a song. 

However, the hummingbirds still stand out because they use their tail feathers, not wings, to sing and chirp. 

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Do Hummingbirds Make Noise When They Fly?

Often, you'll hardly notice birds flying past you because their wings don't flap to make sounds, or such sounds are too subtle. However, hummingbirds generally announce their presence with their flapping wings.

Hummingbirds are named after the noise they make as they fly, which sometimes sounds more like a buzz because of how rapidly their wings flap. The hum or noise is the result of aerodynamic forces.

As hummingbirds flap their wings, there are resulting aerodynamic forces from the wings' interaction with the wind. The unique combination of fast-flapping wings and intricately-designed feathers give these birds their unique humming sound as they fly. 

Although hummingbirds generally have a humming sound, this hum varies from one species to another. For instance, the ruby-throated hummingbird makes a quiet humming that is louder and higher-pitched in their males. 

Meanwhile, the broad-tailed hummingbird produces a trilling sound as it flies. This trill even sounds like a cricket. The wings of Costa's hummingbird also make a humming sound as it does the diving song, which contributes another dimension to its courtship performance. 

The different humming between species results from the varying design of their feathers. How the feathers are shaped and arranged strongly affects how the wind flows through them, which is the primary mechanism by which sounds are produced. 

Besides the species, the sounds also differ based on their action. Their hums can sound different as they dive, fly, hover, or travel through the air. 

Why Do Hummingbirds Chirp?

The songs of hummingbirds, especially those produced during diving, are mainly for courtship. So what about their chirps and calls? What are they for?

Hummingbirds will chirp to communicate aggression, defensiveness, happiness, and courtship, while baby hummingbirds chirp to get the mother bird's attention. These chirps vary depending on the message and the species.

You can actually sense if the hummingbird's chirp is aggressive and defensive. They usually make these sounds to defend their place, as these birds are territorial. 

Hummingbirds may also chirp to communicate with you. If you are fond of feeding them, they will make sounds to inform you that the feeder needs filling. They are pretty demanding, but you can't resist their hungry calls. 

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Now that we know that Hummingbirds do chirp or sing, the next big question they sleep? Investigate this fascinating topic by reading our article simply called...Do Hummingbirds Sleep?

Do Hummingbirds Chirp or Sing?...Final Thoughts

Do hummingbirds chirp or sing? You could say they do but differently. The vocal cords, wings, and tail feathers of hummingbirds all produce unique sounds they use to communicate. 

These sounds include simple chirps, squeaks, calls, or even full-on songs often used during courtship. The type of chirps and songs produced varies per species, depending on the design of their feathers. 

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About Me

About the Author...

Richard Worden, a dedicated bird lover for over 20 years, I love to share my in-depth knowledge and passion for birds. Read more About Me and my expertise in this field.

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