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Violet-crowned Hummingbird Life History


ForestsViolet-crowned Hummingbirds in the United States breed along canyon streams in a narrow elevational range, from about 3,940 to 5,600 feet, among Arizona sycamore (where they usually nest), Fremont cottonwood, willows, oaks, velvet ash, Arizona walnut, big-tooth maple, hackberry, soapberry, alligator juniper, mesquite, sumac, ocotillo, burro brush, and agave. They sometimes range higher, especially in summer, into pine-oak-juniper forests, where they frequent gardens and hummingbird feeders. Farther south, in Mexico, this species has a wider elevational range (660 to 7,900 feet) and frequents similar habitats as well as thorn forest, grassy hillsides, deciduous forest, scrub oak, wooded parks, orchards, and cities. Back to top


NectarViolet-crowned Hummingbirds drink nectar from flowers (and hummingbird feeders) and eat small insects and spiders, which they glean from plants or catch in midair. They typically feed in middle and higher parts of trees. Violet-crowned Hummingbirds feed on nectar of native and cultivated plants, including giant agave, Mexican tree ocotillo, tree morning glory, wild jicama, tree tobacco, desert tobacco, big honeysuckle, firecracker bush, scarlet betony, pink trumpet tree, Indian-paintbrush, bougainvillea, pineapple sage, Maycoba sage, desert ironwood, prickly pears, agave, cuphea, Peruvian zinnia, oleander, pomegranate, and coral bean tree, and cactus. Back to top


Nest Placement

TreeNests near the end of a branch (often a sycamore tree), up to about 40 feet above the ground.

Nest Description

The female constructs a nest of white plant down held together with spiderwebs and adorned with lichens, seeds, and leaves on the exterior. Nests measure on average about 1.6 inches across and 1 inch tall, with interior cup 0.8 inches across.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:2 eggs
Egg Length:0.6 in (1.4 cm)
Egg Width:0.3 in (0.9 cm)
Egg Description:White.
Condition at Hatching:

Hatchlings are naked and helpless.

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HoveringViolet-crowned Hummingbirds nest in late spring and summer, when flowers and insects are most abundant. Males sing persistently at dawn, sometimes in a loose group (or “lek”) and perform aerial displays involving rising into the air and then diving, sometimes chasing other birds (females?) and calling. In most hummingbird species, males and females mate with multiple partners and don't form pair bonds; it's likely this is the case in Violet-crowned as well. Mating, as observed on one occasion in Arizona, was performed in slow flight, low over the ground. Females build and defend the nest and raise the young without help from males. When larger hummingbird species defend nectar sources, Violet-crowned Hummingbirds zip rapidly through an area feeding briefly at known nectar sources (a technique known as "traplining"). But when Violet-crowneds are the largest hummingbird species around, they may stay at a single source and guard it. Larger Blue-throated Mountain-gems and Rivoli’s Hummingbirds dominate Violet-crowned at preferred flowers, but Violet-crowned dominates smaller species. They sometimes form large feeding groups, numbering into the hundreds at some flowering trees in Mexico. Back to top


Low Concern

Little is known about Violet-crowned Hummingbird population trends, though populations in Arizona appear to be stable. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 2 million and rates the species a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Scale, indicating a species of low conservation concern. Across its entire range, destruction and modification of wooded streams and other habitats used by Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are causes for concern.

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Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2021.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2021.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

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

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Learn more at Birds of the World