Archilochus alexandriblack-chinned hummingbird

Geographic Range

In the breeding season, black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) are found as far north as southern British Columbia. Their range continues southward to the western United States. This range includes Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and south and west Texas. To the west, the range extends to the eastern bounds of California, and central Oregon and Washington. The non-breeding range is restricted to the west coast of Mexico, from the town of Navojoa, Sonora southward to Zihuatenejo, Guerroro. This range continues eastward to the interior of Mexico. Sightings of black-chinned hummingbirds out of their historical range during the winter are on the increase in areas along the Gulf of Mexico. During migration, these hummingbirds pass through north Florida, western Georgia, northern Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Baltosser, 1986; Bassett and Cubie, 2009; Brown, 1992; Pitelka, 1951)


Black-chinned hummingbirds are found in riparian habitats which are places between dry land and a stream or river. They can be found from below sea level to elevations above 2,500m. Tamarisk or salt-cedar Tamarix ramoissima is a shrub not native to the southwestern United States and a common place to find black-chinned hummingbird nests. Their nests can also be found in gray oak Quercus grisea, willow Salix, sycamore Platanus occidentalis, cottonwood Populus deltoides, and sugarberry Celtis laevigata trees. Because black-chinned hummingbirds are only together long enough to mate, males and females have separate nests (eggs in female nests only). Adult males nest in drier habitats compared to females. In canyons, the females can be found towards the base of the canyon, closer to the river and males in the higher elevations on slopes or shelves.

After the breeding season, both males and females move to higher elevations where nectar producing plants are abundant. During migration, they may pass through valleys and grasslands. Out of the breeding season, in Mexico, black-chinned hummingbirds are found in vines and herbs, such as fig trees Ficus and shimbillo Inga. In Louisiana, water oak Quercus nigra and southern live oak Quercus virginianus are common nesting sites as well. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Brown, 1992; Moore, 1947)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 2500 m
    0.00 to 8202.10 ft

Physical Description

Black-chinned hummingbirds weigh 2.7 to 4.2 grams and have a straight bill. Wingspan of black-chinned hummingbirds can be between 40 and 49 mm. Length for this species has not been reported. As adults, sexes look different. Adult male hummingbirds of this species are black on the face and chin with metallic purple on the throat. The bellies are gray-white and their flanks are metallic bronze-green. These retrices, which make up a portion of the tail feathers, are narrow. These retrices are green with a black tip.

Adult females are less brightly colored than males. Faces are metallic bronze-green but duller than the flanks of the males. The chin, throat, sides, and underbelly are white and spotted with a dusky gray color. The flanks, like the males are a metallic-bronze green and the outer tail feathers are tipped with white. The fifth retrices are pointed in adult females and on the tip of the inner primaries there is a small notch.

Except for buff on their heads and dorsal feathers, the juvenile males are similar in appearance to adult females. Young males typically lack the adult metallic purple on their throats or black on their heads and chins. Just as adult females, their fifth retrices are pointed and the outer three are tipped with white. On their fourth and fifth primaries, there exists a faint notch close to the end of the inner web.

Juvenile female coloring resembles adult females and juvenile males. However, where adult females and juvenile males fifth retrices are pointed, juvenile females retrices are rounded at the tip. Unlike adult females, juvenile females have no notch close to the end of their fifth primaries. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Baltosser, 1987; Berns and Adams, 2010)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • sexes shaped differently
  • Range mass
    2.7 to 4.2 g
    0.10 to 0.15 oz
  • Range wingspan
    40.0 to 49.0 mm
    1.57 to 1.93 in


Black-chinned hummingbirds are polygynandrous which means both males and females may reproduce with more than one mate. Males often perform dive displays and shuttle displays in front of females. During a dive display, males will ascend without pointing their bill towards the females then will stop 20-30 m from the ground. At the top of the arc, the males turn to face the females as they descend. Shuttle displays are described as narrow figure eights in which males fly back and forth in an arc facing away from the females. There has also been one sighting of “nuptial flight”. This is where the male black-chinned hummingbirds take flight approximately 4.6 m above the females. Males then smack their wings together under him and descend. This is repeated several times before males perch above the females. No vocalizations have been heard during the displays. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Huey, 1924; Merriam, 1896)

