By John Keeling
The violet-crowned hummingbird is a medium-large hummingbird, four inches long, and is one of the two common hummingbirds here on the lakeshore that you will see visiting your flowers or at your hummingbird feeder. (The other common hummingbird is the broad-billed hummingbird.)
You can recognize the violent-crowned by the straight red bill with black tip, a really white breast and throat, and if the sun is shining on the bird you may be able to see the violet-blue crown on the top of the head. The back is a greeny bronze. The sexes are similar, though the female is a touch less brilliantly colored. When sitting on a branch it will often exhibit a very erect posture.
If you go walking in the hills as I do, you will often hear the sounds made by this bird. You will hear the characteristic tuc, tuc, tuc or tsew, tsew, tsew, as well as the whir of its wings as it flies rapidly past you. At this time of the year the trees with large white trumpet blooms are a good place to look for these birds. They need to feed every few minutes throughout the day, principally taking the nectar from long trumpet-shaped blooms by quickly inserting and retracting a tongue which can protrude a good distance out of the bill. They also have the ability to catch and eat very small insects on the wing, which occurs particularly when feeding the young.
If you use a hummingbird feeder here, you will almost inevitably have seen how aggressively territorial this species can be. One of them will want the feeder for itself and will drive away all other birds. This behavior may be observed if you come too close to the nest, in which case the female is liable to dive-bomb you and even hit you, in order to drive you away.
Its normal resident breeding range is from north-east Mexico to south-east Mexico, and is a rare bird in south-western Arizona. It may retreat to warmer altitudes in the winter, and may move at any time in search of better flowers with each season.
The normal breeding period is April to August. A tiny cup-shaped nest is built eight to forty feet off the ground in a bush or tree, being constructed of plant material and pieces of lichen all held together by spider’s webs. The female lays two eggs and sits for two weeks before hatching occurs, It appears that the males have little to do with incubating or raising the young.
John Keeling and his wife lead ‘Los Audubonistas del Lago’ which is a loose-knit group of people interested in birds. To receive notices of events please leave your e-mail address at www.avesajijic.com.