Blue-throated Hummingbird Life History

Habitat

Habitat Open WoodlandsBlue-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.Back to top

Food

Food NectarNectar 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.Back to top

Nesting

Nest Placement

Nest TreeBlue-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.

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.

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)
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.
Back to top

Behavior

Behavior HoveringThese 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.Back to top

Conservation

Conservation Low ConcernBlue-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.Back to top

Credits

Chai, P. and D. Millard. 1997. Flight and size constraints: hovering performance of large hummingbirds under maximal loading. J. Exp. Biol. no. 200:2757-2763.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

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

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

Williamson, Sheri L. 2000. Blue-throated Hummingbird (Lampornis clemenciae), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Back to top