Ask The Experts: How Long Do Hummingbirds Live?

Kimberly and Kenn Kaufman are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world.

Hummingbird

Image Credits:Thorsten Spoerlein/shutterstock

Question: Two kinds of hummingbirds visit our yard: black-chinneds and Costa’s. One is a young male Costa’s whose throat patch is just beginning to show, and I always wonder how old he is. What is the life span of a hummingbird? — Terry Burkhart, Landers, California

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Kenn & Kimberly: These tiny creatures don’t live long. Based on banding studies, seven or eight years is a ripe old age for most hummingbirds in the wild. Ruby-throated hummingbirds have lived nine years, and one banded female broad-tailed hummingbird in Colorado made it to 12.

A zoo that’s properly set up to care for these birds may stretch longevity: Two black-chinned hummingbirds at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson lived to 13 or 14 years old. We don’t have much information on the Costa’s hummingbird, but a male with his gorget (throat patch) just developing would be a little less than one year old.

Little Jewel

Costa’s, like the male in the photo, weigh in at only one-tenth of an ounce. Their crouched posture makes them look even smaller. Here are 13 more fascinating facts about hummingbirds.