There are more than 350 known species of hummingbird, with new species discovered every single year. Members of the Trochilidae family vary widely.
But there’s one thing that all hummers have in common: they’re all outrageously light. The average hummingbird weighs between 4 grams or 0.141 ounces. That’s about as much as a teaspoon of sugar or four paperclips weigh.
|Hummingbird Name||Average Weight (grams)|
|Anna’s Hummingbird||4 – 4.5 g|
|Ruby-Throated Hummingbird||3 g|
|Rufous Hummingbird||3.2 – 3.4 g|
|Bee Hummingbird||2 g|
But even within the Trochilidae family, there are significant size and weight variations:
- The smallest of the hummers, the Bee hummingbird, can weigh as little as 2.4 grams, or 0.085 ounces. The Bee hummer, therefore, weighs just less than a penny.
- The largest of the hummingbirds, aptly named ‘the Giant’, is often not even recognised as a hummer – it is often mistaken for a swallow. The Giant hummingbird weighs approximately 20 grams, or 0.705 ounces – the same as a stack of nine dimes.
How much do young hummingbirds weigh?
Hummers live on average between three and five years. So, if hummingbirds are tiny as adults, they must be even smaller as babies.
The hummingbird egg is the smallest and lightest of all the bird’s eggs, weighing in at between 0.4 grams to 1.4 grams. According to a study from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo ; Conservation Biology Institute, hummingbird eggs are roughly the same size as single garden peas or jelly beans.
After it hatches, the newborn hummingbird is about the size of a small pea and will weigh approximately 0.62 grams. To put that in context, that’s about one third the weight of a United States dime.
At birth, the baby birds will have no feathers and extremely dark skin. However, after a few weeks of being watched dutifully by their mother, baby hummingbirds will quickly begin to grow feathers and elongating their tiny yellow beaks.
After this point, they’ll soon start to pile on the pounds – or, rather, grams – as they begin to leave the nest, hunt bugs, and drink nectar.
How do you weigh a hummingbird?
It seems an easy question to answer, but hummingbirds are notoriously difficult to weigh. For a start, these birds are too small and unpredictable for your regular kitchen scale.
But these birds are also often too shy to cooperate with precarious scientific set-ups, so scientists and zoologists have had to think outside the box to get them measured.
Observers have had to revert to an incredible system training hummingbirds in captivity to cooperate with the scientists attempting to measuring them and also measuring the hummingbirds beak.
When successful, hummingbirds will be treated with sugar water – an extra sweet treat to go alongside their daily diet of grubs and nectar.
This process takes an incredible amount of patience and persistence, not to mention some sneaky innovation. For instance, some scientists place captive hummingbird’s food on top of active scales to take daily measurements.
But the biggest challenge in weighing hummingbirds is getting them to land on the centre of the scale and to sit still until their surveyors get an accurate measurement.
How much does hummingbird weight fluctuate during migrations?
So, we’ve already established that hummingbirds are notoriously difficult to weigh. But it’s not just the practical complications described above that make it difficult to understand the weight of these magnificent birds.
There are also a few complexities with hummingbird physiology and their migration routines that make it difficult to accurately peg the species average weight.
One significant complication is that some birds in the Trochilidae family are migratory, and as a result seem to be hard-wired to fluctuate in weight to cope with seasons of breeding and migration.
One of the most impressive annual journeys the hummingbird family makes is the path of the ruby-throated hummingbird, which flies more than 800 kilometres a year. That’s more than 20 hours of flying.
This causes a lot of havoc to the busy diets of the hummingbirds. In ordinary circumstances, hummingbirds eat as frequently every 10 to 15 minutes. This means that, on average, hummingbirds visit between one and two thousand flowers per day just to harvest food.
So, when it is time for hummers to migrate, they must store up enough food to fuel the flight. Hummingbirds use flower nectar for fuel, which contains as much as 26 per cent sugar. They also eat small grubs and bugs for protein.
The mix of straight sugar and protein means that after these hummingbirds have stocked up on food, they can sometimes double their weight or more. That means the average 4-gram hummingbird can weigh as much as 8 grams before it sets off on its seasonal migration.
Does a penny weigh more than a hummingbird? Generally, a penny weighs 2-3 grams, however the weight of a penny also depends on the year it was minted. The average weight of hummingbirds (Bee hummingbird, Ruby Throated hummingbird) also falls under 2 – 3 grams.