The word "hummingbird" is used to designate the full spectrum of genera and species belonging to the trochilidae family. This family is divided into two sub-families, the phaethornithinae, composed mainly of hermits, and the trochilinae in which we find the more common hummingbirds. Currently, nearly 330 species of hummingbirds grouped into 102 genera have been counted.*
The word "hummingbird" is used to designate the full spectrum of genera and species belonging to the trochilidae family. This family is divided into two sub-families, the phaethornithinae, composed mainly of hermits, and the trochilinae in which we find the more common hummingbirds. Currently, nearly 330 species of hummingbirds grouped into 102 genera have been counted.*
* Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume 5, Lynx Edicions, 1999
© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Green Hermit

Green Hermit (Phaethornis guy)

Credit: Gualberto Becerra

© Gualberto Becerra


In scientific literature, the term "hummingbird" sometimes refers to the Hummingbird genus, a subdivision of the trochilinae sub-family. In reality, only a few hummingbirds, such as the Colibri thalassinus (Green Violet-ear), belong to this genus.

See the table on the trochilidae family.
In scientific literature, the term "hummingbird" sometimes refers to the Hummingbird genus, a subdivision of the trochilinae sub-family. In reality, only a few hummingbirds, such as the Colibri thalassinus (Green Violet-ear), belong to this genus.

See the table on the trochilidae family.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Green Violet-ear

Green Violet-ear (Colibri thalassinus)

Credit: Jean Léveillé

© Jean Léveillé


Hummingbirds are tiny birds, their length varying from 5 to 53 cm. They are characterized by the very rapid beating of their wings. Many of them have a brightly coloured throat or crown and iridescent plumage. Their beaks are always fine, but their length and curve vary according to the species.
Hummingbirds are tiny birds, their length varying from 5 to 53 cm. They are characterized by the very rapid beating of their wings. Many of them have a brightly coloured throat or crown and iridescent plumage. Their beaks are always fine, but their length and curve vary according to the species.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Scintillant Hummingbird

Scintillant Hummingbird(Selasphorus scintilla)

Credit: Jean Léveillé

© Jean Léveillé


The names of many of the 330 known species of hummingbird allude to the colour of the plumage and often refer to precious stones. Just seeing or hearing their names creates beautiful images in our minds; we can picture the Garnet-throated Hummingbird, Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird, White-throated Mountain-gem,

A number of hummingbirds do not have the word "hummingbird" in their name. The names of some of them end with Lancebill, Sabrewing, Mango, Coquette, Emerald, Brilliant, Puffleg, Sunangel, Streamertail, Hillstar and even Woodnymph!

Whoever chose the French names of some of the hummingbird species had women in mind. Female names are included in the: Colibri Anaïs, Dryade de Fanny, Colibri Julie, Émeraude Alice, Colibri Paméla, Érionne Catherine, Méthallure de Thérèse, Colibri Corinne, Colibri d'Angèle, Colibri Élise, Colibri Héloïse, and Ariane de Félicie. In English, only the Anna's Hummingbird has this trait.
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The names of many of the 330 known species of hummingbird allude to the colour of the plumage and often refer to precious stones. Just seeing or hearing their names creates beautiful images in our minds; we can picture the Garnet-throated Hummingbird, Emerald-chinned Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird, White-throated Mountain-gem,

A number of hummingbirds do not have the word "hummingbird" in their name. The names of some of them end with Lancebill, Sabrewing, Mango, Coquette, Emerald, Brilliant, Puffleg, Sunangel, Streamertail, Hillstar and even Woodnymph!

Whoever chose the French names of some of the hummingbird species had women in mind. Female names are included in the: Colibri Anaïs, Dryade de Fanny, Colibri Julie, Émeraude Alice, Colibri Paméla, Érionne Catherine, Méthallure de Thérèse, Colibri Corinne, Colibri d'Angèle, Colibri Élise, Colibri Héloïse, and Ariane de Félicie. In English, only the Anna's Hummingbird has this trait.

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.

Variable Mountain-gem

Variable Mountain-gem (Lampornis castaneoventris)

Credit: Jean Léveillé

© Jean Léveillé


Tufted Coquette

Tufted Coquette (Lophornis ornatus)

Credit: Jean Léveillé

© Jean Léveillé


Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke

© Musée de la nature et des sciences de Sherbrooke 2007. All rights reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • name a few hummingbirds;
  • estimate the number of hummingbirds species;
  • describe in his own words a typical hummingbird.

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