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Evolved from Theropods (yes, the dinosaur!), these modern-day Jurassic Park inhabitants are not even big enough to fill one of the behemoth’s claws, yet hummingbirds have more species than any other bird (over 350)! I wonder how the one-ounce Black-chinned Hummingbird would look next to a Velicoraptor – it may be a speck, but it would outshine the mighty nightmare any day of the week with its luminescent purple neckband and green shimmer! (Read more about dinosaurs morphing into birds here)
My grandmother’s Maine, North Carolina, and Florida yards were filled with bird feeders, almost like a modern-day hoarder, and as I grew up, the Ruby-throated hummingbird was my favorite to watch, zooming by and coming to a complete stop mid-air and hovering there like a puppet! My mornings were filled with helping her organize her motley assortment of different bird seeds, suet, nuts, and other delicacies, filling her feeders, and listening to her comment on larger “pest” birds that were the bane of her existence!
I know the Black-chinned Hummingbird would have been one of her favorites because of the black head and neck with a glittering greeny-bronze top. I love the contrast of the purple “scales” against that dark throat and chin. The female Black-chinned Hummingbird has a beauty all to herself, and if you catch her whipping around to different flowers and feeders in the bright sunshine, you will be treated to a dazzling show of metallic greens set off by the yellowy hue.
I hope you enjoy the most gorgeous Black-chinned pics to be found anywhere, and here is a video for you from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that gives you an up-close and personal look at a male Black-chinned Hummingbird!
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the Black-chinned Hummingbird, so if you visit their territory, you will know when one flies by!
Black-chinned Hummingbird Quick Stats
|British Columbia, Western US, and Mexico||Mountainous forests near water||Quiet but adaptable to surroundings||8 to 10 years||Average of 3.7 inches||0.10 ounces||4.5 inches|
Why are Black-chinned Hummingbirds so special?
- Female Black-chinned Hummingbirds are so difficult to identify from other hummingbird species that you may have to rely on her call – but the Black-chinned Hummingbird is also one of the quietest species!
- During a courtship aerial display, males will rise to 90 feet without pointing their beaks toward the female; then, when reaching the top of their dive, they will turn and face the female going down!
- Black-chinned Hummingbirds are one of the most adaptable species of all birds – they are frequently found in urban areas with a source of food and vegetation
- A quirk of the Black-chinned Hummingbird is wagging their tales and fanning them wide while hovering over a food source.
- When perching, the feathers of the Black-chinned Hummingbird reach beyond its tail, hiding the rump and elongating the body.
- Black-chinned Hummingbirds have a long memory and excellent recognition skills. When canvassing their territory, they scout out the best perch to oversee their area and consistently return to that spot!
- There are days went the Black-chinned Hummingbird eats three times its weight in nectar! (Some days, I feel like I do that!)
Classification Of The Black-chinned Hummingbird
The classification of the Black-chinned Hummingbird and all hummingbirds, for that matter, has been under recent scrutiny, with new genetic studies revealing previously unknown connections to other birds. The result of this new data is that the Family Trochilidae (Hummingbirds) are now included in two separate Orders; the traditionally used Apodiformes and now Caprimulgiformes as well.
Within the Family Trochilidae, the Genus Archilochus only has two species; the Black-chinned Hummingbird and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird; there are no sub-species.
Experts differ on how to classify hummingbirds correctly; some place them in the Caprimulgiformes Order, and others keep the historically used Apodiformes Order. Both are acceptable to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
|(Animals)||(Chordates)||(Birds)||(Hummingbirds and Swifts)/(Nocturnal, insectivorous birds such as Nightjars)||(Hummingbirds)||Named after the poet, this Genus contains two species of hummingbirds||Black-chinned Hummingbird|
Range And Migration
- Red: Breeding
- Yellow: Migration
- Blue: Winter
Reaching as far north as British Columbia and south to Mexico, the Black-chinned Hummingbird travels far and wide in its journeys. This hummingbird has a huge territory that hits ten states and a small portion of southern British Columbia before ending in mid-to-southern Mexico, but 90% of their breeding occurs in the western United States.
