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14 Lucifer Hummingbird Facts (with Photos)

Native to Mexico and Central America, the Lucifer Hummingbird is a tiny and dazzling bird. Also known as Calothorax lucifer, this hummingbird is an interesting combination of ruby, bronze, and green feathers. Keep reading to learn more surprising facts about this beautiful and unique bird, including how they got their unusual name.

14 Lucifer Hummingbird Facts

1. Their name means “light-bearer”

The name Lucifer hummingbird comes from the Latin meaning of “Lucifer,” which is light-bearer or light-bringer. This is likely because of the male’s colorful throat feathers, which reflect light and make for a brilliant purple flash. 

This is a fitting name for such a beautiful bird, as they are truly one of nature’s most captivating creatures. They bring life and beauty to their environment, making them a welcome sight wherever they go.

2. They are also called Lucifer sheartails

Lucifer hummingbirds may also be referred to as Lucifer sheartails. This name comes from their deeply forked tail, which looks almost like two fans when spread. This allows the Lucifer hummingbird to stand out from other species of hummingbirds in terms of its visual appearance.

The shape of their tail also gives them a unique aerodynamic advantage—the Lucifer hummingbird can maneuver more quickly and efficiently than its counterparts.

Lucifer hummingbird
Lucifer Hummingbird | image by Gary Leavens via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

3. They love agave nectar

Specialists of the arid and semiarid regions of Mexico, Lucifer hummingbirds can be found in areas with plenty of agaves. These birds rely heavily on nectar to survive, making agave nectar a key resource for their survival. They also feed on nectar from other plants, such as cacti, cholla, penstemons, and willows.

4. They also feed on insects and small spiders

In addition to nectar, Lucifer hummingbirds feed on insects such as ants, flies, and beetles. They tend to fly low when hunting for their insect meals, taking advantage of their incredible agility and speed.

Small spiders are also on the menu for Lucifer hummingbirds, which they can easily snatch due to their quick reflexes. These insects and spiders provide much-needed protein, which is especially important for the growth of young hummingbirds.

5. Females build the nest

Female lucifer hummingbird on feeder
Female lucifer hummingbird on feeder | image by Bettina Arrigoni via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The female Lucifer hummingbird builds a cup-shaped nest, which is typically made up of spider webs and plant fibers. This nest is then lined with small feathers for extra insulation. The nest is bound by spider webs and secured to an agave stalk, ocotillo stem, or a yucca plant.

Lucifer hummingbird nests are camouflaged using lichens and bits of leaves, making them harder for predators to spot. They are also designed to expand as the chicks grow, allowing them to stay comfortable in their home.

6. Males are not involved in raising chicks

Like many other hummingbird species, male Lucifer hummingbirds do not play a part in raising their young. Female Lucifer hummingbirds are responsible for finding food and taking care of the chicks on their own until they fledge. The male Lucifer hummingbird generally moves on once mating is complete and is rarely seen near the female’s nest

7. The males perform intricate courtship displays

Like other hummingbirds, male Lucifer hummingbirds perform dazzling courtship displays to attract potential mates. These courtship rituals occur at the nest site and involve the male Lucifer hummingbird flying in circles, displaying impressive aerial maneuvers. The bird will then dip their tail, open it up and vibrate rapidly to create a unique sound.

Lucifer hummingbird on feeder
Lucifer hummingbird on feeder | image by Ryan Mandelbaum via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

8. Male Lucifer hummingbirds flare their purple gorget

One of the most impressive visual aspects of the Lucifer hummingbird’s courtship display is male’s bright purple gorget. A gorget is a patch of iridescent feathers on the throat that can be flared to create an eye-catching effect.

The male Lucifer hummingbird will flare this patch during their courtship display to captivate and impress the female. This shiny gorget is also used to intimidate rivals and chase them off their territory. The purple color can look bright in direct sun, or so dark as to almost appear black in the shade.

Females do not have a purple throat. Their throat is pale, with a pale belly and buffy colored sides.

9. They are territorial

Lucifer hummingbird fighting another hummingbird over a flower
Male lucifer hummingbird (left) displaying aggression towards a black-chinned hummingbird | image by Jaime Robles via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Lucifer hummingbird is fiercely territorial, defending their feeding and nesting sites from other birds. The males will chase off any bird that tries to intrude on their territory and can become quite aggressive when threatened. The males will even go as far as dive-bombing the intruder, a behavior known as mobbing, to make them leave.

Lucifer hummingbirds are also very vocal and use loud chirps to mark their territory and announce their presence. This territorial behavior helps protect the hummingbird’s resources from competitors and ensures the safety of their young.

10. The females lay two eggs

After mating, the female Lucifer hummingbird will lay two white eggs in her nest. Each egg measures about one centimeter long and is incubated for around 15 days before hatching. Females take care of the nest, feeding and protecting their young until they fledge.

The young birds are blind and naked upon hatching and require warmth, protection, and nourishment from their mother. She feeds them by regurgitating food, providing them with a mixture of nectar, insects, and spiders.

After around three weeks, the chicks are ready to leave the nest and start their life as fledglings, although the mother still feeds them for about three more weeks. Lucifer hummingbirds may raise up to two broods each year.

11. Lucifer hummingbirds are excellent flyers

Male lucifer hummingbird on flight
Male lucifer hummingbird on flight | image by Gary Leavens via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Like other hummingbird species, the Lucifer hummingbird is an expert flyer. These birds can hover in mid-air, fly backward, and even upside down with ease. They can easily maneuver through dense vegetation, enabling them to find food sources and evade predators quickly.

They are also able to travel long distances without tiring, making them well-adapted to their environment. Their ability to hover and fly backward makes it easier to feed on nectar from tubular flowers.

This technique enables the bird to access food sources other birds cannot reach and makes it easier to escape predators. These impressive flying abilities make the Lucifer hummingbird one of nature’s most agile and graceful birds.

12. Lucifer hummingbirds are important pollinators

Lucifer hummingbirds play an important role in the environment as pollinators. As they feed on nectar from flowers, they get pollen on their face and beak which is then transferred to the next flower they feed from. This is how they inadvertently transfer pollen between plants. Transfer of pollen like this helps promote genetic diversity and ensures that plant populations remain healthy and abundant.

While they are effective pollinators of flowers such as ocotillo and saguaro, they are too small to pollinate larger flowers such as some agave varieties. However, they can still reach all the nectar in these flowers, earning them the nickname “nectar thieves.”

13. They visit feeders and gardens

Lucifer hummingbird
Lucifer hummingbird | Image: Nate Steiner | flickr

These beautiful birds can often be seen at hummingbird feeders, which is an easy way to attract them. They are also attracted to flowering plants, such as red-hot poker, bee balm, and petunias. Planting these flowers in your garden is a great way to attract Lucifer hummingbirds and enjoy their presence in your backyard!

They are sometimes seen traveling into the U.S. during the summer, in select areas of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

14. They go into torpor

Torpor is a state of reduced activity in which animals conserve energy, and the Lucifer hummingbird is no exception. During cold nights or when food is scarce, these birds will enter this sleep-like state to reduce their metabolic rate and conserve energy. This enables them to survive challenging weather or food shortages without expending too much energy.

When entering into torpor, the hummingbird’s body temperature drops, and its heart rate slows down. During this time, the bird becomes very inactive to minimize energy expenditure.