California Hummingbirds–Archilochus alexandri (Black-chinned Hummingbird)

3.  Archilochus alexandri (Black-chinned Hummingbird) 

When compared to other hummingbirds, the black-chinned hummingbird has a smaller head, thinner neck, and a much more slender body.  The black-chinned hummingbird is about 3 inches in length, has long wings with blunt curved tips, and a short tail.  Both male and female have bright green backs and crown with greenish flanks and white under parts.  All ages and sexes have a long, straight, thin black bill.  It pumps its tail with great frequency when hovering. 

Male Description

The adult male has an iridescent purple gorget, a black face, chin, and upper throat, underlined with a wide purple band.  The entire head looks black.  The tail is dark. 

Female Description 

The adult female has a white chin, throat and rounded tail with white tips on the outer three feathers. 

Immature Description 

Young male black-chinned hummingbirds look like females but have dark streaking on the throat. 


The black-chinned hummingbird winters in Mexico.  They migrate out of Mexico into the United States in late May.  The male black-chinned hummingbirds migrate back to Mexico in late June.  The females and young migrate to Mexico by the end of July. 


The male black-chinned has a courtship dive that is a long, pendulum-like swoop above a perched female.  At the bottom of the dive, he produces a long drawn-out vocalization.   During the dive, the wing and tail feathers make a loud whistling sound.  The dive may take the shape of a narrow, horizontal figure eight.  While chasing other birds, they produce a variety of call notes.  A buzzing sound is produced by their rapid wing beats. 


Female black-chinned hummingbirds provide all parental care.  They have been observed feeding young while incubating eggs in a separate nest.  Black-chinned hummingbirds lay two eggs.  The nest is usually 3-10 feet off the ground in the fork or branch of a deciduous tree, usually sycamore, cottonwood, oak, willow, or alder; and frequently over a small creek bed.  Nests may also be built in ornamental trees and shrubs around human homes.  Nests consist of plant down such as yellowish down from the underside of sycamore leaves and the silky strands from milkweed seeds, held together with spider webbing, and studded on the outside with lichen, bud scales, and bark.  Two, and sometimes three, broods are raised each season.  Incubation lasts from 13-16 days.  The young are fed and cared for by the female 20-21 days. 

Favorite Plants 

Black-chinned hummingbirds will eat small insects, spiders, nectar from 90 species of plants, and sugar-water from feeders.  They will feed from close to the ground to high up in trees.  They will catch insects in the air, from the ground, from vegetation, or even rob spider webs.  Their favorite plants are Canna, Agave americana (Century plant), Justicia californica (Chuparosa), Aquilegia (Columbine), Impatiens balsamina (Garden balsam), Cercidium, (Paloverde), Justicia brandegeana (Shrimp plant), Nicotiana glauca (Tree tobacco), and Yucca.

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