Once the snow has thawed and all the birds of spring start to appear, hummingbird feeders will show up on porches, trees, and gardens everywhere. Any avid bird watcher will treasure the sight of this enigmatic tiny bird species, but hummingbirds can also be notoriously picky about where they choose to feed and hang out.
Since hummingbirds are so choosy, having one hover in your face for seconds, or even minutes, is a rare treat, but what is the meaning behind this hummingbird behavior? Why do hummingbirds hover in your face?
Hummingbirds hover in your face out of curiosity or because they recognize you as someone who feeds them.
Why Do Hummingbirds Hover in Your Face?
Hummingbirds are truly incredible little creatures, and for an animal so petite and rarely seen, they have a healthy sense of curiosity and a surprisingly long memory.
While hummingbirds would usually spend their lives flitting from flower to flower, a hummingbird that interacts with a human regularly will exhibit some odd and quite cute behaviors.
One of the most memorable moments a person can have with a hummingbird is when a hummingbird hovers in front of them, seeming to stare straight at them. These unique events aren’t just coincidental; if a hummingbird hovers in front of your face, it’s because they chose to do so.
But why exactly would a hummingbird take time out of their busy day to stop and stare at a human they recognize?
There are two main reasons a hummingbird might hover in your face: curiosity and because they recognize you as someone who provides them with food.
Most people think of hummingbirds as skittish, but in reality, they are very inquisitive birds! This helps them in multiple ways throughout their lives, including making it easier for them to find reliable food sources and making them experts at defending their territory.
When a hummingbird is curious about us, they may hover in front of us for some time as they check us out. The hummingbird is trying to make sure you aren’t a threat or possibly checking out your fashion sense.
Hummingbirds are naturally attracted to the colors pink, purple, and especially the color red. If you’re wearing any of these colors, a hummingbird may visit you to see if your brightly colored clothes could be a source of food.
This is also why most commercial hummingbird feeders are bright red and why store-bought hummingbird nectar is also often red. It’s actually much healthier for your hummingbirds if you make nectar for them instead of buying it because this prevents them from ingesting unnecessary dyes and preservatives.
Hummingbirds can actually see a wide range of colors because one of their primary food sources is brilliantly colored flowers.
Recognizing Humans as Food Providers
Unsurprisingly, the other primary reason a hummingbird may hover in front of your face is that they recognize you as the person who fills up their nectar feeder. Hummingbirds are very smart, and they can actually remember individual people by their faces.
If you fill your hummingbird feeder after seeing hummingbirds around the area, an observant hummingbird may figure out the connection between being noticed and the bird feeder being filled. Compared to flowers and the small insects that hummingbirds usually eat, a full hummingbird feeder must seem like a buffet!
This behavior is just like a domestic bird, or even a dog or a cat, begging for food. Not only are hummingbirds smart, but they also have a phenomenal memory and for good reason! A hummingbird will visit between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers in a single day!
Since a hummingbird’s metabolism is so fast, and they spend so much energy flying, they are on a constant mission to find food. Being able to remember where the best flowers, and feeders, are, is imperative to a hummingbird’s survival.
This means that once a hummingbird makes the connection between you and the seemingly never-ending supply of nectar (sugar water) in the hummingbird feeder, they may hover in front of your face as a way to say, “My feeder is empty!”. If you have a particularly assertive hummingbird, they may even chirp at you to get your attention and get their feeder filled.
After a time, a sort of bond can form between you and any hummingbird that you feed consistently. This can lead to them hovering in front of you more often and feeling safer in your presence.
Why Do Hummingbirds Hover?
Another question hummingbird aficionados may have about their feathered friends is why do they hover? Unlike other small birds, who are constantly moving when they fly, hummingbirds have the unique ability to hover in one place, which is why having them hover in front of your face can be such a strange experience. No other type of bird can recreate that!
Hummingbirds hover because their wings are specially designed to have strong upward and downward beats, while other birds only have power on the downward beat. Hummingbirds also have wings that rotate in the socket forward and backward, which assist in their precise movements.
Some other small birds have the ability to hover, but none of them are as talented at it as hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are also the only type of bird that can fly in reverse, thanks to their pivoting wings, and rise vertically in the air during flight.
Do Hummingbirds Remember Faces?
Yes, hummingbirds can remember faces! Hummingbirds have a surprisingly large brain and memory capacity in relation to their size.
Scientists are constantly discovering more and more about the intelligence of hummingbirds, and one of those discoveries is that hummingbirds can recognize certain people and their faces.
Just like we can tell our pets apart from other dogs that look nearly identical, hummingbirds can discern which human is the one that they know, and their favorite human is usually the one that feeds them.
Do Hummingbirds Know Who Feeds Them?
Yes, since hummingbirds can recognize specific humans, they will know who feeds them.
This might seem like an incredibly impressive task for such a small bird, but when we remember that the hummingbird species can recall the locations of thousands of flowers and their favorite nesting places year after year, it becomes more clear how they can recognize certain humans.
It might not seem as exciting to know a hummingbird remembers you not because of a special bond but because you are a source of food, but it should bring you joy to know that your hummingbird friend knows you provide them with much-needed sustenance.
A cute little hummer that hovers in front of you to let you know their feeder is empty is a hummingbird that trusts you.
In Summary: Why Do Hummingbirds Hover In Your Face?
- Hummingbirds hover in your face because they are curious, or because they want you to feed them.
- Being so curious makes it easier for hummingbirds to find food sources, including flowers and bird feeders, because they will investigate anything with a bright enough color.
- Hummingbirds are extremely attracted to the color red, and to a lesser extent, the colors pink and purple.
- Because of their incredible memory, hummingbirds will recognize and remember certain humans.
- A hummingbird’s wings are specially designed for hovering, unlike most other small birds.
I hope you get the chance to observe a hummingbird hover and that this article helped you better understand the reasons behind this fascinating behavior of the world’s smallest bird.
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