Can You Have a Hummingbird As a Pet?

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Hummingbirds are among the most beautiful creatures we can ever hope to welcome into our yards and gardens. Therefore, it is no wonder that so many of us would like to have a closer look at them. But, can you have a hummingbird as a pet? Is it right to domesticate them?

No – hummingbirds are wild animals, and shouldn’t be kept as pets. Not only can this be considered cruel to the birds, but they are also wildly unpredictable – and cannot be trained in the same way as other domesticated birds.

Why else shouldn’t you keep a hummingbird as a pet?

Keeping a hummingbird captive as a pet is considered cruel. It’s safe to welcome hummingbirds to your garden and to feed them occasionally, but they are certainly not yours to keep.

Some wild yard owners may even wonder ‘do hummingbirds make good pets anyway?’ The answer, again, is a resounding no. These animals have never been successfully domesticated, meaning that they’ve evolved without living in close quarters with human beings.

That said, hummingbirds are impressively smart. They can recognize people after a time, especially if you fill their bird feeders regularly. Hummingbird memories have been studied extensively!

Can you tame a hummingbird? 

Hummingbirds are very territorial animals and can indeed be quite aggressive. The word ‘tame’ carries a few different meanings. You can certainly earn the trust of a hummingbird and make it so that they are less territorial around other animals, even those of their species, in your garden. However, this is less about actively training and chastizing the birds, and more about passively recognizing their behaviors.

Hummingbirds become aggressive when they feel as though they are in danger. Making your garden a safe space for them can go a long way to helping keep them calm (and interested in your garden). However, some studies show that hummingbirds can often ‘bully’ their way into food and will readily attack other animals if they feel their snacks are at stake. 

However, as mentioned, there’s a lot you can do to keep hummingbirds happy. Place a hummingbird feeder high enough so that certain creatures cannot reach it – such as predatory mammals – but at a point where your birds can keep coming back. Keeping your hummingbird feeder full goes a long way in keeping these little birds happy, too. 

Some people have found that the hummingbirds that regularly visit their garden will even drink sugar water from their hands if they are holding a hummingbird feeder. Of course, in order to achieve this, you will need to remain perfectly still and simply watch the birds with caution. It’s entirely possible to welcome hummingbirds to your hand – though this will take a lot of time and patience, and you can’t stroke or handle them. Hummingbirds can be easily shocked.

Placing multiple feeders in your garden is also a good way of avoiding certain hummingbirds becoming territorial. They take on tiny attitudes when there is limited food and too many creatures vying for the same morsels. Therefore, by placing multiple feeders in your garden and ensuring that they always have food in them, you are less likely going to find bird-shaped bullies in your yard.

While you can’t have a hummingbird as a pet, you can make their lives easier and more pleasant – and that all starts with growing a few hummingbird friendly flowers up and down your garden.

Is having a hummingbird as a pet illegal? 

Yes, in the US, it is absolutely illegal to own a hummingbird as a pet. In fact, you risk being fined anywhere from $15,000 to $200,000.

There are multiple reasons for this, the main one being that it is considered an act of cruelty. As you may know, hummingbirds are incredible fliers. They are meant to soar the skies searching for new flowers to visit. In fact, in the wild, hummingbirds often visit one thousand to two thousand flowers every single day. By keeping them enclosed, you are making them fight their natural instinct to fly and explore, thus abusing them. 

The only way you can ever own or keep a hummingbird is through a specialist permit. This is granted to those people and services who care and rehabilitate them – meaning unless you are actively operating a public aviary or an animal hospital, you’re unlikely to get one.

Laws regarding hummingbird ownership in the US are dictated by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It’s in place for a reason – these birds need our protection, not exploitation.

Can a hummingbird hurt you? 

Hummingbirds are generally very docile towards humans. That being said, they can sometimes do some things that may appear to be aggressive. 

For example, you may have noticed a hummingbird coming up very close to you, almost appearing as though it is trying to fight you. There’s no need to worry. As territorial as hummingbirds can be, they do know that in a fight, the bigger combatant will probably win. 

In fact, the main reason for hummingbirds coming up to people is usually to do with the fact that they are curious. They are merely looking at you inquisitively and will not attack you. You might smell nice, or simply be wearing colors they like the look of!

That being said, if you do get too close to hummingbird nests, or try to handle one, then they may attack you. They are not likely to hurt you – however, you can very easily hurt them. That is why it is so important to never try to catch a hummingbird, or to ever keep one as a pet. 

Can hummingbirds bite you? 

Hummingbirds do not commonly bite people. Although hummingbird beaks can open, and they can technically bite, it is very rare for them to nip. They will usually try to let you know that you are too close to their nests or getting too close to them by flying into your face, potentially pecking at you.

That being said, if a hummingbird is being aggressive towards you, it is for a reason – you’re most likely in their personal space. Simply go somewhere else and try to avoid that area if you can, as it could be where a hummingbird keeps their nest

It’s natural to want to have plenty of wonderful hummingbirds flitting around your garden. However, you should never keep such birds as pets – instead, focus on attracting hummingbirds to your yard and enjoying them from afar.

About author
Robert has been an avid birdwatcher pretty much his entire life. Living in the suburbs he does his best to bring wild birds into his backyard. He currently has 13+ bird feeders in his yard and also raises and races homing pigeons. Robert writes part-time for Wild Yards, mostly about the subject he cares most about - birds.

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