Each of us can make a difference for hummingbirds, whether we are conducting scientific research, managing landscapes, planting native nectar-producing plants in our gardens, or contributing to citizen science projects that produce important data on hummingbird status and trends for scientists.
Additionally, there is much joy to be had in simply observing and familiarizing ourselves with our native hummingbirds.
This section of the website provides resources related to hummingbird ID and citizen science hummingbird projects.
Many hummingbird species are long distance migrants travelling between the USA, Canada, and Mexico; therefore, a tri-national partnership is critical for effective hummingbird conservation in North America. Seventeen species regularly occur in the USA and Canada, of which thirteen are neotropical migrants that overwinter in Mexico (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2008). Hummingbirds live only in the western hemisphere, where they are the second most diverse family of birds (approximately 340 species). Their diversity is well represented among North American bird families with 57 species, of which 40% are endemic to North America, 14% are substantially shared among the nations, 30% are migratory, and 14% are of high conservation concern (Berlanga et al., 2010).
Hummingbirds are specialized nectar feeders with morphological, ecological, and physiological adaptations for this diet, and serve as pollinators for a wide array of native plants (Stiles 1981, Brown and Bowers 1985, Rosero 2003, Temeles and Kress 2003, Gegear and Burns 2007). They depend almost completely on nectar for their energetic supply, and their survival depends upon a reliable supply of suitable nectar-producing plants that are frequently associated with early successional stages of forest re-growth. Almost 300 plant species identified from the literature were listed by Ornelas et al. (2007) as producing nectar used by hummingbirds. Most of the data come from geographic areas in the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Brazil. In western USA, about 130 plant species are pollinated by hummingbirds (Johnsgard 1997).
In addition to nectar, hummingbirds prey upon insects, which provide an important source of protein (Schuchmann 1999). For many hummingbird species, aquatic insects are important prey items during the nesting cycle; thus, management of water resources in the arid west is likely an important conservation issue. Although insects are critical components to hummingbird diets, the real dietary importance of insects remains largely unknown and is under studied.
Forests are the primary habitat for over 80% of hummingbird species (Stotz et al. 1996). In the tropics, the diversity of hummingbirds is highest in montane/sub-montane forests (Schuchmann 1999). This pattern of forest-associated diversity continues northward, where the highest diversity of hummingbirds in the USA occurs in the pine/oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona (Wethington et al. 2005). These woodlands are included in the montane evergreen forest classification (Stotz et al. 1996), which has the highest number of at- risk hummingbird species (Wethington and Finley 2009). There are many unknowns regarding the needs of the various species of hummingbirds, particularly related to habitat requirements for insect prey, timing of nectar resource availability, nest sites, and other habitat requirements at different temporal and spatial scales.
Brown, J. H. & M. A. Bowers. 1985. Community organization in hummingbirds: relationships between morphology and ecology. The Auk 102: 251-269.
Gegear, R. J. and J. C. Burns. 2007. The birds, the bees, and the virtual flowers: can pollinator behavior drive ecological speciation in flowering plants? American Naturalist 170:551-566.
Johnsgard, P. A. 1997. The Hummingbirds of North America. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. Second Edition.
Ornelas J.F., M. Ordano, A.J. De Nova, M.E. Quintero and T. Garland Jr. 2007. Phylogenetic analysis of inter-specific variation in nectar of hummingbird visited plants. J. Evol. Biol. 20:1904-1917.
Rosero, L. 2003. Interações planta/beija-flor em três comunidades vegetais da parte sul do Parque Nacional Natural Chiribiquete, Amazonas (Colombia). Tese apresentada ao instituto de Biología da Universidade Estadual de Campinas, como parte dos requisitos para obtenção do titulo de Doutor em Ciencias Biológicas. Campinas, Brazil.
Schuchmann K.L. 1999. Family Trochilidae (Hummingbirds). In: Del Hoyo J., Elliot A., Sargatal J.. (Eds). Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 5 Barn-owls to Hummingbirds. Birdlife International. Lynx Editions, Barcelona, pp:468-680.
Stiles F. G. 1981. Geographical aspects of bird-flower co-evolution, with particular reference to Central America. Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 68: 323-351.
Stotz, D.F.; J.W. Fitzpatrick, T.A. Parker III, D.K. Moskovits. 1996. Neotropical Birds: Ecology and Conservation. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, Illinois.
Temeles, E. J. and W. J. Kress. 2003. Adaptation in a plant-hummingbird association. Science 300:630-633.
Wethington, S. M. and Finley N. 2009. Addressing Hummingbird conservation needs: An Initial Assessment. In Proceedings of the Fourth International Partners In Flight Conference.: Tundra to Tropics
Wethington, S. M., G.C. West, and B.A. Carlson. 2005. Hummingbird conservation: Discovering diversity patterns in southwest USA. In Connecting mountain islands and desert seas: biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago II. Compiled by G. J. Gottfried, B.S. Gebow, L.G. Eskew, and C.B. Edminster. 2004 May 11-15; Tucson, AZ. pp 162-168. Proceedings RMRS-P-36. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Here we provide links to high quality resources, including field guides and phone apps, on how to identify hummingbirds:
New to birding? Look over this Beginner’s Guide to Bird Watching
A Field Guide to the Hummingbirds of North America(Peterson Field Guides)
The Hummingbird Book: The Complete Guide to Attracting, Identifying, and Enjoying Hummingbirds (By Donald and Lilian Stokes)
Hummingbirds HD (Phone app)
Hummingbird Checklist by State (Produced by The Hummingbird Project)
Online ID Resources by Sheri Williamson on Flickr:
- Hummingbirds Album on Flickr
- Rufous Gallery
- Allen’s Gallery
- Broad-tailed Gallery
- Calliope Gallery
- Selasphorus Hybrids Gallery
A Supplemental Guide to Hummingbird Species Identification, Aging, and Sexing (West Texas Data Set as of December 2011)
Identification of Selasphorus Hummingbirds by John F. Garret
Identification of Adult Male Rufous and Allen’s Hummingbirds, With Specific Comments on Dorsal Coloration by Paul M. McKenzie, Mark B Robbins
Green Backed Selasphorus Hummingbirds in Clatsop County, Oregon by Mike Patterson
On the Field Identification of California Hummingbirds by F. Gary Stiles