World of Hummingbirds .com

World of Hummingbirds .com

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Hummingbird Anatomy

Hummingbird anatomy is different than any other bird in the world; however, there are also quite a few similarities. Let’s look at each part of a hummingbird’s anatomy one part at a time.


  The back is the top of the hummingbird’s body between the wings.

Beak or Bill:

  The beak or bill on a hummingbird is longer in proportion to their body than other birds. This is so they can reach deep down into a tubular flower to get the nectar. A hummingbird’s beak is not hollow. They do not sip nectar up like a straw. The beak or bill has an upper and lower portion, much like any other bird. Both the upper and lower beak is covered in a substance called rhamphotheca. This sheath is made of a keratin like material much like your fingernails. The top of the beak, called the maxilla, overlaps the lower beak slightly. The lower beak is also slightly flexible and can widen and bend lightly downward as the hummingbirds open their mouths. Hummingbirds have a joint in the upper jaw, just behind the maxilla. This joint enables the maxilla to bend back toward the head slightly as the hummingbirds open their mouths. When a hummingbird is less than one year of age, the maxilla is rough with corrugations along the sides and edges. Hummingbirds older than one year of age have smoother sides and edges. A few adult hummingbirds will have some minor corrugations throughout their lifetimes.


  This is the soft portion of the hummingbird on the underside, just below the wings that hold all of the hummingbird’s internal organs.


  In order to be as lightweight as possible, most of the hummingbird’s bones are extremely porous. Some hummingbird bones, like those in the wings and legs, are hollow to save even more weight.


  A hummingbird’s brain is approximately 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom. Hummingbirds are very smart and they can remember every flower they have been to, and how long it will take a flower to refill.


  The breast of a hummingbird is located just below the chin and wings. This area is firmer than the belly because of the rib bones underneath.


  The area where liquid and solid waste mix and are expelled. Eggs and sperm are also released from the body at this location.


  The crop is a holding sac with a very thin wall that holds food and nectar to be digested. After filling the crop, a hummingbird will rest while the crop empties itself into the digestive system.


  The crown is located on the very top of head above forehead.


  The duodenum is where the food is chemically digested.


  A hummingbird has two ears located on each side of the hummingbird’s head. A hummingbird can hear better and easily decipher small fluctuations of tones better than most humans.


  Erythrocytes are the red blood cells in a hummingbird’s blood. Hummingbirds have the greatest concentration of erythrocytes than any other animal in the animal kingdom.


  The esophagus on a hummingbird goes from the hummingbird’s mouth to the crop. When a hummingbird eats or drinks, the food is transferred to the crop through the esophagus.


  Hummingbirds have regular eyelids to block light from each eye. Hummingbirds also have a third eyelid call a Nictitating Membrane that is clear and will protect the hummingbird’s eyes while flying.


  Hummingbirds have very large eyes in proportion to their body weight. The eyes are set on the side of the head allowing the hummingbird to see both ahead (binocular vision) and on the side peripherally (monocular vision). The eyes are protected by twelve (12) or more bones surrounding it called ossicles. Hummingbirds have many more rods and cones than humans in their eyes to help them see well. This makes them better able to see colors and ultraviolet light. Hummingbird’s eyes will regularly outweigh a hummingbird’s brain.


  Some feathers on a hummingbird hold bright radiant color. This coloring comes from iridescent coloring like on a soap bubble or prism and requires sunlight to show these colors off. An average sized hummingbird will have about 940 feathers. This is more feathers per square inch of their body than any other bird in the animal kingdom.


  Hummingbird’s feet are not for walking. Hummingbirds do not use their feet for launching upward in flight. They let their wings do all of this work. Hummingbirds use their feet for scratching and perching. They will perch for most of their lives. Hummingbirds have four (4) toes. Three (3) toes in the front and one (1) toe, also called the hallux in the back of the foot. The hallux works much the same way a human’s thumb does and allows the hummingbird to hang on to a branch or wire.

