Why Do Hummingbirds Have Such High Heart Rates? A Deep Dive

How fast does a hummingbird’s heart beat? Short answer:

The frequency of a Hummingbird’s heart rate varies depending on the intensity of physical activity and can range from 500 to 1,200 beats per minute.

Read on to learn why…

How High Is The Hummingbird Heart Rate?

Did you know that hummingbirds have the highest heart rate of any animal on earth?

Resting heart rate250-500 beats per minute
Active heart rateUp to 1,200 beats per minute
Heart sizeMakes up 2.5-2.6% of the bird’s total body weight
Heartbeat variabilityAble to increase or decrease heart rate rapidly to adapt to changing energy demands
Oxygen uptakeHummingbirds have the highest oxygen uptake per gram of any bird
TorporDuring torpor, heart rate can drop to as low as 36 beats per minute
Metabolic rateThe high heart rate is necessary to maintain a high metabolic rate
DietThe high heart rate allows hummingbirds to quickly process the nectar they consume
AdaptationHummingbirds’ high heart rate is an adaptation to their high-energy lifestyle and need for fast oxygen delivery
ConservationUnderstanding hummingbird heart rate can aid in conservation efforts for these important pollinators

Their average heart rate is around 1200 beats per minute, with some species recording rates as high as 1600 beats per minute!

Why Is Their Heart Rate So High?

Hummingbirds are small birds that are found in the Americas, and they’re well known for their ability to hover and fly backwards.

The secret behind their aerial acrobatics is their high metabolism, which allows them to burn huge amounts of energy while flying.

This also explains why hummingbirds have such incredibly high heart rates – they have to pump blood around their tiny bodies far more quickly than other animals.

How fast does a ruby throated hummingbird’s heart beat?

A Ruby-throated hummingbird’s heart beats very rapidly:

Averaging around 1,200 beats per minute during flight and up to 250 beats per minute when resting.

The Science Of A Hummingbird’s High Heart Beat

Why does a hummingbird's heart beat fast?

This phenomenon has fascinated scientists for years, and the answer is more complex than you might think.

Hummingbirds are among the smallest birds in the world, but they have some of the highest heart rates – clocking in from 250 to 1000 beats per minute when active!

This high rate helps them meet their energetic needs as they fly around collecting nectar from flowers.

But why is a hummingbird’s heart rate so high?

Continuous Flight

The answer lies in the need for continuous flight.

Many other birds have the ability to fly, but none of them can stay airborne for as long as a hummingbird.

To keep up this level of activity, their hearts must beat faster than most other birds.

Active BPM

When a hummingbird is active, its heart rate can reach up to 1000 beats per minute!

To put this in perspective, the average human heart rate is only around 100 beats per minute.

For a hummingbird, that’s like running at an intense sprint for hours on end!

Aspect of Hummingbird Heart RateInformation
Heart Rate at Rest250-300 beats per minute
Heart Rate during FlightUp to 1200 beats per minute
Heart Rate during Sleep50 beats per minute
Heartbeat as a percentage of Max Heart Rate15% at rest, up to 85% during flight
Reason for High Heart RateHigh metabolism requires oxygen and energy, small size means heart must pump more frequently
Heart Rate VariabilityHummingbirds have low heart rate variability, meaning their heart rate remains consistent even with changes in activity level
Effects of TemperatureHeat can increase heart rate, cold can decrease it
Effects of AltitudeHigher altitude can increase heart rate due to lower oxygen availability
Comparison to Other BirdsHummingbirds have the highest heart rate of any bird species, and among the highest heart rate of all animals

The high heart rate also helps the tiny bird cool off while flying.

Because they must constantly move their wings to stay afloat, hummingbirds generate a lot of heat.

This heat is then dissipated by their high heart rate and the rapid circulation of blood throughout their body.


In addition to helping with cooling, the fast heartbeat also helps fuel the hummingbird’s flight.

During periods of intense activity, hummingbirds rely on anaerobic respiration to produce energy because their heart rate is too fast for aerobic respiration to be effective.

With this type of metabolism, they can quickly access the energy they need without having to wait for oxygen to arrive via their lungs.

Finally, the high heart rate helps hummingbirds stay alert while they are flying.

It is thought that the rapid flow of blood gives them better sensory perception and allows them to quickly react to their environment.

The Hummingbird Has The Highest Heart Rate

Hummingbirds are known for their extraordinary metabolic rates, as they flap their wings continuously in order to stay airborne.

