• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer

Blue-throated Hummingbird

Lampornis clemenciae ORDER: CAPRIMULGIFORMES FAMILY: TROCHILIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The largest hummingbird found north of Mexico, the Blue-throated Hummingbird is also one of the most vocal hummingbird species, and its high-pitched, monotonous peeps are a signature sound of summer. They are found in streamside habitats in mountain canyons, as far north as southeastern Arizona, where they are frequent visitors to feeders and usually the dominant hummingbird species.

At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Male
Length
4.3–4.7 in
11–12 cm
Wingspan
7.5 in
19 cm
Weight
0.3–0.3 oz
8.1–8.6 g
Female
Weight
0.2–0.3 oz
6.5–7.1 g
Other Names
  • Oiseau-mouche de clémence, Colibri à gorge bleue (French)
  • Chupamirto garganta azul, Chupaflor gorjiazul, Colibrí garganta azul, Colibri-serrano gorjiazul (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • Unlike most North American hummingbirds, male Blue-throated Hummingbirds do not have an aerial display. Instead, the male uses several different vocalizations to defend its territory and attract mates.
  • The female Blue-throated Hummingbird gives a special call that appears to indicate that she is ready to mate. She makes a series of short flights that appear to be a display to the male before copulation.
  • As might be expected for the largest North American hummingbird species, the Blue-throated Hummingbird beats its wings about half as fast as the smaller species. Still, it manages to beat them 23 times a second while hovering.
  • The Blue-throated Hummingbird is about three times heavier than the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
  • These birds will mob predatory birds as big as Northern Goshawks, sometimes working cooperatively to drive away the predator.
  • The oldest known Blue-throated Hummingbird was a male, and at least 7 years, 11 months when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Arizona.

Habitat


Open Woodland

Blue-throated Hummingbirds live in the understory of pine-fir and deciduous forests, preferring to live in shady, mountain canyons with running water, typically between 4,500 and 11,500 feet. Birds build nests in sheltered locations, sometimes on rock ledges or on and around human structures. During the winter, these hummingbirds migrate to lower elevations, sometimes down to sea level, and may be found in drier habitats. Summer foraging trips may also find them in drier areas. Bird feeding stations now sustain individuals at higher elevations and more northern areas during the winter.

Food


Nectar

Nectar and small invertebrates, such as flying insects and spiders. Blue-throated Hummingbirds hawk insects, catching them in midair or sallying up to grab them from perches. They also glean prey from vegetation, sometimes flying up and down trunks or along branches, picking insects from bark and leaves. They may raid spider webs for prey, and take small spiders as well. Food selection is flexible and these birds may have a diet almost exclusively of insects when nectar is unavailable.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–2 eggs
Number of Broods
1-3 broods
Egg Length
0.6–0.7 in
1.5–1.8 cm
Egg Width
0.4 in
1 cm
Incubation Period
17–19 days
Nestling Period
24–26 days
Egg Description
Dull white, smooth and oval.
Condition at Hatching
Naked except for brownish down on head and back.
Nest Description

The female builds and attends the nest with no assistance from the male. The outside of the nest is about 2 inches wide and 3 to 10 inches high (new nests may be built atop older ones). The inside cup measures 1 to 2 inches wide, and 0.6 to 1.3 inches deep. Nests consist primarily of spider silk, wrapped and stitched together, and are lined with plant fibers, animal hair, feathers, and even spider egg sacs and cocoons. Females add materials such as mosses and bark to the outside for camouflage and secured with more spider silk. Nests in drier areas may contain little or no moss and are not as well camouflaged. Unlike other hummingbirds, these birds do not use lichens. Females may reuse materials from old nests when building new ones.

Nest Placement

Tree

Blue-throated Hummingbirds build nests under a shelter on tree branches, rock ledges, houses, sheds, bridges, and other artificial supports. Nest are at least 6 feet off the ground and may be built on top of older nests and even nests of other species.

Behavior


Hovering

These large hummingbirds are highly aggressive, usually placing them at the top of the feeding hierarchy at bird feeders and natural nectar sources. Unusually vocal for a hummingbird, both sexes have complex vocalizations and sing during the breeding season—males often using an exposed, regularly used song perch. These birds use vocalizations to defend territory and presumably for courtship. Pairs may stay together for a few days (unusual among hummingbirds) but males do not help in nest building or raising young. Torpor, a commonly used hummingbird strategy to conserve energy, is unreported in the wild for this species.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Blue-throated Hummingbirds are fairly numerous in Mexico but their range barely reaches the U.S. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 2 million birds, with up to 100% wintering in Mexico, and 7% breeding in the U.S. They rate a 12 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Though these birds’ range has pushed northwards in recent decades, this may largely be due to the availability of bird feeders to sustain them during colder months. The scarcity and the specificity of the Blue-throated Hummingbird’s habitat requirements make them vulnerable to habitat loss and modification in the United States portion of their range. In Mexico, logging of forest habitat also poses a threat.

Credits

  • Williamson, Sheri L. 2000. Blue-throated Hummingbird (Lampornis clemenciae). In The Birds of North America Online, No. 531 (A. Poole, Ed.). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
  • Chai, P., and D. Millard. 1997. Flight size constraints: hovering performance of large hummingbirds under maximal loading. Journal of Experimental Biology 200: 2757-2763.
  • Ficken, M. S., K. M. Rusch, S. J. Taylor, and D. R. Powers. 2002. Reproductive behavior and communication in Blue-throated Hummingbirds. Wilson Bull. 114: 197-209.
  • North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2014. State of the Birds 2014 Report. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, DC.
  • Partners in Flight. 2012. Species assessment database.
  • USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2015. Longevity records of North American Birds.

Range Map Help

Blue-throated Hummingbird Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Migration

Resident to short-distance migrant. Birds of the northernmost populations appear to head to southern locations, though there is evidence of year-round resident birds, mostly near feeding stations. Southern populations appear to stay in the same area, but move to lower altitudes during the winter.

You Might Also Like

All About Birds blog, Here’s What to Feed Your Summer Bird Feeder Visitors, July 11, 2014.

×

Search

Or Browse Bird Guide by Family, Name or Shape
×
bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation. You can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell or give your email address to others.