Ecuador / Ecuador Birds

Ecuador Hummingbirds: They Hop, Hit and Fight

Ecuador  Hummingbirds:  They Hop, Hit and Fight

Did you know that hummingbirds in Ecuador hop on the ground and hit each other on the head? I’ve watched the frenetic jewel-toned creatures flit around our deck for years but it’s hard to even snap a picture they move so fast.

Now new facts about the lives of hummingbirds have been brought to light by a group of cinematographers, working  with scientists using new technologies.   They were able to observe hummingbirds doing things we never suspected and could never have seen five years ago because we didn’t have the technology or the equipment.

This film, which was first a PBS special and is also on YouTube, was sent to me by Phyllis Cooper, a resident of Ecuador for over a decade.  The film is the result of years of work by the cinematographers during thousands of hours of filming on location in six different countries, including Ecuador.

New Cameras and Equipment Help Catch Hummingbirds in Surprising Behaviors

“Making the film was incredibly challenging because hummingbirds are amazingly small and amazingly fast.  So we had to use a new kind of camera, the phantom high-speed camera,” says Ann Prum, the film’s producer and main cinematographer.

The gigantic camera shoots at frame rates of 200-500 frames per second.  The filming crew was able to slow down the hummingbird’s world and see things that humans had no idea hummingbirds ever did.

The first time they used the phantom camera was in Ecuador. The very first shot was of a blue and green hummingbird hitting another hummingbird on the head with its long, sharp beak.  The bird knocked the second bird away from the flower where it was feeding.

They used specialty lenses, like the boroscope lens, a long tube with a lens at the end.  They could put the lens into a flower for a flower-eye view of humming birds feeding. The boroscope lens has incredible depth of field.

They also designed and set up a trolley cam with a camera on a dolly stretched between trees.  Some of these shots took several people many hours to set up, just to get a few seconds of film.

Hummingbirds Prove to be Tough and Competitive

Prum said, “We think they (hummingbirds) are delicate and jewel-like  and  fast-moving and somewhat like a fairy. . . Now we know—hummingbirds  are tough as nails, they live places where no other animals live, they thrive at high altitudes, they have big, competitive lives where they’re battling each other, they forage for insects. “

“I think that hummingbirds are nature’s super-heroes. They have all kinds of amazing abilities . . . “

It took 4 years for a scientist to finally film a hummingbird eating an insect.  He rigged up a box and tried to coax the birds to eat the smorgasbord of bugs.  Shots in the film show a hummingbird opening its beak and gracefully gliding toward a flying insect, then devouring it.

High Altitude Hummingbirds in Ecuador

Prum was most surprised to find hummingbirds in the Andes mountains at over 12000 feet altitudes.  It was so high up that she found it very hard to breathe, yet here were these energetic little birds, flitting around everywhere in large numbers.

The hummingbirds in the Ecuador Andes spend much of their time hopping on the ground and feeding on tiny flowers.  Watch the YouTube video.  It’s 9 ½ minutes long but well worth it if you are a nature lover.



  1. Fantastic footage It mignt have convinced my wife to come to ecuador and go to Mindo for veiwing. Whats the best place to stay with a good guide >?

    • Check out the blog on Arasha lodge. We stayed there and loved it. Food is good, about an hours south of Mindo. Other than that, we don’t know another place to stay, although there are several. You can just go there and explore until you find what you are looking for.

  2. WOW! I can’t WAIT to get there and get started enjoying the fantastic ecosystems there are in Ecuador. Thanks for sharing this incredible video.

  3. WOW.

    What a great video! I’ve already posted it on my Facebook wall, it’s so good.

    I’ve learned from experience that they’re not the meek little things we think they are. Not long ago, here in Cuenca, I was walking my dog, and heard some squawking and humming getting closer to me, coming from behind.

    I looked back just in time to see THREE hummingbirds heading in my direction, fighting each other! What a sight! They were so fast that they were gone in about 5 seconds.

    And the video reminded me of my other hummingbird encounter, on Salt Spring Island, Canada. I was walking past a 50 foot high tree (at least that high) when I heard a loud humming sound.

    I looked around and then realized it was coming from above me. I looked up just in time to see a hummingbird dive-bombing me. It swooped up about two feet from my head.

    Watch that video! And then marvel at how SOME of today’s technology can bring joy and beauty into our lives.


  4. Jerry Lee says:

    Hi Ann Johnson,
    My name is Jerry Lee and I want to thank you for sharing your documentary on the Humming Birds. It is amazing. I am a wildlife photographer and live close to the Andes in Ecuador. I am a still Photographer and have some great shots of Humming Birds. I know how hard it was to make this wonderful video. Thank you from all my friends that are watching it. If you ever come back to Ecuador I would like to shake your hand.
    Jerry Lee