Hummingbirds are exquisite creatures, captivating avian lovers keen on attracting them. They’d plant flowers and set up feeders—anything to get close to these tiny iridescent birds.
Still, they usually just flit past everyone, flapping rapidly from one flower to another. Heavy feeders as they are, hummingbirds don’t seem to care about anything but bugs and nectar.
From time to time, though, they stop in their tracks and hover near your face. Often, they even stare at you quizzically, like you’re some culprit to an unknown bird crime!
So, why do hummingbirds do this? Is there a particular reason for their fascinating action? Or are they simply just fluttering near eye level out of coincidence?
Let me answer your most burning questions about this curious hummingbird behavior below.
Why Do Hummingbirds Hover in the Air?
Witnessing hummingbirds hover is an astonishing sight. Flapping their wings at an incredible speed of 70 beats per second, they can stay in one spot, like threading air instead of water.
But why do hummingbirds hover in the first place?
Well, the answer is far more uncomplicated than the mechanics of how they hover. They do it to feed on flowers that are usually hanging above ground.
Unlike most birds who feed on solid footing, their diet consists primarily of flower nectar. So, they needed to be able to stay put mid-air and extract much-needed sustenance.
But if that’s why they hover, why do they buzz about your face?
Why Hummingbirds Hover Near Your Face
Well, there are a few possible reasons why a hummingbird would fly near a person’s face. Here are some of the most plausible explanations:
1 – They’re Curious
One of the most likely answers is that they’re curious.
See, hummingbirds are inquisitive by nature. So, if you ever see one flying too close, even hovering right by your face, the bird might be simply curious about you or something near you.
Hummingbirds are surprisingly investigative when it comes to their surroundings. They’re intrinsically cautious, always trying to see if someone or something can harm them.
When entering a new area, they’d deliberately probe their surroundings. They do this to look for viable food sources and avoid potential predators.
Moreover, they tend to be attracted to things that seem out of place or are entirely new.
These new things (or people, in this instance) grab their attention. With piqued interest, they’ll zip over to learn more about who you are and what you are doing.
In short, the hummingbird gets so close because it’s figuring out if you’re a danger or at least trying to get a better concept of you. But that’s the most simplistic explanation.
2 – They’re Protecting Their Territory
Don’t let their delicate appearance fool you. These birdies are fiercely territorial. And it could be why they’re boldly zooming near your face.
Hummingbirds are exceptionally protective of their food sources. So much that they’d act aggressively toward creatures they think are a competition, even in unnecessary situations.
It usually happens around bird feeders or flowers. Whenever two or more hummingbirds gather to eat, their territorial nature kicks in and fight for supremacy over the food source.
You might imagine them as these innocent, most peaceful birds to exist. But that’s not simply the case. In reality, a reunion for these birds can get a little feisty, not to say hostile.
The competing hummingbirds would spar mid-air, colors clashing with colors, often relentlessly, to defend their home.
So, look around you the next time you see one invading your space. It could be upset with other birds hanging around their food and less worried about getting near a human.
3 – They’re Hungry
Hummingbirds are well-loved for their attractive colors. But did you know they’re known for their impressive memory and sharp senses?
Here’s an example.
When they migrate either south or north, hummingbirds can remember nectar locations throughout their path. This skill helps replenish the tremendous amount of energy that they burn off during migration.
If that wasn’t a good enough indication of the strength of their memory, listen to this.
They can remember and recall patterns about a specific area or territory. In short, they can recognize their surroundings, remember feeding sites, and identify humans associated with their food source.
Do you have a bird feeder set up in your yard? Do you have some spoiled hummingbirds you feed regularly? If yes, that’s your answer.
The birds recognize your face as the one feeding them. Them flying near your face could be a friendly reminder that they need their supply of water and nectar.
4 – They’re Seeing Red
Don’t worry, they’re not seeing red, as in furious. It means they’re seeing red—literally.
If you don’t already know, hummingbirds are attracted to red colors. That’s why those wanting to attract hummingbirds to the area start by planting scarlet flowers in their yards.
Do you wear bright red colors while strolling outside? If you do, don’t be surprised if a hummingbird hovers by your face to give you a quick once-over.
That said, while red is their favorite, it’s not the only one they gravitate toward.
Purple and pink shades are partly appealing to them as well. Any kind of variety or variation of fuchsia, salmon, and lilac will make for quite an attraction for the hummingbirds.
The good news is that there is nothing to worry about if they hover near your face. Aside from an errant peck, hummingbirds are rarely dangerous to humans.
So, the next time you see a hummingbird coming to you or floating near your face, don’t worry. It might just want to know if you’re a threat or treat (pun intended).
It Usually Comes Down to Food
At the end of the day, if you see a hummingbird getting too close, the most realistic explanation is that it’s just looking for food sources.
Hummingbirds are quick aviators, expending plenty of energy from flapping their wings so fast and often. Simply navigating the airspace is enough to deplete their energy levels quickly.