As a result of this constant activity, hummingbirds also have incredibly high heart rates when compared to other birds.

In fact, the average hummingbird’s resting heart rate can often exceed 1,000 beats per minute.

This is an incredibly fast rate, even when compared to other birds such as swifts and falcons, which both have average heart rates around 600 bpm.

Eating Habits

In order to sustain this high rate of activity, hummingbirds must consume large amounts of food in relation to their body size.

This can often mean eating up to several times their own body weight in nectar per day.

This large intake of food, paired with the hummingbirds’ high heart rate and constant flapping, enables them to survive for long periods of time at high altitudes.

World Record Heart Rate

The record-holder for the highest hummingbird heart rate ever recorded goes to a white-eared jacobin, a species of hummingbird native to Ecuador.

This little bird had an astonishing peak heart rate of 1,260 beats per minute in a laboratory setting.

Does hummingbird heart rate help in survival?

Does hummingbird heart rate help in survival?

Hummingbirds have remarkable abilities that have enabled them to survive in a variety of habitats, from deserts and mountain meadows to tropical rainforests.

One of the unique traits that hummingbirds possess is their rapid heart rates, which can reach up to 1,260 beats per minute (BPM).

This high heart rate helps these tiny birds to fuel their extremely active lifestyle by supplying them with a large amount of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles.


But how exactly does this high heart rate help hummingbirds survive?

To answer this question, it’s important to understand how hummingbird hearts work and how their unique anatomy contributes to their survival.

Hummingbirds have a four-chambered heart like other birds, with two of the chambers (atria) that collect oxygenated blood from their lungs and two chambers (ventricles) that pump it throughout their body.

This is similar to how human hearts work.

However, hummingbirds differ in that they have an additional chamber known as the crop sac.

Crop Sac

This sac, which is located just behind the heart and connected to the esophagus, serves as a temporary reservoir for food that can be digested later when they find a suitable resting spot.

Due to their size and metabolic needs, hummingbirds have evolved to possess hearts that are much larger than those of other birds.

Their hearts occupy up to 18% of the total body mass, which is much higher than other birds.

This larger heart allows them to produce their rapid heart rate, since it can pump oxygen-rich blood throughout their small bodies more efficiently.

Thermogenic Regulation

The large size of a hummingbird’s heart also helps with thermogenic regulation, which is how they maintain their body temperature in hot and cold temperatures.

A hummingbird’s heart tissue is able to resist extreme changes in temperature, thanks to its large size and the heat-retaining properties of the crop sac.

This helps them to remain active even when conditions are too cold for other birds or animals.

Feeding Windows

The high heartbeat rate of hummingbirds also helps them to take advantage of their short feeding windows.

Hummingbirds feed on flower nectar and small insects, which they can only find at certain times of the day or in specific areas.

Scientific ReasonsExplanation
High Metabolic RateHummingbirds have a high metabolic rate, which requires more oxygen and energy to be delivered to the cells, resulting in a higher heart rate.
Small Body SizeHummingbirds have a small body size, which means that they have a smaller heart and circulatory system. To compensate, their hearts beat faster to pump blood efficiently.
Active LifestyleHummingbirds are constantly on the move, whether they are flying or foraging for food. This active lifestyle requires more energy, which in turn requires a higher heart rate to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body.
High Altitude HabitatHummingbirds live at high altitudes, where the air is thinner and less oxygen is available. To compensate for the lower oxygen levels, their hearts must beat faster to pump more oxygen to the body.
Flight MusclesHummingbirds have highly developed flight muscles, which require a lot of oxygen and energy to function. A higher heart rate ensures that enough oxygen is delivered to the muscles to maintain flight.

Being able to rapidly circulate oxygen-rich blood throughout their body enables hummingbirds to fly faster than other birds in order to get to these food sources before the opportunity passes.

Overall, hummingbirds have evolved to possess exceptionally high heart rates that enable them to survive in a variety of habitats and take advantage of short feeding windows.

Their larger hearts not only provide them with much-needed oxygen but also help regulate their body temperature, ensuring that they are able to remain active even when temperatures are extreme.

Thanks to their remarkable heart rate, hummingbirds are able to thrive in a variety of environments and live longer lives than other birds.

How many beats per minute does a hummingbird flap its wings?

How many beats per minute does a hummingbird flap its wings?

Hummingbirds are renowned for their high rates of wing beats per minute, which is an incredible feat given their small size.

