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Allen's Hummingbird Life History


Habitat Open WoodlandsAllen's Hummingbirds breed in a narrow strip of coastal forest, scrub, and chaparral from sea level to around 1,000 feet elevation along the West Coast. Males tend to hold territories in more open areas while females nest in areas with tree cover including eucalyptus, redwood, and Douglas-fir. On the wintering grounds in Mexico, they use oak-pine forest, edges, and scrubby clearings with abundant flowers. Back to top


Food NectarAllen's Hummingbirds sip nectar from flowers such as bush monkeyflower, Indian paintbrush, columbine, currant, gooseberry, twinflower, penstemon, ceanothus, sage, eucalyptus, and manzanita. They get their protein by capturing small insects in midair or picking them off plants. Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest ShrubFemales nest in trees or shrubs anywhere from 2–50 feet above the ground. They frequently build their nests near shady streams in blackberry, bracken fern, eucalyptus, cypress, or Douglas-fir.

Nest Description

Female Allen's Hummingbirds gather spiderweb and downy material from willows and flowers in the sunflower family to form the base and inner part of the nest. She sticks the downy fibers together with spiderwebs and uses her body to shape the inside of the cup. She weaves small pieces of grass and leaves to form a thin outer layer and camouflages the outside with pieces of lichen and moss. It takes her 7–13 days to build a nest that is about 1.25 inches across on the inside. Females frequently build new nests on top of old ones or steal material from old nests to build a new one in a different location.

Nesting Facts

Number of Broods:1-3 broods
Egg Length:0.5-0.6 in (1.2-1.4 cm)
Egg Width:0.3-0.4 in (0.8-1 cm)
Incubation Period:17-22 days
Nestling Period:22-25 days
Egg Description:White.
Condition at Hatching:Helpless, with dark skin and some white down along the back.
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Behavior HoveringAllen's Hummingbirds sip nectar, take small insects in midair, and pick small spiders off vegetation. Males and females defend feeding territories on both the breeding and wintering grounds, chasing away any hummingbird that dares to feed at its nectar sources, though they are not as aggressive as Rufous Hummingbirds. During the breeding season, males also defend patches of coastal scrub with prominent perches where they perform their courtship displays. These elaborate flights are mainly aimed at enticing females to mate, but sometimes displays are used to threaten other species. They have two main displays: a side-to-side shuttle and a pendulum. In the shuttle, they fly short distances side to side in front of a female with their gorget flared out while trilling their wings. In the pendulum display, males zip back and forth in wide arcs producing a stuttering bumblebee-like sound. After the pendulum display, males fly up to 100 feet into the air. On their return they emit a sharp trill with their tail, pulling out of the dive right in front of the female. After the dive they swoop back into the pendulum display followed by another dive. Males perform these elaborate displays for multiple females, but that's their only contribution to parenting. Males mate with more than one female and leave them to raise the young on their own. Back to top


Conservation DecliningAllen's Hummingbirds are fairly common, but their populations declined by 83% between 1970 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight. It is a Yellow Watch List species with a declining population, and a Continental Concern Score of 16 out of 20. Partners in Flight estimates that if current rates of decline continue, Allen’s Hummingbirds will lose another half of their remaining population within the next 17 years. The estimated global breeding population is 1.7 million, all of which breed in the U.S., with 96% wintering in Mexico. Allen's Hummingbirds may not be as adapted to urban environments as other species of hummingbirds and their coastal habitats continue to be under intense development pressure. However, hummingbird feeders, eucalyptus, and other nonnative plants may provide additional nectar resources that could partially offset these problems. Back to top

Backyard Tips

If you live within the range of the Allen’s Hummingbird, putting up a sugar water feeder may give you an opportunity to watch one in your yard. Use a ratio of one-part table sugar dissolved in four parts water, and don’t use food coloring. Learn more about feeding hummingbirds.

Adding flowers to your yard is another way to attract hummingbirds while also adding beauty to your yard. Learn more about creating a hummingbird garden at Habitat Network.

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Clark, Christopher J. and Donald E. Mitchell. (2013). Allen's Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

Karlson, Kevin and D Rosselet. (2015). Birding by Impression. Living Bird 25:34-42.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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