Anna's Hummingbird Photo: William Overman

Conservation

Colibrís, Picaflores (Spanish), Hummingbirds in New Mexico

It’s that time of year in New Mexico. Flashes of vibrant colors dart through our blue skies with the sounds of whirling carried from their wings fluttering an astonishing 60 times per second.

Hummingbirds are truly remarkable and fascinating creatures. In North America, there are 26 different species of hummingbirds – colibris, and most of these can be found in the U.S. Southwest. New Mexico has 18 species and, of these, 7 species use our state for breeding (some in hard to reach areas) throughout the spring and summer – building nests and raising families, while other hummingbirds use our state as a vital refuel layover as they make their annual migration.

These two species of hummingbirds are very common in New Mexico. At lower elevations, along the Middle Rio Grande Basin – Bosque area, you can find nests (May – July) of the Black-chinned Hummingbird scattered throughout cottonwood woodland and along ditches with a faint uttering of “teew” throughout the riverbanks. Female black-chinned Hummingbirds are gray and white below with greenish upper parts and tail feathers showing white tips; males have a dark face, white collar, and greenish sides and upper parts – under the right light – black throat (gorget) presents a purple lower band.

Higher in the mountains, you can hear the shrill wing trill during high breeding and migration months (April – mid-October) of the slightly larger Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Females are known to have beautifully painted colors of green and cinnamon with their throats typically flecked with green, but some females also have a diminutive rose gorget. The males carry the same color canvas but with much more green on their backs, sides, and crowns with predominately-white bellies with a bright solid rose-red gorgets.

Other species found nesting in New Mexico are the Violet-crowned, Anna’s, Lucifer, Rivoli’s (formerly Magnificent), and Blue-throated Hummingbirds. These birds, although not extremely common in our state, can be found by dedicated observers in the Southern part state, which has the highest diversity of hummingbirds in the U.S.

Other notorious hummingbirds that you will begin to see in July are the Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds. These birds depend on New Mexico for vital habitat and native plants for nectar to refuel as they make their way down south as part of their lengthy yearly migration. 

Did you know that the Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest breeding bird in North America? These tiny friends of the Rufous Hummingbird follow a similar migration route, roughly traveling up the Pacific Coast in early spring and down the Rocky Mountain front at the end of summer. That means now’s the time to look out for this striking bird in New Mexico!

The Rufous Hummingbird is well-known as the “feistiest” in North America. In New Mexico, we start to see these lightning fast brushstrokes of copper and red-orange cinnamon paint our skies along with the their notorious buzzing sounds in mid-summer and early fall. Due to their small, yet proportionate size, they’re quicker and can out-fly all other species and they almost always get their way at the expense of slower, less-maneuverable hummingbirds. If you have a hummingbird feeder, you have a front row seat witnessing their aggressive and dominate behavior even with the larger board-tailed hummingbird claiming the feeder as its own.

Rufous hummingbirds have the longest migration route of all U.S. hummingbirds, as they breed farther north than any other species. They fly more than 5,000 miles per year, from Central Mexico to Alaska and back. You can look for them here in New Mexico in July to early fall as they make their annual circuit of the West.

Hummingbirds & Fuel
The epic migration of hummingbirds is well underway, and it reminds us of the remarkable journey these tiny birds take each year. Some travel from as far as 500 miles with several “fuel pit stops” along the way. Here in New Mexico, the importance of appropriate food to fuel their journey is pivotal for their trip, and to their existence in our state. To sustain their supercharged metabolisms, hummingbirds must eat once every 10 to 15 minutes and visit between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers per day.

Do you want to see these nimble penny-sized weighing birds this summer? Plant a hummingbird garden!
You can attract, feed and nourish hummingbirds in your backyard with a few easy steps. Flowers, perches, insects, and water are the key ingredients to a healthy yard that will attract these amazing jewels. 

Here’s a list of native plants (Latin name and common name) that the hummingbirds, and you, will love! To learn more about native plants, visit our Audubon online native plant database at https://www.audubon.org/native-plants. You can also view this Audubon article, How to Create a Hummingbird-friendly Yard.

  • Bill Williams Mountain giant hyssop (Agastache pallidiflora neomexicana)
  • Western red columbine (Aquilegia elegantula Greene)
  • Drummond’s false pennyroyal (Hedeoma drummondii Benth)
  • Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregate)
  • Arizona honeysuckle (Lonicera arizonica Rehder)
  • Mintleaf bergamot (Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia)
  • Beardlip penstemon (Penstemon barbatus)

Fun Hummingbird Facts!

  • Hummingbirds belong to the family Trochilidae, which means “small bird.”
  • Hummingbirds are the 2nd largest family of birds with 343 species, and are only found in the Americas.
  • Their migration routes are called nectar corridors.
  • On average, hummingbirds flap 50 times per second, but during courtship, they can flap up to 200 times a second.
  • Normal flight speed is 25-30 mph, but they can dive up to 60 mph.
  • Their tiny feet are only good for perching. If they want to travel even a couple inches they must fly! They can fly up, down, right, left, backwards, and even upside-down!
  • Hummingbirds eat every 10 minutes, consuming over twice their weight in nectar and insects every day.
  • They eat between 3.14 and 7.6 calories a day. That may not seem like much, but if humans (who may eat 3,500 calories a day) had the metabolism of a hummingbird, they would have to consume approximately 155,000 calories a day. That's about 77 times as much as most humans eat!
  • On average, they weigh about as much as a single penny!
  • They lay 2 eggs that are 1/2 inch long (small jelly bean), and their nests are about the size of half a walnut shell!
  • The average lifespan of hummingbirds in the wild is 3-6 years, though the record is over 12 years.

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