During breeding season from March to September (give or take a few weeks on either end for location), the Black-chinned Hummingbird is found north of its winter and migratory areas. (If you make a line between Monterrey, Mexico, and San Diego, CA, you will have a rough idea of the southern cut-off point for breeding. The northern cut-off point is Kelowna, British Columbia, in Canada.)
Most Black-chinned Hummingbirds spend their winters along a narrow swath of Mid-Mexico on the western coast, migrating long distances from the northwestern United States after breeding season. Many make a pit stop in the higher elevations of the mountains to take advantage of the lush, full-blooming flowers that provide their essential nectar.
Though documented to winter in western Mexico only, I have observed an uptick in the frequency of sightings outside their normal range. I have been getting notifications of Black-chinned Hummingbirds recently sighted in the southeastern and southern states during colder months. With global warming and climate changes, I know these birds have found extra territory that suits them! They are broadening their winter habitat to include states like Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The Gulf coast has been experiencing more Black-chinned Hummingbirds than ever before, and I would wager that these numbers will continue to increase.
Black-chinned Hummingbird United States Range
Interestingly enough, the Black-chinned Hummingbirds can be found making homes in the desert and in wooded areas, but there must be a source of water and food. They live on the banks of rivers and streams and in wetlands from elevations below sea level to over 8,000 feet. Shrubs and trees such as Salt Cedar, oak, sycamore, cottonwood, and willow are preferred for brooding, with the female and male having separate nests.
The Black-chinned females build their nest closer to the base of canyons and in lower elevations nearer to water sources, while the males choose higher, drier ground with hills and higher elevated flat lands.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds also live in suburban areas with a range of human population densities. These birds thrive with nesting opportunities in vegetation, bushes, and plenty of insects and nectar!
These birds are happy in lowlands, pastures, and prairies during migration, and while wintering in Mexico, the Black-chinned Hummingbird lives in vines and herb bushes, nesting in fig trees, ficus, and dense forest undergrowth.
Like other hummingbirds, the male and female Black-chinned Hummingbirds look almost like different birds. All the glitter and glam go to the adult males, who are flashy and dramatic with their different color sheens. The adult male has an iridescent purple collar around the front of his neck, which is set off by the dark blackish-green of his head and the grayish-white of his chest. These little critters are stunning with all their jewel-tone colors, even if it is mostly the males who get all the attention! I am interested in their DNA evolution – is there a rhyme or reason for this other than to camouflage the female for breeding purposes?
The underside of the male and female Black-chinned Hummingbird is a dingy white with some light gray mottling, and on the male, you may see some glints of neon green. The adult male’s back is green metallic, and the tail feathers of both the male and female taper down darkly and have thin wide edging on the outer feathers.
The female Black-chinned Hummingbird’s head is yellowish-green with brown speckling on the top, and her chin and face are a putty white color. Her back is the same yellow-green hue with dark tail ends tipped in white. If you see her perching from the front, you can see that the middle of her tail is notched (they are her primary wing feathers, but it looks like her tail). When she whizzes by, all you see is light green radiance!
Both male and female Black-chinned Hummingbirds have long, almost straight beaks, but if you look closely, you will see they are slightly tilted in a downward arc.
The Temperament and Behavior of the Black-chinned Hummingbird
Songs and Calls
Communication within the bird class is astonishing if you stop and listen for even a short time. Basic noises are instinctive, but the bird must hear them before it can imitate them, leading to variability. For other songs and calls, birds can tailor and create personalized melodies for relaying threats, courtship, territory claims, and general chit-chat. They have an individualized playlist of songs only they can sing, and some birds have dozens of calls.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds do not use their voice lightly or for inconsequential intentions. These birds have a high-pitched song comprised of various notes and lengths, and if they are chasing away unwanted guests, you can hear a distinct, clipped “chipping.” During the mating season, in one of the male Black-chinned Hummingbird’s aerial dances, he calls out to the female in a beautifully blended trill as he swoops and dives.
