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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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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
3.5 in
9 cm
Wingspan
4.3 in
11 cm
Weight
0.1–0.2 oz
2.3–4.9 g
Relative Size
Same size as Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Other Names
  • Colibrí barba negra (Spanish)
  • Colibri à gorge noire (French)

Cool Facts

  • As with most hummingbirds, females average larger than males, and young birds average larger than their parents.
  • Along good stretches of some southern Arizona and southern New Mexico rivers, nests may be found every 100 meters or so.
  • This is one of the most adaptable of all hummingbirds, often found in urban areas and recently disturbed habitat as well as pristine natural areas.
  • During migration, individuals rarely remain longer than one day at a feeder even when food is scarce.
  • The Black-chinned Hummingbird’s tongue has two grooves; nectar moves through these via capillary action, and then the bird retracts the tongue and squeezes the nectar into the mouth. It extends the tongue through the nearly closed bill at a rate of about 13–17 licks per second, and consumes an average of 0.61 milliliters (about a fifth of a fluid ounce) in a single meal. In cold weather, may eat three times its body weight in nectar in one day. They can survive without nectar when insects are plentiful.
  • Black-chinned Hummingbirds aren’t so much drawn to red as they are to the colors of recent nectar sources.
  • At rest, heart beats an average of 480 beats per minute. On cold nights they go into torpor, and the heart rate drops to 45–180 beats per minute. Breathing rate when resting is 245 breaths per minute at 91 degrees Fahrenheit; this rises to 420 breaths per minute when temperature drops to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Torpid hummingbirds breathe sporadically.
  • A Black-chinned Hummingbird’s eggs are about the size of a coffee bean. The nest, made of plant down and spider and insect silk, expands as the babies grow.
  • The oldest known Black-chinned Hummingbird lived to be 10 years 1 month old.

Habitat


Open Woodland

In the Southwest, most common in canyons and along rivers. In arid areas, most often found near cottonwood, sycamore, willow, salt-cedar, sugarberry, and oak. Birds wintering along Gulf very often spend time in shade of oaks.

Food


Nectar

Nectar from flowers, small insects and spiders, sugar water at feeders.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2 eggs
Number of Broods
1-3 broods
Egg Length
0.5–0.6 in
1.2–1.4 cm
Egg Width
0.3 in
0.8 cm
Incubation Period
12–16 days
Nestling Period
21 days
Egg Description
White.
Condition at Hatching
About one-quarter inch long, unfeathered except for two rows of sparse downy feathers along the back, eyes closed.
Nest Description

When newly built, the nest is a compact, deep cup constructed of plant down, spider silk and cocoon fibers. As the nestlings grow, the nest stretches into a wider, shallower cup. Nests from cooler areas are thicker-walled than nests from warmer areas.

Nest Placement

Tree

Most Black-chinned Hummingbird nests have been found an average of 6 feet and at most 12 feet above the ground, but this may be because nests at this height are easier for observers to find. The nest is often on an exposed small horizontal dead branch well below the canopy.

Black-chinned Hummingbird Nest Image 1
© Sam Wilson

Behavior


Hovering

After feeding may perch on high, bare branch for several minutes, surveying territory. Captures small insects in flight (or, in the case of spiders, while ballooning) or on flowers and even on the ground. May fly from perch to grab a single flying insect and then return to perch. May capture many insects in rapid succession in a swarm. Extracts nectar from flowers by extending tongue into the corolla while hovering. During courtship and territorial defense, males display by diving 66-100 feet.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Black-chinned Hummingbirds populations have been increasing since 1966, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 5 million, with 86 percent breeding in the U.S., 1 percent in Canada, and 100 percent spending some part of the year in Mexico. They rate an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and they are not on the 2012 Watch List. Populations are increasing in some places owing to the popularity of hummingbird gardens and hummingbird feeders. In much of the arid West Black-chinned Hummingbirds depend on intact streamside habitats, so these areas are important to preserve.

Credits

Range Map Help

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

Migration

Medium to long-distance migrant. After the breeding season, many adults move to higher mountain habitats while flowers are abundant before heading south. Many more pass through the southeastern United States and winter along the Gulf coast than was once believed. Most winter in western Mexico.

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/