Mystery Creature
How can you tell it's NOT a hummingbird?


There are many similarities between a hummingbird and this mystery, as shown on the Venn Diagram. However, there are also clues that this can't be a hummingbird—or a bird at all. Were you able to find some clues?

How Many Clues Did You Find?

  • Head: This animal has two antennae. Birds do not have antennae.
  • Mouth: Birds have beaks. This animal does not have a beak. It's drinking from a long, thin hose-like structure that the animal curls into a coil when it flies.
  • Wings: This animal's wings are transparent, with no bones and no feathers. Birds have bones inside their wings which, along with the feathers, give the wings the strength needed for flight. Instead of bones, this animal's wings get their strength from the veins you see inside the transparent wings.
  • Body: This animal does not have a tail, or any feathers.
  • Legs: This animal has 2 pair of legs (6 legs). Hummingbirds only have 1 pair (2 legs).

So what is the mystery animal?
It's easier to see that this is NOT a bird than to identify what this animal actually is. But let's walk through the clues and see where they lead...

  • Legs: The legs are the most obvious clue. All insects, and only insects, have 6 jointed legs. Thus, we know this is an insect.
  • Mouth: One way to identify insects is by inspecting their mouthparts. Butterflies and moths have a "proboscis," a long, slender, siphoning tube that curls into a coil when not in use. Thus, we know this is a butterfly or moth.
  • Head: Butterflies and moths both have antennae. Butterfly antennae typically have a club or hook on the tip. Moth antennae do not. Moth antennae are straight or feathery, with no club on the end. This suggests a moth, but it still could be a butterfly or a moth.

At this point, reach for your Field Guide and thumb through the pages. This animal is so unusual looking you'll quickly see that it belongs to a group of moths called "Sphinx Moths." According to the Golden Guide, there are about 100 species in North America. Some are actually called "hummingbird moths" because they look so much like hummingbirds when they feed!