Hummingbirds are slightly bigger than a nickel. Despite their size, these birds can get quite noisy while eating, flying, and mating with one another.
Another fascinating fact is that different species of hummingbirds have their own unique singing and chirping voices. Yet, it can still be difficult to tell them apart.
That said, why do hummingbirds chirp? And when are you most likely to hear them chattering loudly? We’ll answer those questions and more, below!
Why Do Hummingbirds Like to Chirp?
Hummingbirds, otherwise called hummers, are a small breed of birds belonging to the Trochilidae family. These birds are known for having weaker vocal cords than the rest of the species.
Despite this fact, some hummingbirds are still considered songbirds. Additionally, they get their name from the low humming sound their wings make. This hum is created due to the bird’s primary feathers vibrating and moving rapidly when flying.
Even though hummers don’t use their throats as much as other birds, they still like to chip and chatter away with fellow hummingbirds. There are multiple reasons behind this too.
1 – A Sign of Satisfaction
For starters, if you spot a hummingbird chirping near flowers then it’s likely to be enjoying the delicious nectar it’s feeding on. Chirping here sounds similar to humans contently humming when having their favorite meal.
A hummer’s chirp may become louder while eating in case it becomes extra excited about its food. It may also indicate that the hummingbird has come across something intriguing during mealtime and can’t help chirping at it.
2 – Fear of a Threat
Hummingbirds will alert a fellow hummer that a land is theirs by chirping at them. They’re pretty territorial birds and can become quite aggressive when it comes to defending their food and water.
To put it simply, one of the male hummingbird’s lines of defense is sound. He’ll loudly chirp at the approaching threat in hopes of scaring it away. Some hummer species, however, aren’t as violent and won’t resort to chirping at an intruder.
3 – A Mating Call
Chirping is a common part of how hummingbirds get together to mate. A male hummer will chirp during his dance or dive display to increase his chances of attracting a potential partner.
A female hummingbird, on the other hand, will chirp to signal that she’s ready to become a mother. Although the female species are less vocal than the males, you’ll still find them chirping for the same reasons as the other hummers.
4 – Kind Greetings
In the most friendly scenarios, a hummingbird, regardless of gender, might chirp as a way to greet a fellow hummer or even a human it’s familiar with. It may also chirp softly at alien objects to show its interest in them.
Regardless of the cause though, a hummingbird’s gentle chirps is just a sign that it’s happy and healthy. What these birds lack in size and vocal strength, they make up for with chirping.
How to Know Why a Hummingbird Is Chirping
Considering how there are multiple reasons as to why hummingbirds chirp, it can be rather difficult trying to identify what exactly is causing them to do so.
Luckily though, there are a few tricks many bird watchers use. The golden rule is to listen to the intensity and pitch of the hummer’s chirp. Those two factors typically help in pointing out why the hummingbird is chirping.
For example, when a hummer is defending its territory, the sound of its chirp will be more combative. The noise is most likely to be high-pitched too.
That’s why this chirping frequency is often thought to be coming from a young hummingbird and not a male one. That’s because newborn hummers cry loudly in their nests to demand attention and food from their mothers.
On the other hand, if a hummingbird is just eating or trying to mate with another bird, its chirps will be soft and short. There’s no need for a hummer to get too vocal when communicating with a parent, offspring, or a fellow bird either.
How Do Hummingbirds Chirp?
Compared to the rest of the Trochilidae family, hummers are the only ones that have vocal learning centers in their brains. These systems are similar to what songbirds and parrots use to create different sounds.
In other words, despite their small bodies, hummingbirds are built smart. Not only that, but they don’t just use their chords to chirp. In fact, hummingbirds sometimes flap their feathery tails and wings to produce chirp-like sounds too.
With that in mind, you may wonder how can a hummer do that? Below, we’ll answer that question in detail.
Some species of the hummingbird are known as tail-chippers. They include the Ruby-throated, Black-chinned, Anna, Costa, Allen, Woodstar, Cuban Bee, and Rufous hummingbirds.
These birds don’t use their throats to communicate or express their needs. Instead, they open and close their tail feathers in less than 60 milliseconds to produce a sharp chirp. This sound is similar to playing the reed of a wind instrument, such as the flute or the clarinet.
Additionally, male hummingbirds use this method more often than females. Tail chirping is mainly used for mating calls and during shuttle displays. It helps a hummer in grabbing the attention of potential mates while dissuading other male hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds stand out from the rest of their species due to their unique wing anatomy. Because hummers have small bodies, they can flap their wings at a high rate. As a result, they’re able to suspend themselves mid-air and even fly backward!
When not flying, a hummingbird’s wings produce a humming sound—from which the bird got its name. Otherwise, those wings can also create buzzes, trills, and zips, depending on how fast the hummingbird is flying.
Putting it simply, you can identify what a hummer is doing based on the pitch and noise their wings are making. Hummingbirds are often spotted using their chirping wings to talk with one another.
Their Vocal Cords
Only a few hummingbirds actually use their vocal cords to sing. After all, a hummer isn’t officially a songbird, but that doesn’t stop them from being noisy. Every hummer loves to chirp and chatter with the rest of its species.
That said, each type of hummingbird has a unique kind of song that may include whistles, twitters, and chirps. How strong the song is, its tone, length, and the quality of its sound will vary from one hummer to another.
For example, the Calliope hummingbird has a wide pitch range as its chirping and singing can go from high to low in a matter of seconds. The Anna, on the other hand, is the only hummingbird that can hold its note for more than ten seconds.
This article explained the reasons why hummingbirds chirp.
In short, a hummingbird is likely to start chirping while it’s feeding to show its excitement. In other cases, it may chirp as a way to attract a mate or to chase a threatening hummingbird out of its territory. A hummingbird may greet another bird with a chirp too.
Simply put, it’s interesting to learn about when and how hummingbirds chirp. Plus, if you try to imitate their sound, a hummingbird may actually chirp back!
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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