Hummingbirds are some of the most popular and beloved birds in the western hemisphere, and among the more than 325 hummingbird species, the black-chinned hummingbird stands out in western North America for far more reasons than just the color of its chin. Learn more about these stunning hummers and what makes them so special!
Black-Chinned Hummingbird Fun Facts
- The black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) is the most widespread hummingbird in North America west of the Mississippi River and has the second-largest range of any North American hummingbird, after the ruby-throated hummingbird. These birds can be seen as far north as the southern edge of British Columbia, and spread from California to Idaho, Colorado, and western Texas.
- A hummingbird’s chin is just a tiny patch right below the base of its bill. While the black-chinned hummingbird does indeed have a black chin, the majority of its throat – also called its gorget – is also black. More colorful is the lower part of the throat, which has a brilliant metallic purple border in bright sunlight.
- Black-chinned hummingbirds were named in honor of French physician Dr. M. Alexandre (whose first name has been lost to history). He discovered the species in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico and sent a specimen to Mexico City for cataloging. Another name for the black-chinned hummingbird is the Alexander hummingbird.
- Black-chinned hummingbirds lick an average of 13-17 licks per second while feeding at flowers and nectar feeders. Their tongues are grooved to help move nectar into their throats via capillary action, and they can eat up to three times their body weight of nectar (up to nearly half an ounce total) in a single day.
- A male black-chinned hummingbird will dive back and forth in front of a female to impress her, swooping like a pendulum from as high as 60-100 feet in the air and whizzing close to the ground. As he dives, his tail and wings create a loud, metallic buzz or thrum. This courtship display is also used for territory defense.
- Like most hummingbirds, black-chinned hummers lay just two eggs per brood. They may mate multiple times during a breeding season, however, and could raise up to three different broods of young hummingbirds. Females do all the parental care; males have no role in building nests or raising chicks.
- Black-chinned hummingbirds have been known to hybridize with several other hummingbird species, including Anna’s, broad-tailed, Costa’s, and Lucifer hummingbirds.
Adding the Black-Chinned Hummingbird to Your Life List
Though they are tiny, black-chinned hummingbirds can be surprisingly easy to spot, particularly near water or where there are plentiful perches and flowering plants. Listen for the distinct metallic buzz of their wings in flight, and watch for them to return to favorite perches right at the tips of branches and dead trees, often high above the ground to provide a good vantage point. They also readily come to feeders, so visiting nature centers that offer nectar feeders within their range is a great way to find black-chinned hummingbirds. Black-chinned hummingbirds are very adaptable and can be seen in a wide range of habitats, from deserts to meadows to forests, as well as in urban and suburban areas. Planting nectar-rich flowers as well as flowering vines and shrubs can help birders attract black-chinned hummingbirds.
Learn More About the Black-Chinned Hummingbird
There are many great resources to help you learn more about these widespread hummingbirds.
- BirdLife International: Worldwide, seasonal range map
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Detail species overview and profile
- Xeno-Canto: 85+ recordings of black-chinned hummingbird calls and noises
- DesertUSA: Another information black-chinned hummingbird profile
- South Dakota Birds, Birding, and Nature: Small but stunning photo gallery of black-chinned hummingbirds