In the vibrant and diverse ecosystem of Washington State, five species of hummingbirds grace the skies with their delicate presence. From the enchanting Anna’s hummingbird to the striking Rufous hummingbird, each species possesses its own distinctive characteristics. Alongside these familiar visitors, the elusive Black-chinned and the captivating Calliope hummingbirds can also be seen. However, it is the rare sighting of the Costa’s hummingbird that truly captures the attention of birdwatchers. With their stunning throat colors and intriguing migration patterns, these hummingbirds never fail to mesmerize. For those aspiring to invite these enchanting creatures into their own backyards, there are a myriad of tips to attract them, including the provision of feeders, native flowers, water sources, and promoting insects as a natural food source.
Species of Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures known for their small size and unique flying abilities. In Washington State, there are a total of five species of hummingbirds commonly found. These species include Anna’s Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, and the rare Costa’s Hummingbird.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these species and explore their distinct characteristics and habits.
Anna’s Hummingbird is a medium-sized hummingbird with a vibrant and striking appearance. Males have a bright and iridescent pinkish-red throat, called a gorget, along with a pale green body. Females, on the other hand, have a slightly duller green body with a touch of red on their throats. Both males and females have long, slender bills.
Anna’s Hummingbirds are adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats such as coastal areas, urban gardens, parks, and forests. They are commonly seen in Washington State throughout the year.
Anna’s Hummingbirds are native to the western coast of North America. In Washington State, they are year-round residents and can be spotted in various regions, including the Puget Sound, Olympic Peninsula, and Columbia River Basin.
While Anna’s Hummingbirds are known to be non-migratory, some individuals may undertake short-distance movements during the winter months, especially if their food sources become scarce. However, many Anna’s Hummingbirds remain in Washington State throughout the year, even enduring cold temperatures.
One unique feature of Anna’s Hummingbirds is their ability to vocalize their presence with a loud buzzing sound produced by their wings during flight. This sound is often heard before the birds are even seen. Additionally, their beautiful pinkish-red gorget is a distinct characteristic that sets them apart from other hummingbird species.
The Rufous Hummingbird is a small yet energetic bird known for its vibrant colors. Males have reddish-orange feathers on their throats, while their bodies are covered in a mix of coppery-red and green plumage. Females, on the other hand, have green backs with white undersides and reddish-brown speckles.
Rufous Hummingbirds prefer habitats with ample vegetation, including forests, meadows, and coastal areas. They are often seen in Washington State during the spring and summer months.
Rufous Hummingbirds are migratory birds that have an extensive range. During breeding season, they can be found in Washington State and other parts of the western United States. In the winter, these birds migrate south, reaching as far as Mexico and Central America.
Rufous Hummingbirds are known for their impressive migration patterns. They undertake one of the longest migrations of any hummingbird species, traveling thousands of miles each year. During their journey, they navigate through diverse habitats, making their presence known along the way with their distinctive buzzing sound.
The Rufous Hummingbird’s key distinguishing feature is its extraordinary migration capability. These tiny birds travel remarkable distances, showcasing their endurance and tenacity. Additionally, their reddish-orange throats make them a sight to behold, especially when they catch the sunlight.
The Black-chinned Hummingbird is a small hummingbird species known for its graceful appearance. Male Black-chinned Hummingbirds have a glossy and iridescent black throat, which reflects different colors depending on the lighting. Their head and back feathers are green, while their belly and undertail coverts are gray. Females, on the other hand, have a greenish coloration throughout their bodies.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds can be found in a variety of habitats, including desert scrublands, woodlands, and mountainous regions. They are commonly seen in Washington State during the summer months.
The Black-chinned Hummingbird’s range extends from the western United States to Mexico. In Washington State, they are primarily observed during their breeding season.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds are migratory birds. They spend their winters in Mexico and Central America before migrating north to breed in the western United States. In Washington State, they arrive during the warmer months and depart for their wintering grounds before the cold weather sets in.
One unique feature of Black-chinned Hummingbirds is their distinct “U-shaped” courtship display. While perched, males engage in a series of dives and swoops, creating a striking visual spectacle. Additionally, the glossy black chin of the males is an eye-catching characteristic that distinguishes them from other hummingbird species.
Calliope Hummingbirds are the smallest breeding birds in North America. Males have a vibrant magenta throat, created by microscopic structures that refract light. Their back feathers have a greenish-bronze hue, and they have white undersides. Females, on the other hand, have pale green bodies with a touch of pink near their throats.
Calliope Hummingbirds prefer high-altitude habitats, including forests, mountain meadows, and streamside areas. In Washington State, they can be found during the summer months.
The breeding range of Calliope Hummingbirds extends from western Canada to the western United States. In Washington State, they are observed in mountainous regions, particularly in the eastern part of the state.
