Table of Contents
The hummingbird is one of the most loved wild birds. While it is indigenous to native America and Europe, it has migrated far and wide enough to have a presence in Asia and Africa as well.
Loved for its beautiful colors and music, the hummingbird has a very interesting way of life that has attracted fascinating symbolism. Here is what you need to know about these tiny musicians.
What is the Hummingbird?
One of the 360 species of the Trochilidae family, hummingbirds are small colorful birds that feed on flower nectar, insects, and spiders.
Hummingbirds prefer tropical climates and have a very high metabolic rate that causes them to go into torpor in a bid to conserve energy during periods of food scarcity. These phenomenal birds that are so tiny, with the smallest subspecies weighing 0.07 ounces and the largest weighing 0.85 ounces, are also very territorial and vicious.
Contrary to what you may think, the hummingbird does not get its name from its vocalized sound that consists of chirping, squeaking, and whizzing, but rather gets its name from the sound produced by its wings while in flight or while hovering.
Their wings flap in upstroke and downstroke rapid motions evoking acoustic sounds akin to musical instruments. This sound coupled with the birds’ bright and beautiful colors is the source of the allure to humans.
More fascinating, however, is that the hummingbird’s wings are attached to its body in a way that allows them to fly forward, backward, and upside-down.
Symbolism of the Hummingbird
Hummingbirds have fascinated humans since ancient times, thus becoming a powerful symbol. Encountering a hummingbird is seen in many cultures as an indication of good news and impending positives changes. Characteristics associated with hummingbirds include endurance, eternity, joy, good luck, flirtation, health and vitality, and divine messages.
- Endurance – Hummingbirds display persistence in different aspects of their lives. As small as they are, hummingbirds can migrate long distances, can survive food scarcity by going into a form of hibernation know as a torpor, and they have a tendency to hold on to planes even during turbulence.
- Continuation and Eternity – While in flight, the wings of hummingbirds move in a figure-eight motion, the universally known and ancient symbol of infinity. For this reason, they are seen as a sign of continuity and eternity.
- Joy – Love and joy can be felt from the sound and sight of the hummingbirds as they feed and interact. Where there are hummingbirds, there is bound to be a dance of beautiful colors and a harmony of beautiful melody, a combination that depicts joy.
- Flirtation – From the way it flies to the way it hovers, displaying its vibrant colors and singing its sweet melodies, the hummingbird is seen as a very flirtatious bird.
- Good Luck – This symbolic meaning derives from the Chinese culture that used the hummingbird as the Feng Shui symbol of good luck. This good luck symbolism can also be linked to the joy symbolism because, in the aspect of universal energy, joyous positive energy attracts good vibrations.
- Health and Vitality – The hummingbird pollinates flowers as it feeds on nectar. The process of pollination fertilizes the plants thus ensuring continuity.
- Divine Messages – This symbolic meaning derives from ancient Celtic and Native American mythologies, which both believe that hummingbirds delivered messages and guidance from divine entities.
- Dream Symbolism – a dream graced by the hummingbird is an indication of positive vibes. Hummingbirds appear in dreams to tell of oncoming good luck in career life, love life, or spiritual life. A yellow hummingbird in specific is an indication of looming opportunity for success and recognition, while a feeding hummingbird is seen to mean that you should stop worrying too much and start enjoying life.
Hummingbird Tattoo Symbolism
Hummingbird tattoos are one of the most colorful intricate body art. The tattoo of a hummingbird is often accompanied by flowers to show how the bird hovers as it feeds on nectar.
This tattoo can be a representation of overcoming difficult times, of freedom, of joy, love, hope, and charm, or care, happiness, and attraction. When drawn as matching tattoos, it serves as a mark of loyalty.
Hummingbird as a Spirit Animal
A spirit animal is a messenger sent to help you in your life’s journey. It comes in the form of an animal and can manifest itself to you in dreams or as an incessant pull towards a certain animal.
