Hummingbirds do chirp. The fast-moving birds that need nectar nonstop communicate about food, about present dangers and about mating through calls that are often specific to their species. Hummingbird chirps can have a variety of meanings, dependent on species, age and gender.
Hummingbirds vocalize from their throats, and their namesake humming emanates from their feathers. Vibrating primary feathers in their wings create the sound, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reports. A few of the more than 300 species of hummingbirds also make a loud sort of "chirp" with their tail feathers, called a sonation.
Generally, bird calls and songs are instinctive. Hummingbirds are among the few birds able to learn vocalization, meaning they can mimic sounds. Hummingbird brains are large relative to their bodies. Their brains have vocal learning centers similar to those of songbirds and parrots, according to researchers from Brazil and the United States who published their findings in the August 10, 2000, issue of "Nature."
Hummingbirds' vocal cords are weak compared with those of many other birds. Many bird species only chirp and chatter, according to Avianweb. They have specific calls for a variety of circumstances, such as to warn of potential threats, to defend territory, to feed, to attract mates and to communicate between parents and offspring. If you chirp to hummingbirds when you put out hummingbird feeders, they may chirp back.
Singing and Calls
Certain hummingbird species sing repeated sounds, such as the male ruby-throated hummingbird, who makes an ongoing "chip-chip-chip" sound at dawn. Many hummers make sounds when they chase each other, or as a greeting. A common ruby-throated hummingbird call sounds like "chee-dit" in an even tone. Other hummingbird sounds include twitters, whistles and chirps, with the tone, length and types of calls varying by species. Males are more vocal than females.
A few species make a special chirp that isn't vocal. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley discovered that male Anna's hummingbirds make a chirp with their tails during a display dive for attracting a mate, according to the UC News website. The inside vanes of the tail feathers work like a reed in a wind instrument to produce the loud, high-pitched chirp. Other hummingbird males who may make a tail chirp during a mating dive include Allen's, black-chinned, Costa's, Cuban bee, ruby-throats, rufous and woodstar.
- Nature -- International Weekly Journal of Science #406; Behaviourally Driven Gene Expression Reveals Song Nuclei in Hummingbird Brain
- Utah Division of Wildlife Resources: Hooray for Hummingbirds
- Avianweb: Hummingbird Sounds -- Calls / Vocalizations and Sounds
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology -- All About Birds: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird -- Sounds
- University of California at Berkeley: UC Berkeley News: Anna's Hummingbird Chirps With its Tail
Gryphon Adams began publishing in 1985. He contributed to the "San Francisco Chronicle" and "Dark Voices." Adams writes about a variety of topics, including teaching, floral design, landscaping and home furnishings. Adams is a certified health educator and a massage practitioner. He received his Master of Fine Arts at San Francisco State University.