In California and New Mexico, black-chinned hummingbirds arrive from their winter habitat in March and April. The nesting period extends from mid-April to late June with the peak around the first week of May. Eggs are laid from late April to the end of June with the peak of egg laying between mid-May and early June. Along the Colorado River in Arizona, nests are active from late March through early July and in Texas, eggs are found from the beginning of April to mid-July and young hatch between mid-April to early August. Female black-chinned hummingbirds will care for 2 to 3 broods per year and usually lays two eggs; laying one or three eggs is rare. After the eggs are laid, it may take between 12 and 16 days for them to hatch. Birth mass has not been reported. Approximately 21 days after hatching, young black-chinned hummingbirds are considered fledglings. Black-chinned hummingbirds reach independence when they start the fledgling stage. The juvenile stage starts at 36 days of age when the fledgling stage ends. For both males and females, the juvenile stage ends once they reach sexual maturity at a year old. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Brown, 1992; Elliston and Baltosser, 1995; Kee, 2010; Pitelka, 1951)

  • Breeding interval
    2-3 times per season
  • Breeding season
  • Range eggs per season
    1 to 3
  • Range time to hatching
    12 to 16 days
  • Average fledging age
    21 days
  • Average time to independence
    21 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

The female is solely responsible for incubation and care during the young’s life. Incubation lasts for 14 to 16 days. After the incubation period, the eggs will hatch and the mother will start brooding. The brooding period includes “sessions” where the mother is at the nest and “recesses” where the mother is not. The mother is also responsible for feeding her young until the fledgling stage. Nestlings are considered to be small young from one day to nine days of age and the mother spends a considerable time in the nest, making between 19-26 trips to feed and brood. Once the young are slightly older, the trips to feed and brood average between 1 to 4 times per day. Once the young are 13 days of age, they have reached the fledgling period and the mother stops brooding. At the fledgling stage, the young has no parental guidance while learning how to fly and forage. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Baltosser, 1996; Bene, 1940)


For both wild and captive black-chinned hummingbirds, the longest lifespan recorded is eleven years and two months. The lowest lifespan for these birds in the wild is recorded to be 7 years and 11 months. Baltosser and Russel (2000) reported that a male adult captured in 1988 lived in captivity until 1999 and a captive female taken on the same date, bred in the 1999. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Lutmerding and Love, 2015)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 to 11 years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    8 to 11 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    121 months
    Bird Banding Laboratory


Black-chinned hummingbirds are active during the day and hover often, especially while feeding from flowers or feeders. While hovering, they flip and spread their tail almost the whole time. Black-chinned hummingbirds are not social birds. During the breeding season, males and females may defend food sources against other hummingbirds, regardless of species or sex. Males defend breeding territories which are around 15 to 30 m in diameter, from other male hummingbirds. During the non-breeding season females rarely defend flowers unless males are absent. Instead, they move between undefended places with smaller sources, or take small amounts from male territories. Hummingbirds defend their territories by chasing away intruders. Fights may occur but injuries are rare. They will bathe by either splattering water onto themselves or submerging themselves to the chin and trailing through the water. Because daily torpor has some disadvantage to black-chinned hummingbirds, it is rarely exhibited unless in drastic conditions or emergencies. If food is not a limiting factor, these birds need not enter torpor daily. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Hainsworth, et al., 1977; Kaufman, 2011; Lyman, et al., 1982; Moore, 1947; Stiles, et al., 2005; Stokes and Stokes, 1989)

  • Range territory size
    195 to 2678 m^2

Home Range

For black-chinned hummingbirds, territory size and home range depends greatly upon predator and food abundance or nectar richness. In open circumstances, territory size can vary from 195 to 2,678 meters squared. Breeding territories can be up to 15 to 30 m in diameter and feeding territories can be from 3 to 30 m in diameter. These birds are diurnal which means they are active during the day rather than the night. They migrate from their breeding habitat in the western United States to Mexico for the non-breeding season. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Norton, et al., 1982)

Communication and Perception

Many sources of food for hummingbirds are red and are more attracted to red than other colors. Goldsmith and Goldsmith (1982) found sense of smell can play a part in food choice as well. Hummingbirds are attracted to sweet smells such as ethyl butyrate and tend to visit feeders with this smell than one without. Both males and females have a variety of vocal sounds, including buzz trills, rasps and chirps. Often times, when hummingbirds are feeding, they will let out a “chip" or "call" note to let other hummingbirds know about their presence. These notes can range from 2 to 8 kHz in frequency and are usually short. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Goldsmith and Goldsmith, 1979; Goldsmith and Goldsmith, 1982; Stiles, 1976; West and Butler, 2010)

