The Violet-crowned Hummingbird – occasionally called Northern Violet-crowned or Salvin’s Hummingbird – is a medium-sized, long-bodied hummingbird that has a highly remarkable violet-colored cap, from where its name is termed. It grows to a length of 4 inches long and weighs about 5.19 grams. It is mainly observed in western Mexico and southwestern to south central United States.
The predominant color of adult Violet-crowned Hummingbirds is dark olive green, which covers most of their upper parts and tail. Its crown is iridescent bluish-violet and its underparts are immaculate white.
The male Violet-crowned has a straight and very slender bill. It is reddish in color and has a black tip. The female, while being notably less vibrant compared to the male, also exhibits a similar appearance, except that it has a lighter and greener crown. The immature birds also closely resemble the male.
Similar to other hummingbirds, the diet of Violet-crowned Hummingbirds consists of nectar from flowers and flowering trees. Their preferred flowers are those with the highest sugar content, which are often red-colored and tubular-shaped. They use their long, extendable tongue in deriving nectar from flowers.
During winter, they drink the sap from holes that are made by sapsuckers, as an alternate for nectar. Aside from that, they also visit hummingbird feeders and drink sugar water.
They also catch small insects that are flying mid-air, snatch them off from leaves, or take them from spider webs. A nesting female can get up to approximately 2,000 insects daily.
The preferred habitat locations of the Violet-crowned Hummingbird are scrubby open woods, water canyons, along river borders and in partial clearings.
The bird’s breeding range is in arid scrub of southeastern Arizona in the United States to southwestern Mexico. Also, it is sometimes observed from southernmost California to southwest Texas. In Mexico, the bird’s breeding range extends down the Pacific slope from Sonora through Jalisco to northwestern Oaxaca and in the interior Madrean Highlands from western Chihuahua south through Durango to Oaxaca. While the species is considered fairly common in Mexico, it is deemed rare and local in the United States.
Some authorities claim that Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are partially migratory birds, migrating from northernmost locations during the winter. Other groups, however, say that they are residents throughout most of their range with local movements. Several documents suggest that they are both breeding and overwintering in Arizona and other areas. Hence, they are better described as “wanderers” that are currently expanding their range towards the north and east.
Behavior and Ecology
The Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, just like the other hummingbirds, are solitary in most parts of their life other than breeding. They don’t migrate in groups and there is no bonding that is formed between pairs. The male, whose only active involvement in the reproductive process is the actual mating of the female, leaves the female right after copulation. The males, as well as the females, are likely to mate with several other partners in one season.
These birds create special calls that are described as loud chatters. During courtship, the males would fly in front of the females in a U-shaped pattern.
The female constructs the nest in a safe location in a shrub or tree. In southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, the females are usually found nesting in the Arizona sycamore tree, which is limited to the riparian zones of the arid Southwest in the United States.
The cup-shaped nest is made out of plant fibers, animal hair and feather down that are connected together by spider webs. It is covered with green moss on the outside for camouflage. As the chicks grow, the nest also stretches its size.
The average size of the female’s clutch is two white eggs. Upon hatching the young are generally in a helpless condition – blind, immobile, and without any down. She feeds the young with regurgitated food, which she pushes down the chicks’ throats using her long bill straight into their stomachs. After about 20 days, the chicks fledge the nest.
The IUCN classifies the Violet-crowned Hummingbird under the ‘Least Concern’ category. The species has a very large range and an extremely large population size, and hence, does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable.