Most of us have no difficulty distinguishing a bird from a bug. Birds have feathers; insects have, well, all sorts of exterior coverings—from chitinous exoskeletons to scales, and sometimes a sort of fuzzy "fur." But definitely not feathers. However, it's easy to see why hummingbird moths are regularly mistaken for real hummingbirds…they look like hummingbirds, fly like hummingbirds, sound like hummingbirds with the whir of their fast-beating wings, and are seen frequenting the same places—i.e., hovering around and sipping nectar from flowers.
True, a hummingbird moth is smaller than a genuine hummingbird. The color isn't much like a ruby-throat. If you look close, the body shape—at least to me—always appears less like a bird, but oddly similar to a crawfish. Still, the moth's flight and feeding characteristics are quite analogous to its avian namesake.
And like the bird, the moth is just as challenging to photograph!
The photos here are the best I've manage so far. I made these shots a couple of weeks back when the wild bergamot was still blooming profusely. Hummingbird moths are always on the move as they feed, zipping from bloom to bloom, changing angles as they hover to sip nectar. They are often wary, and not too easy to approach. Capturing one requires patience, quick reflexes, the ability to fast focus, and a high capacity for frustration. Plus a little luck. As you can seen, the shutter speed I choose was not fast enough to "stop" the wings.
The moth in these shots is, I believe, a hummingbird clearwing, Hemaris thysbe—part of the Sphinx moth family, and one of the four species of Hemaris found in North America.