By Russ Chappell
Black-chinned hummingbirds are small and slender with fairly straight bills. They are about 3.5 inches long, weigh about 0.2 ounces, and have 4.3-inch wing-spans. Males have green backs with a prominent purple band around their necks, plus velvety black chins, dishwater white bellies and dark tails. Females and immature birds are green above and whitish below, with females displaying white tips on their outer three tail feathers. Both genders have black bills, the female being longer than the male, and tend to spread their tail feathers wider in flight than other hummingbirds.
Their heart rate, at rest, is about 480 beats per minute, and on cold nights they enter torpor, with rates dropping to 45–180 beats per minute. They breath 245 breaths per minute at 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and 420 breaths per minute at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and sporadically while torpid.
These hummingbirds construct compact, deep-shaped nests of plant down, spider silk and cocoon fibers, which expand as the chicks mature. They parent up to three broods with two eggs each, per year, and incubation is roughly 15 days. The white eggs are the size of coffee beans. When hatched, the chicks are about one-quarter inch long, with two rows of thin, downy feathers on their backs, and eyes closed. They leave the nest in 21 days.
They feed at flowers and feeders and also hunt tiny flying insects. Between meals they survey potential foraging areas from a high perch, ready to rout any competing birds, and always looking for insects. While feeding on nectar, or at a feeder, their tongues “lick” at a rate of about 13–17 licks per second through almost closed bills, consuming about a one-fifth of a fluid ounce per meal. They may consume three times their body weight each day during cold weather.
These exciting hummingbirds are easily attracted to a feeder filled with clear, sugar water or your colorful flower garden, and they call Prescott their home from late March through September. They will certainly entertain you with their aggressive habits and in-flight dexterity, so enjoy them while they visit!
The Prescott Audubon Society is an official chapter of the National Audubon Society. Check them out online at PrescottAudubon.Org. IMAGES from left to right: “Black-chinned Female” and “Black-chinned Male” By Matthew J. Vanwallene of Chandler, Az..