Hummingbird Mimics #1

The questions below come in part from visitors who leave messages on the Operation RubyThroat website. Please send your own questions to QUESTIONS, or post them on the Guestbook page.

1. There's something feeding on flowers in my garden that looks like a miniature hummingbird, but it is black and yellow (or brown and yellow, or with yellow bands, etc.). What is it?

There are several sphinx moths (Family Sphingidae) that look and behave very much like hummingbirds. These moths, called "clearwings" or "hummingbird moths," are unusual in that most have wings that are transparent because they lack scales. The moths flap their wings rapidly and can hover just like a hummingbird. Hummingbird moths are also unusual in that they are diurnal, so they're often seen feeding on flowering plants during daylight hours. At right is the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe), which even has small structures on the end of its abdomen that resemble a hummingbird's flared tail. To make the masquerade even more complete, when the moth uncoils its proboscis to feed on nectar, it looks very much like the long straight bill of the hummingbird.

All text & photos © Operation RubyThroat & Hilton Pond Center

The photo at left by Laura Wheeler-Hoogenboom of Goshen, Indiana is another hummingbird moth species called the Nessus Sphinx Moth, Amphion floridensis. It, too, is often incorrectly identified as a "baby hummingbird." Its wings are dark like a hummingbird's, but the yellow bands on its abdomen give it away.

Back to Hummingbird Questions & Answers

Up to Top of Page

If you found this information useful or interesting, please

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History
Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project
It's painless, and YOU can make a difference!

Just CLICK on a logo below.

Make direct donations on-line through
Network for Good:
Donate a portion of your purchase price from 500+ top on-line stores via iGive:
Use your PayPal account
to make direct donations:

Share Your Hummingbird Experiences Through "Hummingbird Hobnob"

Search Engine

Operation RubyThroat is a registered trademark of Bill Hilton Jr. and Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York, South Carolina USA, phone (803) 684-5852. Contents of the overall project and this website--including photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of the author. To obtain permission or for further assistance on accessing this website, contact Webmaster.