There are more than 300 hummingbird species in the world, though the exact count varies depending on different classification systems and accepted divisions of subspecies and closely related birds.

Hummingbirds are actually related to swifts and share many features in common with them, but “hummers” are unique and distinct. With such a large family, however, there is still great variation among hummingbirds, but birders can quickly learn how to recognize these tiny, distinctive birds.

Every birder can instantly recognize a hummingbird by its appearance and behavior, as well as the characteristic “hum” that many of these birds’ wings make in flight.

Hummingbirds are generally small and some hummingbird species are the smallest birds in the world. The stubby body, long wings and long, narrow bill are features found in every hummingbird’s shape. The needle-like bill of a hummingbird is its most unique physical characteristic. A hummingbird’s wings are long, narrow and tapered to give it better agility in the air.

Hummingbirds have very tiny legs and feet; so small, in fact, that the birds cannot walk. They can manage an awkward sideways hop, but the hummingbird’s primary locomotion is flight.

Hummingbirds have the highest in-flight metabolism of any bird species. Their efficient energy conversion is necessary to sustain their rapid heart rate and wing speed. They can enter a state of torpor when at rest, particularly at night, to conserve energy without constant feeding.

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