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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Archilochus alexandri ORDER: APODIFORMES FAMILY: TROCHILIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A small green-backed hummingbird of the West, with no brilliant colors on its throat except a thin strip of iridescent purple bordering the black chin, only visible when light hits it just right. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are exceptionally widespread, found from deserts to mountain forests. Many winter along the Gulf Coast. Often perches at the very top of a bare branch. Low-pitched humming sound produced by wings.

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Keys to identification Help

Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    A small, fairly slender hummingbird with a fairly straight bill.

  • Color Pattern

    Dull metallic green above and dull grayish-white below. Males have a velvety black throat with a thin, iridescent purple base. Females have a pale throat. In both sexes, the flanks are glossed with dull metallic green. Female’s three outer tail feathers have broad white tips. The bill is black.

  • Behavior

    Hovers at flowers and feeders, darts erratically to take tiny swarming insects, perches atop high snags to survey its territory, watching for competitors to chase off and for flying insects to eat. During courtship and territorial defense, males display by diving 66-100 feet.

  • Habitat

    Most often seen at feeders or perched on dead branches in tall trees. The Black-chinned Hummingbird is a habitat generalist, found in lowland deserts and mountainous forests, and in natural habitats and very urbanized areas as long as there are tall trees and flowering shrubs and vines.

Range Map Help

Black-chinned Hummingbird Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Iridescent purple throat with black chin
    • Green crown, back, and sides
    • Gray chest and belly
    • White spot behind eye
    • © Sam Wilson, Phoenix, Arizona, June 2007
  • Adult female

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult female
    • Green above, gray below
    • Crown usually grayish
    • Gray throat with darker spotting
    • White spot behind eye
    • © Sam Wilson, Scottsdale, Arizona, July 2007
  • Adult Female

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult Female
    • Gray throat with darker spotting
    • Grayish or greenish crown
    • Gray underparts, may be slightly buffy on flanks (never rufous)
    • © Darin Ziegler, Colorado Springs, Colorado, August 2008
  • Adult Male

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult Male
    • Purple throat may appear black at some angles
    • Green back and sides, gray chest and belly
    • Black tail
    • © Sam Wilson, Scottsdale, Arizona, June 2007
  • Adult Female

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult Female
    • Black tail with white tips
    • Gray underparts, may be slightly buffy on flanks (never rufous)
    • © Sam Wilson, Scottsdale, Arizona, June 2008
  • Adult Male

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult Male
    • Iridescent purple throat with black chin
    • Gray chest and belly, greenish sides
    • Black tail
    • © sannesu, California
  • Adult female and nestlings

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult female and nestlings
    • Green above, gray below
    • © Sam Wilson, Phoenix, Arizona, May 2007
  • Adult male

    Black-chinned Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Purple throat may appear black at some angles
    • Black tail, not deeply notched in center
    • © Gary Wilson, Scottsdale, Arizona, May 2007

Similar Species

  • Adult male

    Anna's Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird
    • Iridescent reddish pink throat and crown
    • White eyering
    • © sannesu, California, November 2008
  • Adult female

    Anna's Hummingbird

    Adult female
    • Similar to female or immature Black-chinned Hummingbird
    • Pale eyebrow
    • Usually red patch on center of gray throat
    • © John Riutta, Scappoose, Oregon, December 2008
  • Adult male

    Broad-tailed Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird
    • Iridescent pinkish red throat and chin
    • Greenish or buff sides
    • White line along cheek
    • Rufous patches in tail
    • © Gary Wilson, Sierra Vista, Arizona, July 2006
  • Adult male

    Calliope Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird
    • Streaked iridescent reddish pink throat
    • White line along cheek
    • Very small
    • © sandy in seattle, Montana, June 2007
  • Adult male

    Rufous Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird
    • Orangish sides and undertail
    • Back usually orangish, may be green
    • Iridescent golden red throat and chin
    • Orangish face, orange or green crown
    • © Mike Wisnicki, British Columbia, May 2008
  • Adult female

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Adult female
    • Similar to female or immature Black-chinned Hummingbird
    • Very similar to Black-chinned, difficult to distinguish (but range overlap limited)
    • Crown usually greener
    • © Debbie McKenzie, Alabama
  • Adult male

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird
    • Iridescent red throat, thin black chin
    • Like Black-chinned: Green above, gray below with greenish sides
    • © Michael Hogan, New Jersey, July 2005
  • Adult male

    Costa's Hummingbird

    Adult male
    • Similar to adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird
    • Iridescent purple crown and throat with long gorget
    • White eyebrow
    • Very small and compact
    • © Sam Wilson, Scottsdale, Arizona, November 2008

Similar Species

The male's black throat with its strip of deep purple at the base is diagnostic, but the brilliant throats of other hummingbirds can appear black in poor light, and the purple doesn't show up if the light doesn't hit it well. The entire throat and forehead of male Costa's Hummingbird and Anna's Hummingbird is purple. Costa's also has broad extensions on the sides of the gorget, which Black-chinned Hummingbirds lack. It's very difficult to distinguish female Black-chinned Hummingbirds from females of other species that occur in the same range. Black-chinned Hummingbirds tend to look long billed and thin necked, and they show a white collar when perched. To distinguish from female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds where their ranges overlap, look carefully at the outermost flight feather: it is knife-shaped in the ruby-throat but club-shaped in the black-chinned. If you notice feathery antennae jutting forward or if you see the bill rolling in and out, it is not a bird, but rather a bird-like hummingbird moth.

Backyard Tips

It’s fairly easy to attract Black-chinned Hummingbirds to feeding stations. Make sugar water mixtures with about one-quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. Food coloring is unnecessary; table sugar is the best choice. Change the water before it grows cloudy or discolored and remember that during hot weather, sugar water ferments rapidly to produce toxic alcohol. During hot spells, change your hummingbird water daily or at most every two days. Your feeders will attract far more hummingbirds if you also grow appropriate flowers attractive to them.

Find This Bird

When birding in its range, listen for the distinctive humming wings and check out tiny bare branches at the tops of dead or live trees, where these birds often sit between feeding bouts. Black-chinned Hummingbirds can be very tricky to follow as they dart and weave among flowering shrubs and insect swarms, but after a feeding bout they very often return to a favorite perch.

Get Involved

Keep track of the Black-chinned Hummingbirds at your feeder with Project FeederWatch.

Look for Black-chinned Hummingbird nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch.

Report your Black-chinned Hummingbird sightings to eBird.

Are you watching Black-chinned Hummingbirds in a city? Celebrate Urban Birds!

For recommendations about plants that attract Black-chinned Hummingbirds in desert habitats.

Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory conducts research and provides authoritative information about Southwestern hummingbirds.

The Nature Conservancy protects many areas that provide habitat for Black-chinned Hummingbirds. Perhaps the most popular is Ramsey Canyon in Southeastern Arizona.

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma is an easy place to see Black-chinned Hummingbirds. Find out more.

You Might Also Like

Information from Audubon At Home on how to help Black-chinned Hummingbirds

Information from the U.S. Geological Survey about Black-chinned Hummingbirds

For more information about hummingbirds in general: http://hummingbirds.net/