How to tell the difference between the Black-chinned Hummingbird’s songs and calls? Calls are short, sweet, and simple – like a curt “chip.” Songs are complex and include dual syllable sounds in a distinct pattern you hear repeatedly.
Except when females raise their young, Black-chinned Hummingbirds are independent creatures, preferring to travel solo on their twice-yearly journeys to and from their nesting site territory. Like a weekend camp or a dog that has buried its bone, it’s fascinating that these hummingbirds remember precisely where their one-tenth of an acre territory is located and the exact migration route they use to get there!
When not feeding, you will see these birds perching to conserve energy. The wingbeats of the Black-chinned Hummingbird average 70 wingbeats every second, and its heart rate is more than 1200 beats per minute! Stroke situation! When at rest, the heartbeat dwindles to 450 bpm.
Feeding and Diet
Nectar and insects constitute the Black-chinned Hummingbird’s diet, with insects used 10% of the time to provide protein for these high-metabolism birds. When breeding, these hummingbirds catch larger quantities of insects for their hatchlings, who need a much higher protein content while growing. Flying insects pose no challenge to these nimble acrobats who quickly snatch them mid-air when in flight and, when perched, dart out and slurp up unsuspecting passersby.
I admire the agile mind of the Black-chinned Hummingbird because though they might visit 1500 flowers daily to consume 50% of their body weight in nectar, they remember every one of those flowers, where they are, and when the flower will next have nectar! It’s like a rolling tabulation of statistics! I think their evolution gave them the tools they needed to survive since they are so tiny and travel the farthest distances of any bird.
Like all hummingbirds, the Black-chinned will look for the most sugary nectar they can find. Much of the time, the highest sugar content is found in tube-shaped flowers that many times are red! I see so many red hummingbird feeders it makes sense! They are not picky about where they find this sugary energy, feeders are used just as often as plants, and if your feeder is running low, you may have some tiny fliers “chipping” at you!
Their long slivery tongues lap up the nectar more than a dozen times each second!
Ironically, the high sugar-content tubular flowers are difficult for bees and butterflies to pollinate, but with their long beaks and tongues, the Black-chinned Hummingbird is the only family of birds to do the job! It’s a win-win situation.
Courtship and Mating
Southwestern states like Texas and Arizona usually see the Black-chinned Hummingbird arrive for breeding in late February and early March, with the Northwestern states and British Columbia seeing them in May. The birds start to migrate south again in September from the northern areas, which leaves them a shorter breeding period of three to four months. The winter migration from the southernmost areas may begin as late as mid-October, with those birds having a lengthy breeding season of up to five or six months.
Females usually feed their fledglings for three days after they leave the nest and often start new nests for their second brood before the first brood is independent – talk about working mothers!
Black-chinned Hummingbird Mating – Polygnandrous (Mating With Multiple Partners)
|Sexual Maturity||Breeding Season||Average eggs/brood||Average broods/season||Incubation||Fledging Age|
|One year||Feb to Sep (location dependent)||2||2 sometimes 3||13 to 16 days||Average of 21 days|
Arizona and Texas inhabitants enjoy seeing these Black-chinned beauties laying eggs from March through July. There are newborn chicks as late as August for these states – I am jealous!
Nest building starts right away for the females, and she has a complex After the male performs his aerial dances and courtship calls, he will mate with his partner several times before taking off for the high ground.
Black-chinned female Hummingbirds build cup-shaped nests using plant fibers that resemble down, sticky substances like spider webs and moss to cover the outside and camouflage it. She will use her long beak to weave the materials around each other like knitting! This tiny bird will use her body to press against the sides to mat up the materials into a felt-like substance and push the sides into a cup formation!
The result is a nest one inch deep and two inches wide with miles of spider webbing woven throughout!
The female chooses a well-protected location in a tree or bush on an open branch, often below all the leaves at the height of 8 to 15 feet. An interesting trait of these nests is that the female Black-chinned Hummingbird makes them strong and flexible so they can expand as the chicks grow! That is foresight! Females are primarily concerned with avoiding predators when making a nest and then worry about construction mechanics!
