Hummingbirds are among the most welcome sights in North American gardens, with their bright iridescent colors and blur of wings. Since we almost always see them flitting in the air, it’s fair to inquire:
Can Hummingbirds Walk? Hummingbirds cannot walk or hop. For these tiny birds, the most they can do with their feet in terms of mobility is to potentially scurry sideways while perched atop a branch or stem. They can use the digits to scratch, preen and otherwise balance, but that’s all about it.
The answer may be a bit surprising but makes sense if you probe a bit deeper.
Why can’t hummingbirds walk?
Hummingbirds have evolved to be extremely athletic and gifted flyers – and many of their features are less developed than others to aid aerodynamics and lessen total body mass and weight.
These include only 1000 to 1500 feathers, which is far below what other avian species possess, and underdeveloped leg muscles and feet.
Hummingbirds are Built to Fly, and Fast
On the other hand, up to 30% of their total body weight is concentrated in their pectoral region – which is the key muscle group required for them to fly and flit.
Hummingbirds can reach speeds up to 30 miles an hour flying straight ahead, the speed can double when they dive.
Hummingbirds are Literally a Buzz of Activity
Hummingbirds are small, really small.
A calliope hummingbird is 3 inches long.
A ruby-throated hummingbird weighs 3 grams, less than a nickel – it would take 150 of them to weigh a pound!
That size, coupled with underdeveloped leg muscles and few feathers, allows them to fly the way they do.
They are super active and uber aggressive, perhaps due to the fact that they eat half of their body weight in sugar every day.
An average heart rate for a hummingbird is 1200 beats per minute, which is an order of magnitude higher than comparable human heartbeats (60-100 per minute).
They can fly hundreds, even thousands, of miles to migrate.
Can hummingbirds walk on the ground?
Hummingbirds can land on the ground but can’t walk as their leg muscles are not that strong and also do not follow the center of gravity. However, they can use their wings to hop.
They only use their feet for scratching and perching.
If a hummingbird is seen on the ground then it might be in trouble. You can help by following these steps:-
- Check out the whole area around the bird and see if there is any danger around.
- Look out for 20 minutes, it really very difficult to judge if they are in hibernation state.
- When you come to know that it is alive them sit with the bird.
- Pick up the hummingbird by making cup with your hands and put it in warm place.
- Prepare homemade nectar, 1 part sugar and 3 parts water and fill an eyedropper and offer it to the hummingbird.
- If you feel difficulty in any of the above steps, take a professional help.
Coming to the question, why hummingbird can’t walk on the ground? The hummingbird has 3 toes at the front and 1 toe at back (called the hallux), totaling 4 toes. The hallux acts as the human’s thumb and helps them catch branches.
Are All Hummingbirds Like This?
These traits are common across most of the 300+ species found in the world, and certainly in the couple dozen species that either nest or visit North America regularly, including the ruby-throated, rufous, and calliope hummingbirds.
In Conclusion: Back to the Feet …
A myth heard from time to time is that hummingbirds have no feet at all.
The perception may get strengthened by the fact that as a species, swallows and hummingbirds are classified under the order Apodidiformes – the name literally translates to “no feet’. But that is not the case.
Hummingbirds do have feet, but they are tiny – the four digits are almost the same length as the foot itself – and underdeveloped.
You can go through our blog “Do hummingbirds have feet?” to better understand the anatomy of Hummingbird’s feet.
As mentioned before, the feet are meant to perch and scoot. That modest functionality is sufficient for these colorful bundles of energy, they make do with flying instead of walking or hopping.
Will a hummingbird die if it stops flying? No, certainly not, it is just a myth that they die when they stop flying coz if this would be the situation then they wouldn’t have ever slept or sat on their nest.
You can see them perching on branched when they are not flying.