The average number of wing beats per minute for a hummingbird is around 50-70 beats per second, with some species achieving as many as 90-200!

This rapid rate of flapping helps the birds to fly quickly and efficiently.

Recorded Maximum

The maximum recorded number of wing beats per minute for a hummingbird is an astounding 200!

This astonishing figure was achieved by a species known as the Anna’s Hummingbird, which can beat its wings up to 200 times in just one second!

The average heart rate of a hummingbird ranges from 500-1200 beats per minute, with the maximum recorded being 1,260 bpm.


A hummingbird’s heart rate is essential for regulating its body temperature and maintaining sufficient oxygen levels in its bloodstream.

In order to maintain their high rates of activity, hummingbirds must keep their core body temperatures at around 105°F (40°C).

This is done primarily through their high heart rates, which help to pump more blood throughout the body so that it can function efficiently.

High Body Temperature

The beating of a hummingbird’s wings also helps to generate heat for maintaining its high body temperature.

As each wing beat creates a tiny pocket of air that warms up from the force of the wing beat, the air pockets then mix with the cooler surrounding air and help to keep the hummingbird’s body temperature regulated.

This is why a hummingbird can fly in temperatures as low as 40°F (4°C).

Hummingbirds have excellent blood vessels.

These vessels carry oxygen-rich blood to the hummingbird’s muscles and organs, as well as help regulate body temperature.

A hummingbird’s heart rate is one of the fastest known among all animals, with an incredible rate of up to 1,260 beats per minute!

This incredibly fast heart rate helps keep a hummingbird’s wings beating at up to 80 times per second, allowing them to hover mid-air and fly forward, backward, sideways, or even upside down.

A hummingbird’s heart rate is also extremely variable: during rest, a hummingbird will have a resting heart rate of around 250 beats per minute while they can reach up to 1,260 beats per minute when flying!


The average lifespan of a hummingbird is around 5-7 years, although some species can live up to 10 years in the wild.

During these long lives, a hummingbird’s heart has to keep up with its busy lifestyle while having time for resting and proper nutrition.

Interestingly, hummingbirds don’t have typical hearts like mammals do; they have an unusual heart structure with four chambers instead of three.

This unique structure helps keep their heart rate from dropping too low and keep their body temperature at optimal levels when needed.

The four-chamber design also allows for more efficient oxygen delivery, which is essential for a bird that’s constantly in motion.

How fast is an average bird’s heart rate?

How fast is an average bird's heart rate?

The average hummingbird’s heart beats approximately 1,260 times per minute.

That’s about 21 beats per second!

To put that into perspective, the average human heart rate is 60-80 beats per minute.

Hummingbird BPM VS Human

So a hummingbird’s heart beats more than three times as fast as ours does. Interestingly, though, when a hummingbird is at rest, its heartbeat can slow down to as few as 50 beats per minute.

That’s still much faster than ours, which slows down to around 40 beats per minute when we’re resting.

This high metabolism comes at a cost, though: a hummingbird only lives for an average of 4-5 years in the wild.

Compare that to the average human lifespan of around 78 years, and it’s clear that life in the fast lane doesn’t always pay off!


What is the heart rate of a hummingbird?

Hummingbird heart rate can range from 250 to over 1200 beats per minute, depending on the species and activity level.

Why is hummingbird heart rate so high?

Hummingbird heart rate is so high to compensate for their incredibly fast metabolism, which allows them to hover in place and beat their wings up to 80 times per second.

Do hummingbirds have the fastest heart rate?

Yes, hummingbirds have the fastest heart rate of any bird species, and some species have a heart rate of over 1200 beats per minute.

How many wing beats per minute does a hummingbird have?

Hummingbirds typically have between 10 and 80 wing beats per second, which translates to between 600 and 4800 wing beats per minute.

How many times can a hummingbird flap its wings in 60 seconds?

Hummingbirds can flap their wings up to 80 times per second, which means they can flap their wings up to 4,800 times in a minute. However, the exact number varies depending on the species and activity level.

Final Thoughts

Hummingbird heart rates are a fascinating and often overlooked aspect of these amazing creatures.

While we may never really understand the complexities of their physiology, understanding how hummingbird hearts work can help us appreciate them more fully.

By studying the ways in which different species regulate heart rate, we can learn even more about the links between nutrition, activity levels, and much more.

Dale Garrett

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing his 15 years of my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at dale@chipperbirds.com for assistance.