An adaptable and widespread species, black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) breed in a wide range of habitats across the western U.S. and as far north as British Columbia. Within such a large geographical range, what is the preferred habitat of black-chinned hummingbirds? And do they remain in the same territories all year round? Read on, as we’ll be exploring these topics in greater depth.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are widespread across western North America, breeding in Canada and the U.S. and also in parts of Mexico, where northern breeders migrate to spend the winter. Within this range, the species thrives in diverse habitats, from orchards and woodlands to canyons and deserts.
Breeding typically takes place between March and September, with significantly shorter breeding seasons observed further to the north. Black-chinned hummingbirds that breed in Canada may spend as little as 6 to 8 weeks in their spring territories before returning south.
Black-chinned hummingbirds’ adaptable approach to nesting habitats and ability to thrive in a range of different landscapes, together with an increase in gardens with exotic plants and sugar water and nectar feeders, has led to the population spreading into urban and suburban areas beyond their original native range, which in turn has helped to boost the overall global black-chinned hummingbird population.
If you’d like to improve your chances of spotting one of these tiny nectar-loving migrants in the breeding season, our guide offers some tips about when and where to look, so please keep reading.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are widespread across western North America, breeding in Canada and the U.S. and also in parts of Mexico
Black-chinned hummingbirds are a migratory species, found at various times of the year from southwest Canada, across the central and southwest United States and into much of northern and central Mexico.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are widespread across the western United States during the breeding season. Not a traditional part of the species’ distribution range, an increasing number of individuals have recently been reported in southern states around the Gulf Coast.
Largely limited to the western corner of the United States, within this range black-chinned hummingbirds are a relatively common summer visitor. They are regularly spotted in states from Idaho in the northwest, through Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, into Texas. Further west, the species also breeds in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Individual sightings have been occasionally reported in states further east, and according to records, are on the increase.
Close up of a Black-chinned hummingbird feeding on nectar
The northernmost extreme of the black-chinned hummingbird’s range extends into a small southern area of British Columbia, where it breeds in low-level waterside meadows, orchards and woodlands.
Male black-chinned hummingbirds arrive in their Canadian breeding grounds in mid- to late-May, with female Black-chinned hummingbirds a week or two later.
Their stay in Canada is brief, with the earliest males beginning to depart from breeding grounds from mid- to late-June onwards. The first adult females and immature birds begin their southern migrations in July and by mid-August most will have moved on.
Black-chinned hummingbirds live and breed in a diverse range of habitats, from urban settlements, orchards and meadows, to mountainous forests and canyon slopes. In towns, they visit backyard nectar feeders, as well as wildflowers and vines, and can frequently be seen perched in the upper branches of tall trees.
Although black-chinned hummingbirds tend to live within easy reach of water, they are also common residents of desert landscapes and chaparral scrublands, particularly in the South West.
In winter, most black-chinned hummingbirds fly as far south as Mexico, temporarily making their home in tropical forests with either thorny vegetation or rich vines, cacti, flowering trees and dense undergrowth.
Immature Black-chinned hummingbird feeding on the nectar of red flowers, Texas
Due to their ability to thrive in such a diverse range of habitats, black-chinned hummingbirds are considered abundant and fairly widespread, so within their distribution range a sighting wouldn’t be especially rare.
In the southwestern states of the U.S., black-chinned hummingbirds are widespread and common visitors to gardens with flowering shrubs and nectar feeders. Concentrations of breeding grounds are notable in New Mexico and Arizona, where reports indicate nests spaced at 100-m (330-ft) intervals in some areas.
Male and female Black-chinned hummingbird pair checking out a flower
Black-chinned hummingbirds are diurnal birds, meaning they're active during the day when they'll search for nectar from flowers.
The first black-chinned hummingbirds to arrive on their breeding grounds in the U.S. are birds that nest in California and Texas, where early sightings occur from late February and mid-March respectively.
Further north and on higher ground, arrivals continue until slightly later in the year, with females not arriving in the areas of Canada that fall within the northern extremes of the species’ range until late May or even early June.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are a migratory species, breeding in western and central North America as far north as the extreme south of British Columbia. Their fall migration destinations are in central and northern Mexico, as well as in southern California and Arizona and along Texas’s coast.
Close up of a Black-chinned hummingbird in flight, searching for nectar in the garden
At the end of what is a relatively short breeding season, black-chinned hummingbirds migrate south for the winter. Overwintering destinations include southern California and southern Arizona, along the Gulf Coast of southern Texas and in northern and central Mexico.
Typical habitats on these wintering grounds include tropical deciduous woodlands and swathes of evergreen forest alongside streams, with thorny undergrowth and plenty of flowering plants.
The breeding grounds used by black-chinned hummingbirds would be unable to sustain these tiny nectar-seeking birds throughout winter months. A combination of harsh temperatures and lack of flowering plants forces them to head south in search of warmer climates and foraging grounds.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are a migratory species of hummingbird
Black-chinned hummingbirds head to their northern breeding grounds in spring, where they establish territories close to water and food sources, for example, nectar-rich flowering plants, backyard hummingbird feeders and tall trees with an abundance of insect life nearby. They breed across the western U.S. and as far north as the extreme south of British Columbia.
As a rule, hummingbirds are pretty unsociable and solitary birds, so you won’t see a flock of black-chinned hummingbirds living or perching together.
They may just about tolerate the presence of other birds at feeders or natural flower meadows, but will not choose to feed together if they can avoid it.
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