Because of their high metabolism, they need large amounts of nectar to replenish those energy levels. And I mean large amounts.
According to avian experts, a single hummingbird drinks 8% to 20% of its body weight in nectar. Give them enough food, and they can consume their weight in sugar water in one day.
But here’s the most mind-blowing fact.
Hummingbirds need to eat every 10 minutes to keep up with their metabolism. Given that, these tiny creatures visit between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers daily, looking for food!
Can Hummingbirds Recognize Certain Humans?
So, hummingbirds are intelligent and have good memories. Can they identify and differentiate between human faces, though?
You might find it surprising. But YES, hummingbirds can and often recognize humans.
Hummingbirds are among the smartest avian species we know. Aside from powerful memory, they also have excellent auditory and optic senses, which help them with recognition tasks.
Despite their size, their brain consisted of 4.2% of their body weight, the largest for all bird species. Their hippocampus is five times bigger than other larger songbirds as well.
Most notably, hummingbirds are hyper-vigilant to their surroundings. That means they can instantly recognize the person behind refilling the bird feeders.
They can make auditory and visual differentiation of individuals. So, they not only remember your voice but also familiarize your routine and any repeated actions you take!
Are Hummingbirds Dangerous?
No. Hummingbirds aren’t dangerous, and the chances of one hurting a human are infinitely low.
If a hummingbird feels threatened, its primary response is to flee rather than fight. Given its miniature stature, there aren’t many predators it could confront in a fight.
As such, you don’t have to worry about a hummingbird pecking your face out of nowhere.
But, and there’s always a but, there are still instances when these birds become somewhat aggressive. Yes, even to big ol’ humans.
Remember how they can be hostile toward other hummingbirds invading their space? Getting caught in these aggressive territorial disputes can leave you scratched or pecked!
Their beaks are rather sharp and will attack encroachers. In particularly aggressive courting rituals, they use claws and beaks to jab at the other male to the death.
Another instance is when hummingbirds are in their nesting period. Like most animals, their females can get fierce in protecting their young.
Mother hummingbirds can get quite aggressive, no matter how friendly you are to them. They’ll see anything as a threat, whether a human or another type of bird.
How to Decrease Aggression in Hummingbirds
If, for whatever reason, you see a hummingbird being particularly aggressive – either to you or your pets – there are a few different things that you can do to keep them calm.
A good starting place is to space out any feeders in your yard.
As you know, hummingbirds fight and compete for feeding territories. As such, placing feeders too close can easily trigger violent brawls between males vying for dominance.
Separate your feeders at least 10 feet or more from each other. This way, you’re decreasing the chances of interaction between the hummingbirds.
If widening feeding areas doesn’t solve it, try putting more feeders in your yard. The larger the number of feeders, the more mouths you can accommodate.
More feeders mean fewer hummingbird bullies attempting to gain control of the food supply.
Bob Sargent, a prominent bird expert in Alabama, suggested increasing hummingbird feeders during peak feeding months. He proposed that early April to May would be a great time to put up more feeders.
However, do note that upgrading your feeder number works only for food supply issues. It might not be effective during hummingbird mating and nesting seasons when they’re naturally uptight.
If you have a case of aggressive males competing over a female, there’s practically nothing anyone can do. The best thing you can do is to steer clear and let them hash out their beef.
Sometimes, the best solution is to let nature run its course, especially where mating is concerned. But don’t worry, after the hummingbirds’ showy and feisty mating season, they’d return to their peaceful food-scouting routine.
Did I satisfy your questions about these charming birds? Then, here are some frequently asked questions about hummingbirds you might find interesting:
How do you get a hummingbird’s attention?
Some bird enthusiasts love to attract hummingbirds. To do it, they use plenty of methods involving the things hummingbirds love most: flowers and anything with the color red.
The most painless approach is to use a bird feeder with an extra touch. Paint the contraption red or attach anything scarlet, such as red ribbons.
Planting colorful flowers with rich nectar is another way to keep hummingbirds interested in your companionship. They remember spots with delicious sugar water and will most likely return daily for more.
Why do hummingbirds dive bomb?
Apart from hovering, hummingbirds exhibit plenty of strange behaviors. One such behavior is dive bombing, where the male dives at the female head-on.
As it turns out, dive bombing is a display of mating courtship. Male hummingbirds do it to impress potential mates by aiming the sound at the female.
Why are hummingbirds good to have around?
Apart from their beauty, hummingbirds serve a crucial role in nature. They’re vital pollinators, like bees, helping plants and flowers produce fruit and propagate.
Additionally, hummingbirds eat insects, from beetles, ants, aphids, and gnats. They also eat mosquitoes, helping decrease the disease carrier’s population.
Now that you know the habits of hummingbirds, you can feel comfortable when you see a hummingbird floating around nearby. They’re more afraid of you than you are of them and are just making sure that you mean them no harm.
That said, you can make plenty of hummingbird friends by placing feeders in your yard and filling them consistently.
The birds will recognize you – bright colors help, too – and will come back time and again to see what goodies you have brought them.
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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