Calliope Hummingbirds are migratory birds. They spend their winters in Mexico and Central America before returning to their breeding grounds in North America. In Washington State, they arrive during the spring and summer months to breed.
The Calliope Hummingbird’s most distinguishing feature is its status as the smallest breeding bird in North America. Their petite size, paired with the brilliant magenta throat of the males, make them a captivating sight. Additionally, they have a distinct buzzing call that adds to their unique characteristics.
The Costa’s Hummingbird is a rare and elusive species that occasionally visits Washington State. Males have a vibrant purple throat and crown, contrasting with their pale grayish-white undersides. Females have a more subtle appearance, with pale grayish bodies and speckles of green.
Costa’s Hummingbirds prefer habitats with desert vegetation, including cacti and shrubs. They are rarely observed in Washington State and tend to frequent more arid regions.
The Costa’s Hummingbird’s usual range is primarily in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. However, they have been known to make sporadic appearances in Washington State, particularly during migration seasons.
The migration pattern of Costa’s Hummingbirds is not well-documented, as they are not regular migrants in the areas where they breed. Some individuals may undertake short-distance movements to find favorable food sources. However, their movements into Washington State are relatively uncommon.
The distinct feature of Costa’s Hummingbirds is their striking purple throat and crown in males, which shimmer and change color depending on the light. These hummingbirds are a rare find in Washington State, making any glimpse of them a special and memorable experience for bird enthusiasts.
Unique Features of Hummingbirds
One of the most captivating features of hummingbirds is their vibrant throat colors, often referred to as gorgets. These colors can range from vivid pink and red to more subtle shades of purple, orange, and green, depending on the species. Throat colors are predominantly observed in males and play a crucial role in courtship displays and territorial battles.
Hummingbirds are known for their remarkable migration patterns. While some species, like Anna’s Hummingbird, are non-migratory and can be found in Washington State throughout the year, others travel extraordinary distances to reach their breeding and wintering grounds. These migratory journeys often span thousands of miles, showcasing the endurance and resilience of these tiny birds.
Hummingbirds have unique feeding habits that set them apart from other bird species. Due to their high metabolic rate, they must constantly fuel themselves to sustain their energy levels. Hummingbirds primarily feed on nectar from flowers, using their long bills and slender tongues to access the sweet liquid. In addition to nectar, they also consume small insects and spiders to obtain protein and other nutrients.
Hummingbirds have fascinating nesting behaviors. Females build intricate and delicate nests using materials such as spider silk, moss, plant fibers, and lichens. These nests are typically hidden in trees or shrubs and are carefully camouflaged to protect the eggs and nestlings from predators. The tiny size and intricacy of these nests are a testament to the amazing architectural abilities of these birds.
Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Yard
If you are interested in attracting hummingbirds to your yard, there are several tips and techniques you can employ to create an inviting environment. These include:
One effective way to attract hummingbirds is by hanging feeders filled with sugar water solution. The feeders should be brightly colored and feature flower-like designs to mimic a natural food source. It’s essential to clean and refill the feeders regularly to ensure the health and well-being of the hummingbirds. Adding multiple feeders in different locations can provide opportunities for more hummingbirds to visit.
Making Your Own Nectar
Hummingbirds rely on nectar as their primary source of fuel. To make your own nectar, combine four parts water with one part granulated sugar. Boil the mixture for a few minutes, let it cool, and then fill your feeders. Avoid using honey or artificial sweeteners, as these can be harmful to hummingbirds. It’s important to clean and replace the nectar every few days to prevent fermentation and the growth of harmful bacteria.
Planting Native Flowers
Another great way to attract hummingbirds is by planting native flowers in your yard. Hummingbirds are particularly drawn to tubular-shaped flowers that produce an abundance of nectar. Some popular choices include red columbine, scarlet gilia, penstemon, and bee balm. By selecting a variety of native flowers that bloom at different times, you can provide a continuous nectar supply throughout the hummingbird’s active season.
Providing Water Sources
Hummingbirds not only require nectar but also need a reliable water source for bathing and preening. You can create a shallow birdbath or add a mister or dripper to provide a gentle water spray. Ensure the water source is cleaned regularly and kept free of debris to maintain optimal hygiene for the hummingbirds.
Promoting Insects as a Food Source
While nectar is a vital part of their diet, hummingbirds also depend on insects for protein and other nutrients. To attract insects, minimize the use of pesticides in your yard and create a friendly habitat for beneficial insects. By fostering a diverse ecosystem, you can support the natural food chain that hummingbirds rely on and encourage their presence in your yard.
By implementing these tips and techniques, you can increase the likelihood of attracting hummingbirds to your yard and enjoy the beauty and wonder these captivating creatures bring. Remember to be patient and observant, as it may take some time for the hummingbirds to discover and frequent your yard. Soon enough, you may find yourself immersed in the enchanting world of these tiny aerial acrobats.