What Do Hummingbirds Do When It Rains?

Rain rain go away…. that is usually our wish if it rains on us. We don’t like to drive in it, and we sure don’t want to eat in the rain. But let’s consider our hummingbird friends. What do they do? Given the amount they have to eat to survive, what do they do? Can they still fly in the rain without getting knocked to the ground? Can they die from a falling raindrop? Let’s see.

What Do Hummingbirds Do When It Rains?

Hummingbirds are not troubled by the rain. On the contrary, hummingbirds survive well in the rain. They eat and fly in the wind and rain (if it’s not too harsh). Hummingbirds may appear to be fragile and vulnerable little creatures, but they are tough little survivors.

For surviving the rain, hummingbirds possess two extraordinary characteristics—the first being the ability to shake the rain off their bodies, even during flight. The second is the ability to adjust their body position while flying and hovering to maintain their flight.

How Hummingbirds Can Fly in The Rain?

If you watch hummingbirds for any length of time, you notice they fly almost all the time. Given the ravenous appetite of the hummingbird, they must eat even if the weather conditions are not great. So what about in the rain? While watching them in the rain, you may notice they don’t seem to care about the raindrops falling on them.

They continue to eat and fly around without any issues. So do they prefer the rain? I doubt that. For instance, when you have feeders with overhead shelter (from the rain) and feeders directly in the rain, they tend to pick the ones with the overhead shelter. Can you blame them?

So what allows them to fly in the rain.


Like other birds, hummingbirds are equipped with feathers that help repel water. However, their plumage has no waterproofing element, just the design and natural oil/wax they apply during preening. But the most fascinating attributes are the shaking off the rain and alternating their flight patterns.

Ability to “Shake it Off”

Researchers found the hummingbird can actually shake the water off during flight and at rest. This process takes just 0.1 seconds. During this shaking process, almost all the rain is removed from its feathers. Shake your head (as in saying no) back and forth fast (DON’T hurt yourself). Did it make you a little dizzy? Just think, they can still fly during this process. AMAZING! (watch this video provided by the BBC).

Flight Kinematics

Data was gathered from observing hummingbirds in flight while applying varying amounts of rainfall. During light rain, few or no adjustments were needed to their body position or flight movement. But with heavy rainfalls, they needed to change both their body position and wing speed. The downside to this is they use much more energy (watch below).

Hummingbird from the research conducted by Victor Manuel Ortega-Jimenez and Robert Dudley Published:18 July 2012

“Light to moderate rain had only a marginal effect on the bird’s flight, the researchers found, causing only a moderate reduction in the frequency of their wing beats. Heavy rain however caused the birds to hover with a more horizontal body and tail position, increasing the surface area of their bodies exposed to the rain. With this change in flight posture they substantially increased their wing-beat frequency, requiring a much greater energy output of between 9 and 57 percent.”

Research News, Science & Nature / 20 July 2012

These abilities were discovered during research conducted by Victor Manuel Ortega-Jimenez and Robert Dudley Published:18 July 2012. (Link will be in-depth findings and formulas of the study).

Can a Raindrop Kill a Hummingbird?

Hummingbirds survive raindrops from all-size storms. The impact of the raindrop does not kill them. Instead, they absorb the impact by changing their body position and flight patterns. An explanation as to why can be found in the physics of things.

YIKES, I would not even know how to begin that conversation. So let me say, the terminal velocity of any raindrop (no matter how far it falls) does not cause enough force to push the hummingbird to the ground or into any object causing its death.

What About Severe Storms and Hurricanes?

As we seek the comforts of our homes during a storm, hummingbirds do not seek shelter in their nest. Instead, hummingbirds will seek shelter during these weather conditions and wait for the storm to pass.

Hummingbirds have powerful little feet that they use to grip and hold onto a twig during the high winds of severe storms or hurricanes. This ability prevents them from blowing away. Hummingbirds will always seek places that provide the most shelter.

If the winds are extreme, hummingbirds sometimes will position themselves on the Leeward side (the side away from the wind) at the base of a big tree and grip the bark, shielding them so they can avoid the severe, harsh winds.

There have been many sightings of hummingbirds at feeders when the eye of a hurricane goes over. This flocking to the feeders in the eye of the storm is proof they can survive these massive storms by safely seeking shelter.

Why Do Hummingbirds Enjoy Rain?

Hummingbirds have to bathe. They use the rain to preen (bathing themselves Bird Style). During the preening process, they fluff out their feathers and use their bills to remove dirt and parasites. They also use their bill to smooth out any rough spots in their wing feathers, ensuring efficient flight. After that, they will use their feet to clean the back of the head and neck area.

If there is no rain, they will seek alternative water sources. This is an opportunity where you can help. They love flying through misting water or a nice shallow birdbath with a fountain of running water. After bathing, they will fly to a nearby branch and preen. (WARNING: The below video is 5:25 minutes of pure CUTENESS)

Hummingbirds and The Rain

Next time there is a light rainstorm, sit and watch your hummingbirds. Watch as they flutter around and enjoy the rain. Hopefully, you have new insight into how the hummingbird interacts with the rain and survives severe storms and hurricanes.

No need to worry about our little friends if it starts raining or storming. They have survived thousands of years weathering out storms. Just make sure your feeders are full when the storm passes. They will be HUNGRY.

Leave a Comment