This PBS video shows you the amazing nest-building process!
The breeding season can see up to three broods for one female, averaging two chicks per brood. To manage this, the female will make appointment times with each of her nests during the day, leaving the first brood for several hours at a time to feed the second brood. The first nine days are the most crucial for the new hatchlings, and the tireless mother makes up to 20 trips each day to provide food! (I think my kids would have starved!)
Black-chinned Hummingbirds usually lay 2 white oval eggs the size of coffee beans, and the female will incubate them for 14 to 16 days until the immobile, and blind chicks are born.
The female Black-chinned Hummingbird gathers more insects than usual for her hatchlings because they need the extra protein for growth and will feed the chicks a regurgitated diet, pushing the food directly into their stomachs with her long beak and tongue.
After nine days, the chicks can be left on their own for most of the day until they fledge the nest at 20 days. By then, they will have all their feathers but will still be supplementally fed by the mother for a few days afterward.
Threats To The Black-chinned Hummingbird
The major threat to the Black-chinned Hummingbird is the loss of woody vegetation and deforestation from human development, mostly growing on the banks of rivers and streams. These birds are extremely adaptable to their habitats and can travel thousands of miles to find a suitable abode. There are no other major threats to these hummingbirds.
Conservation Status Of The Black-chinned Hummingbird
NatureServe gives the status of “Secure” to the Black-chinned Hummingbird. Factors considered include their large range covering Western North America and their documented large populations in diverse habitats and in close proximity to human populations. Other variables are consistent, measurable survival rates and no major threats to the Black-chinned Hummingbird are known.
The United States has no endangered species acts to protect this hummingbird, and the threat level for extinction is low.
|IUCN Red List – Least Concern||US Migratory Bird Act – No special status||US Federal List – No special status|
Helpful Hints For Identifying The Black-chinned Hummingbird
Late spring and early summer provide ample opportunities to identify these birds since the male Black-chinned Hummingbirds will be soaring and diving all over the sky in their courtship rituals for the females. They also perch out in the open on a branch to rest and observe their territory! You can also see them in botanical gardens, nature centers, or in your backyard feeder!
The male Black-chinned Hummingbird is much easier to distinguish from other species than the female, and even when in your hand, it can be hard to tell if you have a female Black-chinned or Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
A great way for you to determine the sighting of a Black-chinned Hummingbird is to note what the bird is doing with its tail while feeding. Tail flicking is a favorite pastime of the Black-chinned Hummingbird, and the male usually does his display while hovering and feeding.
The main points to consider when identifying a Black-chinned Hummingbird are the black chin and face with a thin purple neckband. The top of the head and back are dark green with bronze flecks that can shimmer in the right lighting. If you look at it sideways, the male’s head is almost segmented into four parts. There is the black head, then the color goes to a brilliant jewel purple – or just stays black – then there is bright white directly under the purple with a dingy gray-white after that flecked with brownish bronze.
Mistaken Identity Of The Black-chinned Hummingbird
Several questions make it easier to identify certain species of hummingbirds. When you see a bird that you don’t know, ask yourself the following questions:
- What color is the bird’s throat?
- Is there any banding or mottling, or spots on the throat?
- Is there a sheen or metallic look to the head or coloring?
- Are the underparts white or gray, or spotted?
- Is the tail different colors at the top and bottom?
- Would this bird be at this location at this time of year?
Which of these pictures shows the female Black-chinned Hummingbird? How can you tell the difference?
Costa’s Hummingbird vs. Black-throated Hummingbird
Photo Challenge Answer!
So, did you guess the right picture? This was an extremely difficult challenge – many times, it is only in the hand that you can discern the female of this species. The female Black-chinned Hummingbird is in the picture on the top!
Fast Facts About the Black-chinned Hummingbird
- Not only can the Black-chinned Hummingbird fly upside down, but it can also sleep upside down!
- These birds travel farther than any other bird and my car every year! Up to 4,000 miles!
- No wonder the Black-chinned Hummingbird needs to eat half their body weight each day just to survive!
