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  • SC Sexton

Hummingbirds: Where are they now?

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

Not everyone is fortunate to have hummingbirds all year and for those of you who are missing your flying beauties, I understand the loss. There is something very profound and joyful about these tiny birds and they have been immortalized throughout history and art by many cultures in the Americas. As humans, we are inextricably linked to Nature, consequently, it is natural, in my opinion, to miss these avian jeweled wonders as Fall wanes into Winter.

We've been doing some research on where hummingbirds spend the winter in the United States and some of the locations are surprising. Hummingbirds have always wintered in the southern parts of North America but some bird experts believe that feeders have contributed to hummingbirds remaining in more places and longer during the winter. Others believe the climate is changing and therefore, becoming more agreeable to some hummingbirds. Still, other scientist believe the hummingbirds have always been in these places and no one noticed their presence until feeders were put up. Despite all the theories and the experts, people like you and I with feeders are still the best witnesses to where the hummingbirds winter and spend their time. That being said, I've listed below a few birds along with sightings in the United States. Most of these sightings agree with birding authorities like Cornell, Audubon and other mainstream birding sites that band and then map hummingbirds as they travel.

Here is a great link to the migratory story for the Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris. This bird is found mainly east of the Rocky Mountains and may winter in the Southern tier states of Texas, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina. I have seen reports of this bird still in Illinois, Tennessee and some parts of the Midwest. Interestingly enough, there is evidence of Ruby Throat "vagrants" nesting in California and interbreeding with other local hummingbirds.

A Female Ruby Throat to the right photographed in Georgia, USA this summer. Ruby Throats follow the Texas coastline down into Mexico where they will winter, while others fly across the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico. There are some fascinating videos of Ruby Throats en masse in Corpus Christi, TX. See these two links:

The Allen's Hummingbird, Selaphorus sasin, to the left was photographed this October 2019 in Chino, California. Allen's Hummingbirds can be found all along the California coast year-round and migrating through California and Arizona in the Spring and Fall. Right now, the California Coast and Southern California are experiencing an increase in the number of migrating birds.

Allen's and Rufous Hummingbirds, Selaphorus rufus, can be identified by examining the tail feathers. Allen's Hummingbirds have notches in the tail feathers to the left and right of the two center tail feathers, while Rufous birds lack the notches in both males and females. This bird appears to have a notch in the fourth top feather and right of the center feathers.

In this photo we can see that this male is a Rufous Hummingbird. His tail feather lack notches of any kind. Rufous can be found wintering in Southern California, Southern Arizona and along the Gulf Coast into Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. These birds are fairly widespread during the breeding season and can be found as far north as Alaska.

A Blue Throated Mountain Gem, Lampornis clemenciae, photographed in September 2019 in Portal Arizona. Blue Throated Hummingbirds typically live in higher elevations during the breeding season but descend to the lower areas and valleys to winter. They can be found in Southeastern Arizona, Southwestern New Mexico and the Big Bend area of Texas.

Portal, Arizona is a great birding destination for hummingbirds and birds in general.

Male Anna's Hummingbird

A gorgeous male Anna's Hummingbird, Calypte anna, photo showing the iridescent colors of his feathers. This bird is very common through out the Western and Southwestern US and lives year-round in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona. I am also told this bird maybe winters in Las Vegas, Nevada.

One of my favorite hummingbirds is the Broad Billed Hummingbird, Cynanthus latirostris. They are found in Southeastern Arizona and Southwestern New Mexico year-round. This handsome bird is a male. Note his orange beak and gorgeous blue green color.

A male Lucifer Hummingbird, Calothorax lucifer. This one was photographed in Southeastern Arizona in September 2019. Populations are found in Southwestern New Mexico and the Big Bend area in Texas.

This Hummer is easily identified by his curved beak, purple gorget and deeply forked tail.

A beautiful Berylline Hummingbird, Amazalia berylina, known as a neotropical or near tropical hummingbird, was photographed in September 2019 in Southeastern Arizona. These birds are reported to be found in central Mexico all the way down to Nicaragua but populations are found year-round in Southeastern Arizona, Southwestern New Mexico and the Big Bend area of Texas.

Another fabulous hummingbird known as Rivoli's Hummingbird or Magnificent Hummingbird, Eugenes fulgens. This bird and the Blue Throat are two of the larger birds and occupy the same types of habitat: higher elevations in Southeastern Arizona, Southwestern New Mexico and the Big Bend area in Texas. This is another neotropical bird and is found in Central Mexico to Nicaragua. Little is known about it's habits and it is an apparently secretive and elusive bird. It is thought to be a year-round resident in the U.S.

A Male Violet Crowned Hummingbird, Amazalia violiceps, is found in Southern Arizona and New Mexico and south into Central Mexico. This is another bird belonging to the neotropical group of hummingbirds and is found to be increasing in numbers in the US and is considered a year round resident. Note the red beak and white underparts.

This is a Costa Hummingbird, Calypte costae, a much beloved bird where it is found and very tolerant of people. This bird resides year-round in Southern Arizona, Southern Nevada and Southern California and maybe Southern Utah. The Costa is one of the smaller Hummingbirds and can be identified by the purple gorget feathers extending past the neck. Also, the wings barely reach the tail when the bird is perching.

A nice photo of a male Black Chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri, This is another long distance migrating bird and fairly widespread west of the Mississippi to California and north into Canada. Maps show this bird wintering on the Texas Gulf Coast and down into Central Mexico. However, it is known to winter in Southern Arizona and Southern New Mexico. Note the head appears to be black but it is really a dark green with a purple gorget. There is also a conspicuous white spot behind the eye.

This is a male Buff Bellied Hummingbird, Amazalia yucatanensis. They are very similar in appearance to the Berylline Hummingbird but have a buff colored underbelly. They winter along the Gulf Coast of Texas and south into Mexico. During their breeding season the maps show they are found in Louisiana.

These are fourteen species of Hummingbirds that are found in the United States during the winter. If there are birds that I missed or places that are not mentioned for any of the birds in the article, please let us know and we'll add them. Our goal is to be an informational and educational Blog and the more input we have from our readers the more accurate the articles.

Happy Birding!

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