Female Gonads:

  The female gonad is the female reproductive system. These organs shrink during non-breeding months to make the hummingbird lighter for flight. Female hummingbirds are born with two ovaries. The right ovary will disappear soon after birth to lighten the hummingbird’s body weight, leaving the left one fully functional. During breeding season, several ova mature in the ovary and produce a yolk. Yolks are expelled into the oviduct. The yolks that are fertilized continue down the oviduct to the albumen gland. The albumen gland secretes a protein-rich substance called the egg white. The yolk and egg-white together will then continue down the oviduct to the shell gland where it receives a shell membrane that is made up of mostly calcium. The egg will leave the cloacal opening into the nest. All unfertilized ova are reabsorbed by the body.


  The flanks are the sides of the hummingbird’s body underneath and behind the wings.


  The forehead is located on the top of the hummingbird’s head between the eyes.


  The furchula is also known as the wish bone.


  The gizzard is the stomach of a hummingbird. This is where food is digested.


  A gorget is the neck area of a hummingbird. Male hummingbird’s gorget usually has many bright colors to attract female hummingbirds.


  A hummingbird’s heart is a relatively large organ in comparison to a hummingbird’s body weight. It makes up 1.75% to 2.5% (depending on the type or species of hummingbird) of the hummingbird’s total weight. This makes the hummingbird’s heart relativity the largest heart in the animal kingdom. A hummingbird’s heart beats about 250 beats per minute at rest and about 1,260 beats per minutes while flying.


  The kidneys are an internal organ where liquid waste is separated from food creating urine.

Large Intestine:

  The Large Intestine is part of the digestive track. This is where water is re-adsorbed into the body and waste is held.


  Hummingbird legs are extremely small, short, and stubby to reduce weight. They are also quite weak. Because of this, hummingbirds do not hop like other birds.

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  The liver is a very important internal organ for a hummingbird. This is where fats are stored for quick release. Hummingbirds need these fats for migration as well as day-to-day survival.


  Hummingbird lungs are highly efficient for both breathing and taking in air to cool off their hot bodies. A hummingbird will breathe on average 250 times per minute. A hummingbird has two lungs. The lung’s job is to transfer oxygen to the hummingbird’s blood stream.

Lymph Plasma:

  Lymph Plasma is a liquid substance that contains antibodies and disease-fighting agents. Lymph Plasma is carried through the lymphatic system and into a hummingbird’s blood stream.

Male Gonads:

  The male gonad is the male reproductive system. These organs shrink during non-breeding months to make the hummingbird lighter for flight. The male gonad contains testis that produce sperm. Sperm flows though the vas-deferens to the cloaca. Before mating with a female, the cloaca will swell becoming a cloacal protuberance. The male will touch the tip of the cloacal protuberance to the cloaca of the female to transfer sperm.

Neck Vertebrae:

  These are the bones that hold a hummingbird’s head. Many types or species of hummingbirds have fourteen (14) or fifteen (15) neck vertebrae. Most mammals have only seven (7) neck vertebrae.


  Hummingbird nostrils are located at the base of the beak. This is where air enters into the lungs bringing rich oxygen to the blood stream. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell.

Pectorialis Majors:

  These are the two (2) large flight muscles on a hummingbird. They are entirely of red fiber for sustained use unlike the white fiber that is found in other birds using them for short-term energy bursts.

Primary Feathers:

  A hummingbird’s primary feathers are the long feathers on hummingbird’s wings used for flight. Hummingbirds have ten (10) primary feathers on each wing. Each primary feather is called a remige and is numbered one (1) through ten (10). Remige one (1) starts at the bottom of the wing with remige ten (10) at the top of the wing.


  The ribs in a hummingbird work very much like a person’s ribs. They work together to form a cage to protect a hummingbird’s lung and heart. Depending on the type or species of hummingbird, they usually have eight (8) pair of ribs. Most other birds only have six (6) pair of ribs.