Having a hummingbird as a spirit animal is an indication of freedom and liberty. The hummingbird comes to tell you that you should freely enjoy life and its pleasures especially love.
Hummingbird as a Totem Animal
A totem animal is a lifetime spirit guide that keeps you company in both the physical and spiritual realms.
Having the hummingbird as your totem animal serves to teach you how to achieve the impossible whilst having fun.
People whose totem animal is the hummingbird are loving, exuberant, and the center of attention, but tend to exhaust their energy, requiring them to recharge occasionally. The bird thus appears to teach them how to utilize their energy without self-harming.
As a Power Animal
Power animals are supernatural creatures in the form of animals that walk through life with a person, teaching, guiding, and even protecting them.
Having the hummingbird as your power animal endows you with the strength and endurance to face life’s challenges.
Folklore About The Hummingbird
Considering that the hummingbird is an important spirit guide, there are many folk tales and myths about the bird in both Europe and Native America, its native regions.
The Hopi and Zuni traditional tales tell a story of the hummingbird as the bringer of rain to their land during a great famine. In this story, a young boy carved a hummingbird out of wood while his parents were out searching for food. Playfully, the boy’s sister threw the wooden bird into the air and it gained life and flew. The bird then started bringing them corn daily but seeing that they needed more to eat, went to the earth’s center and begged the god of fertility to make rainfall so that crops would grow. The fertility god, impressed by the courage of the small bird, replenished the land with rain.
The Aparche tribe of Oklahoma, tells a story of the hummingbird as the bringer of fair weather. In this story, a beautiful woman by the name Bright Rain is rescued from a wolf attack by the Wind Dancer and they fall in love. Unfortunately, the wind dancer dies in battle, an incident that brings Bright Rain great remorse and causes winter to befall the land. In her grieving, Bright Rain goes into a field where the spirit of the Wind Dancer visits her in the form of a hummingbird and sings sweet melodies to her calming her enough for fair weather to return to the land.
The Pueblo people of Native America tell a story of the hummingbird as the rain bringer. In this story, a demon lost a bet to the sun which made him blind and in rage, he emitted hot lava, setting all realms on fire. Seeing the suffering of the people, the little gray hummingbird flew to all four directions of the earth to gather clouds to put out the fire with rain. In this rain, the rainbow came out and blessed the hummingbird with its beautiful colors. Happy about the hummingbird’s courage and help, the Pueblo people started the tradition of the hummingbird dance to bring rain.
The Mayans of Central America celebrate the hummingbird’s symbolism of love in two myths. In the first myth, they believe that the sun seduced the beautiful moon while in the shape of a hummingbird. In the second myth, the great creator created the hummingbird from the leftovers of other birds and because he was very tiny, he was compensated with speed. Because of his love for the little bird, the creator built him a mate and planned a wedding for them. It is at this wedding that the hummingbirds got their beautiful feathers as wedding gifts from the other birds who thought they did not have enough color. The sun was not left behind in this story as he gifted the hummingbirds with the promise that their colorful feathers would always glow in the sunlight.
The Aztecs of Mexico revered the hummingbird for two reasons. Firstly, the name of Hitzilopochti their god of sun and war translates to hummingbird wizard, and secondly, they believed that warriors who died in war were reincarnated as hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are so revered in the Aztec culture that only the Shamans and the leaders of the tribe could wear the feathers of the hummingbird.
Caribbean folklore reveres the hummingbird for two reasons. Firstly, they believe hummingbirds to be spirit messengers and guides. Secondly, the Taino people believe that the hummingbird was once a fly but the sun, its father, remolded him into a small bird thus making it a symbol of rebirth. The hummingbird is so respected in the Taino culture that their soldiers are called the hummingbird warriors or in their indigenous language, the Colibri Warriors.
The hummingbird may be small but it bears great symbolism. In every culture that it has touched, this tiny impressive bird is seen as a beacon of positivity and good vibrations.