Food Habits

Black-chinned hummingbirds rarely perch while feeding and use their tongues to get nectar and tiny bugs from flowers or sugar water from feeders which capillary action makes possible. They may feed from many plants including desert-honeysuckle (Anisacanthus), larkspur (Delphinium), thistle (Cirsium), firecracker plants (Russelia), turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus), and tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca). For protein, they also feed on small insects including flies, ants, and spiders. During migration, while passing through valleys and grasslands, black-chinned hummingbirds are more likely to feed on small insects. If they move to urban areas, they may feed from artificial feeders supplied by people. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Bene, 1945)

  • Animal Foods
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar


Predation on eggs makes up just over 70% of all losses and predation on nestlings makes up less than 30%. Gopher snakes (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) will eat the eggs from nests and greater roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus) will take nestlings from the nest when they are close to fledglings. Greater roadrunners have also been seen jumping from limbs to catch adult black-chinned hummingbirds that were attracted to nearby artificial feeders. Mexican jays (Aphelocoma wollweberi), hooded orioles (Icterus cucullatus), and summer tanagers (Piranga rubra) are also animals that prey on the nests of black-chinned hummingbirds. Brown-crested flycatchers (Myiarchus tyrannulus) will capture adult hummingbirds in flight and a band from a black-chin was found in nest of a northern pygmy-owl (Glaucidium gnoma). Mountain lions (Puma concolor) can also be considered predators. Baltosser and Russel (2000) have reported black-chinned hummingbirds hovering before the nose of mountain lions (Puma concolor). The hummingbirds were quickly eaten. Any anti-predator adaptations have not be observed. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Baltosser, 1986; Spofford, 1976)

Ecosystem Roles

Although rare, parasites have been found in the intestines of black-chinned hummingbirds and they can live with them for years. A microsporidian parasite, Encephalitozoon hellem, causes enteritis and lesions in the gastrointestinal tract and eyes of black-chinned hummingbirds. Louse flies from the family Hippoboscidae, are small enough to fit between the feathers of birds and suck their blood. Sarcosporidia protozoal parasites (Sarcocystis) can be found in the heart muscle of black-chinned hummingbirds and cause cysts. Blood protozoa (Babesia) use them as hosts as well and causes babesiosis which infects and destroys red blood cells. Hummingbirds have a mutualistic relationship with the flowers they feed from because they play a role in pollinating. These flowers include desert-honeysuckle (Anisacanthus), larkspur (Delphinium), thistle (Cirsium), firecracker plants (Russelia), turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) and tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca). (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; Lara and Ornelas, 2002; Maloof and Inouye, 2000; Miller and Fowler, 2014; Snowden, et al., 2010; Spicer, 1987; West and Butler, 2010)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Mutualist Species
  • desert-honeysuckle (Anisacanthus)
  • larkspur (Delphinium)
  • thistle (Cirsium)
  • firecracker plants (Russelia)
  • turk's cap (Malvaviscus arboreus)
  • tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca)
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • microspordian parasite (Encephalitozoon hellem)
  • sarcosporidia protozoal (Sarcocystis)
  • blood protozoa (Babesia)
  • louse flies (Hippoboscidae)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Black-chinned hummingbirds may pollinate many types of plants while feeding. Black-chinned hummingbirds feed from tree tobacco Nicotiana glauca flowers which are used for medicinal purposes. People also will put hummingbird feeders with nectar or sugar water in their yards. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known economic disadvantages to humans caused by black-chinned hummingbirds.

Conservation Status

For the IUCN Red List, black-chinned hummingbirds are listed as a species of “Least Concern” and have no special status with the US federal list. However, the US Migratory Bird Act notes that they are protected. The migratory bird act makes it illegal to possess, import, export or sell deceased hummingbirds, its parts, nests or eggs except with a valid permit. CITES lists black-chinned hummingbirds in Appendix II. An Appendix II ranking means a species is not threatened with extinction, but trade must be controlled. Threats to black-chinned hummingbirds includes candiadiasis (Candida albicans) which is a yeast infection in the mouth and can destroy the tongues and tip of bills in hummingbirds. Trade is also a threat being controlled by CITES and the Migratory Bird Act. With people providing feeders with sugar water, the population of this species in urban and suburban places has increased where these places used to be uninhabited. Loss of local habitat is a problem, so natural riparian habitats are being protected. In Mexico, investigating size of breeding and wintering habitats of black-chinned hummingbirds is important. (Baltosser and Russell, 2000; BirdLife International, 2012; Tincher, 2015)


Emily Brammer (author), Radford University - Fall 2015, Cari Mcgregor (editor), Radford University, Zeb Pike (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, April Tingle (editor), Radford University, Jacob Vaught (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


uses sight to communicate


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