- Watch out for a Praying Mantis near your feeder; they can kill the Black-chinned Hummingbird!
- The Black-chinned Hummingbird’s legs are shriveled, and the bones are hollow – they can’t walk; they can only perch.
- Unlike most hummingbirds, the Black-chinned Hummingbirds will not enter into “torpor” (like hibernation) to conserve energy unless in a life-threatening situation.
- The Black-chinned Hummingbird sports a metabolism of 75 times that of humans!
Hummingbirds are amazingly evolved and intelligent show-stoppers in miniature form. When you see one, you know you are either working hard to attract them or lucky (or both) because most hummingbirds are in Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. To read more about where hummingbirds live, click here.
Answer: Hummingbirds don’t always use their voices, and the loudest sound you will hear from some is the “humming” of their wings as they beat the air in a whirring sound. A few species sing quite a lot (Anna’s Hummingbird), but the Black-chinned Hummingbird is quiet, with relatively few voice recordings. Listen to these recordings that include the humming and loud wing beats of the Black-chinned Hummingbird from the Macauley Library of Cornell here and here.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds also use their tail to make chipping noises during the breeding season! To attract females, they use a specific alignment of their tail feathers to use the air for their sound display!
Answer: Black-chinned Hummingbirds like the sweetest nectar they can find! This usually comes in long, tubular flowers like Salvia and Honeysuckle. They also love Tobacco trees, Ocotillo, and Delphinium flowers. Visit the Old Farmer’s Almanac for a list of flowering plants that hummingbirds are attracted to.
Answer: Trochilidae means “hummingbirds.” More context will tell you that in animal classification (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species), the “Family” of hummingbirds is called Trochilidae. So, the Black-chinned Hummingbird is a species of the Genus Archilochus, which is under the Family of Trochilidae. The Family of Trochilidae is under the Order of Apodiformes.
The Family of Trochilidae has more than 300 species of hummingbird – more than any other bird. That number is in flux from 320 to 350 because of additions and re-classifications.
Answer: These powerhouses are known for their tiny size and for weighing the same as a penny! They are also known for traveling farther distances than any other bird being the only bird able to fly backward, upside down, up and down, and back and forth. They are also the only bird that hovers while in flight and eats while hovering! They drink nectar and eat insects, and they must eat every fifteen minutes because of their high metabolism.
Answer: A fighter jet cannot fly as fast. Some hummingbirds fly 90 feet per second, and the Black-chinned Hummingbird can attain speeds of 30 mph when flying and up to 60 mph when diving!
Answer: Hummingbirds can remember every flower they have drank from, where it is when it will have nectar again, and what route to take when going! Parts of their brain structure differ from other birds, allowing them to remember these things.
Answer: A trill is an undulating or vibrating noise made when one sound is repeated so fast that it almost turns into a whir. Try repeating “chip” so fast that your tongue doesn’t leave the roof of your mouth. The Cornell Lab has a recording of hummingbirds trilling here.
Final Thoughts on the Black-chinned Hummingbird
I hope you enjoyed learning about Black-chinned Hummingbirds and better understand how difficult it is to observe this hummingbird species. These insect-like birds are very quiet, except when courting, so it’s difficult to determine if you are close to them. Black-chinned hummingbirds also don’t hang upside down in a coma-like sleep called “torpor” that other hummingbirds do, so you won’t get to catch them at night!
One thing that distinguishes this gorgeous purple-banded gem is its adaptability to human development and urban settings. If you provide vegetation and feeders, they will come! This will give you an advantage over having them visit you in your backyard or terrace when other species don’t come near.
I can’t help but admire these smaller hummingbirds with their idiosyncracies and powerful determination to exist in more and more geographic areas. The Black-chinned Hummingbird also mates (hybridizes) with Anna’s Hummingbirds, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Costa’s, and Lucifer’s Hummingbirds, which is rare for this family of birds. That only makes the identification process harder than it already is! Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky, and one of the dominant pattern offspring will have clear and vivid markings that no other hummingbird has!
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