Hummingbirds in the UK

Posted on: 16 February 2021

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Hummingbirds in the UK

Can hummingbirds be found in the UK?

The short answer to this is no, hummingbirds have never been found in the wild in the UK or anywhere in Europe.

But I've seen one with my own eyes?

If you've seen something that looks like a hummingbird here in the UK or Europe, then you'll more than likely have seen a hummingbird hawkmoth.

You're not alone on this one, as hundreds of people make this mistake each year, as this type of moth does look extremely similar to the American bird. This can be down to their shared size and shape, the fact that both of them spend time collecting nectar from flowers and that they both only fly during the day.

Upon closer inspection, though, you'll notice antennae - this is a definitive sign that you are, in fact, looking at an insect and not a bird.

About Hummingbird Hawkmoths

Hummingbird Hawkmoths (Macroglossum stellatarum) are moths that fly during the daytime and have wingspans of around 2 inches (50-58mm). Their bodies are brown with white spotting, and hindwings are orange and forewings brown. These moths are experts when it comes to hovering, and because of how fast their wings beat, it means they generate a humming noise and appear rather blurry.

They have a habit of rapidly moving from one flower to another, taking nectar with their long proboscis, similar to how a hummingbird would act.

There is a good-sized resident population of hummingbird hawkmoths across Mediterranean countries and in Japan in Central Asia. In the spring, thousands of these moths regularly migrate to northern parts of Europe, and there is also evidence of return migration in the autumn.

Hummingbirds in the UK

A picture of a hummingbird hawkmoth, often mistaken for hummingbirds. (Credit: Frans Koomen)

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