Hummingbird, a small American bird that makes a humming noise with its rapidly moving wings. There are about 300 species, mostly tropical. About 20 species live in the United States.

The hummingbirdThe hummingbird makes a humming noise with its rapidly moving wings.

Most hummingbirds are three to four inches (7.5 to 10 cm) long. The smallest is the bee hummingbird of Cuba, a little over two inches (5 cm) long; the largest, the nine-inch (23-cm) giant hummingbird of the Andes. Hummingbirds have bright-colored, iridescent plumage and small, weak feet. The bill is long and needlelike. The long, tubular tongue extends far beyond the bill, enabling the bird to reach nectar and insects deep inside flowers. Hummingbirds can hover over flowers while feeding, and also can fly backwards. The wings, vibrating 20 to 80 times a second, appear as a blur.

The hummingbirdThe hummingbird uses its tongue to reach nectar and insects deep inside flowers.

The bird's tiny nest is built of plant down and bits of bark, held together with lichens and spider web. The female lays two small white eggs. She feeds her young by thrusting her long bill down the throat of each and ejecting a quantity of partly digested nectar and insects.

The hummingbirdThe hummingbird uses her long bill to feed her young.

The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species found in the eastern United States. It has greenish upper parts, a ruby-red throat, and whitish underparts. The smallest species in the United States is the calliope hummingbird, barely three inches (7.5 cm) long. It breeds in the Rockies and winters in Mexico. Other common western hummingbirds are the Anna's, broad-tailed, black-chinned, and rufous.

The bee hummingbird is Calypte helenae; giant, Patagona gigas; ruby-throated, Archilochus colubris; calliope, Stellula calliope; Anna's, Calypte anna; broad-tailed, Selasphorus platycercus; black-chinned, A. alexandri; rufous, Sel. rufus. Hummingbirds form the family Trochilidae.