  A hummingbird’s rump is also called a hummingbird’s bottom. This is the bottom portion of the hummingbird were the tail feather come out.

Secondary Feathers:

  A hummingbird’s secondary feathers are longer than regular feathers, but shorter than the primary feathers. A hummingbird has six (6) secondary feathers. Each feather is numbered one (1) through six (6) starting on the bottom of the wing.

Small Intestine:

  The small intestine is the internal organ in the digestive system where nutrients are absorbed into the body on their way to the large intestine.


  The sternum is also called the keel or breastbone. This is where the ribs and the pectoral muscles that help with flight are attached. The sternum in a hummingbird is relatively longer than in most birds.

Supracoracoideus Muscles:

  The supracoracoideus muscles work with the pectorialis majors for flight. These, like the pectorialis majors, are also large muscles made entirely of red fiber for sustained. Other bird’s muscles are made up of white fiber used only for short-term energy bursts.

Tail Feathers:

  A Hummingbird has ten (10) tail feathers. These tail feathers are called retrices and are divided into five (5) tail feathers per side. The tail feathers are numbered from the inside out with retrix one (1) being the two tail feathers in the center and retrix five (5) being each tail feather on the outside.


  A hummingbird’s normal body temperature runs right around one hundred five (105) degrees Fahrenheit. When a hummingbird sleeps, this temperature will drop to as low as seventy (70) degrees Fahrenheit.


  The tongue on a hummingbird is very long. It is grooved like the shape of a “W”. On the tip of the tongue are brushy hairs that help lap up nectar from a flower. A hummingbird can lap up nectar at a rate of about thirteen (13) licks per second. Hummingbirds have only a few taste buds on the tongue. Hummingbirds can taste just enough to know what is good and what is bad. They can also taste what too sweet, not sweet enough, or just right.

Under Tail Coverts:

  Under tail coverts are the tiny feathers that are underneath the tail feathers.

Upper Tail Coverts:

  Upper tail coverts are the tiny feathers that are just above the tail feathers.

Upper Wing Coverts:

  Upper wing covers are the little feathers on the top part of wings that lead into the primary and secondary feathers.


  The ureter is the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the cloaca.

Uropygial Gland:

  The uropygial gland is a gland in the skin located near the tail feathers that secrets oil. This oil is use to protect the hummingbird’s feathers. A hummingbird will take great care to preen this oil into every feather on their body.


  A hummingbird’s wings are unlike any other bird’s wings. They allow a hummingbird fly forward, backward, hover, and even fly upside-down for a short period of time. Hummingbirds are the only birds in the world that can fly like this. A hummingbird can perform these feats of acrobatics for several reasons. First of all their shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint that allows the hummingbird to rotate their wings one hundred eighty (180) degrees in all directions. Hummingbird wings with beat about seventy (70) times per second while in regular flight and up to 200 times per second when diving. (Smaller hummingbird’s wings beat about thirty-eight (38) to about seventy-eight (78) times a second while larger ones beat their wings about eighteen (18) to twenty-eight (28) times per second.) Hummingbirds don’t flap their wings, they rotate them. When hummingbirds fly, they move their wings in an oval pattern, except when they are hovering. When they are hovering they will move their wings in a figure-eight motion. A hummingbird can fly at an average speed of twenty-five (25) to thirty (30) miles per hour, and dive at a speed of up to sixty (60) miles per hour. When hummingbirds fly, they fly upright, facing the world, not flat like most birds.

Note: Hummingbirds are missing a few parts that other birds and mammals have. These include a bladder, a gall bladder, a penis in the males, and a right ovary in the females. It is believed that this is due to the hummingbird’s size. In order to have enough room for the vital organs, the hummingbird deleted a few duplicate organs to save space. This is just another remarkable feature of Hummingbird Anatomy.