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23 Violet-crowned Hummingbird Facts

The Violet-crowned Hummingbird, scientific name Leucolia violiceps, is a medium-sized species of hummingbird native to Mexico but visits the U.S. every year to breed. These interesting birds have many unique characteristics and quite a different look than most of the hummingbirds in America. Here are 23 interesting Violet-crowned Hummingbird facts.

23 Violet-crowned hummingbird facts

1. They are named for their distinctive head patch

A violet-crowned hummingbird on tree branch
A violet-crowned hummingbird on tree branch | image by Leah Moffatt via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Violet-crowned Hummingbirds have a patch of iridescent purple feathers on their heads that gives them their name. Having a colorful head and a pure white throat is quite different from a lot of the species we are used to in the United States where males have a colorful throat. Males and females of this species have the same plumage.

2. These birds are tiny

With an average length of 10cm and a wingspan of 12-15cm, Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are some of the smallest birds in the world. They are considered medium-sized among the hummingbird family.

3. They have an impressive flight ability

Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are capable of hovering in the air for long periods, making sudden changes in both direction and speed as needed. This is due to their lightweight bodies and specialized wings, which allow them to move quickly and with agility.

4. Their primary diet is nectar

Like most hummingbirds, the Violet-crowned Hummingbird primarily feeds on nectar. Tree morning glory, tobacco, honeysuckle, Indian-paintbrush, bougainvillea, ironwood, prickly pear, and agave are a few of the flowers they frequent. They will also feed on insects and spiders to supplement their diet. These birds catch insects by snatching them out of the air, or gleaning them from leaves and petals. 

5. They migrate to Mexico and Central America

This hummingbird species resides year-round in western Mexico. Some come up into the United States to breed during the spring, barely crossing the border into southeastern Arizona. Some may remain in Arizona, but most head back into Mexico for the winter.

A violet-crowned hummingbird on a twig
A violet-crowned hummingbird on a twig | image by Laura Wolf via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

6. They live at different elevations

In Mexico, they can be found at elevations between 660 – 7,900 feet across many habitats including orchards, deciduous forest and wooded parks, thorn forest and canyon streams. In Arizona, their preferred habitat has a narrower elevation range of 3,940 – 5,600 feet along canyon streams. They like to nest in Arizona sycamore, and live in areas containing willows, Fremont cottonwood, ocotillo, juniper, oaks, Arizona walnut and agave. 

7. They make very little noise

These birds are known for being relatively quiet, as they do not make much noise when flying or singing. Their calls are known as loud chatters or taks, and songs are a combination of descending syllables, often starting with a high note and ending with a low one. During the breeding season, males sing a high squeaky song at dawn.

8. Violet-crowned hummingbirds build cup-shaped nests

Their nests are made from spider webs, moss, grass, and other materials. Construction is typically in mid to late summer in Arizona. The nests are cup-shaped and usually attached to a branch at a fork point towards the end of the branch, about 20-40 feet up. Lichen, moss, and other materials are added to the outside to blend in with the environment.

9. Female Violet-crowned hummingbirds are responsible for nest-building

The female hummingbird is the one who builds the nest and incubates the eggs. Once the chicks hatch, she will continue to care for them until they are ready to leave the nest. Female violet-crowned hummingbirds will often lay two eggs per clutch.

A violet-crowned hummingbird flying
A violet-crowned hummingbird flying

10. They are fast fliers

Violet-crowned Hummingbirds can reach impressive speeds while flying, sometimes reaching up to 30mph in certain circumstances. This helps them move quickly and efficiently between food sources and nesting sites.

11. Violet-crowned hummingbirds are territorial

These birds can become quite territorial and defend their food sources and nesting sites from other species. This is especially true during mating season, when males may chase away any intruders.

12. Males leave their mates after copulation

Violet-crowned hummingbird resting on a twig
Violet-crowned hummingbird resting on a twig | image by Bettina Arrigoni via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Male Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are typically only around for the breeding process. They get back to their own business once the copulation is over, leaving the female to care for their offspring.

13. They are polygamous

Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are polygamous, and a single male may mate with more than one female. This gives them more chances at successful breeding and increases their chances of passing on their genes to future generations.

Female hummingbirds are typically more selective when choosing a mate, as they will look for traits that suggest good genes and raise their chicks’ chances of survival.

14. Males perform courtship displays to attract a mate

Males of this species put on impressive courtship displays to attract a mate. These displays involve the hummingbird flying in U-shaped patterns, zigzagging, and making high-pitched sounds. During these displays, males will also puff up their feathers to appear larger and more attractive.

15. They are protected by law

Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are protected by the law, making it illegal to hunt or keep them as pets. This helps ensure their safety and increases the chances of the species thriving in the future.

Violet-crowned hummingbird on its flight
Violet-crowned hummingbird on its flight | image by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr

16. They follow a “pecking order” with other hummingbirds

At popular feeding sites and good nectar sources where multiple hummingbird species are visiting, the larger species will often chase away the smaller species. Violet-crowned hummingbirds will chase away smaller species like the Rufous, Black-chinned and Costa’s hummingbirds. However, they too can be chased away by larger species like the Blue-throated Mountain Gem and Rivoli’s hummingbird.

17. They can’t walk, but they can scoot sideways

Like other hummingbird species, Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are unable to walk. However, they can scoot sideways on a branch or wire to reach food sources or find better perching spots.

18. They follow established foraging routes

Although these birds do not fiercely protect their food sources, they still follow established foraging routes. At any given time and place, multiple Violet-crowned Hummingbirds may be seen sharing the same route.

19. They are great pollinators

Violet-crowned Hummingbirds are important pollinators and play an essential role in the health and growth of healthy ecosystems. During the breeding season, they will visit a variety of flowering plants to collect nectar and transport pollen in their bills.

As they flit from flower to flower, they pick up the pollen grains and carry them to other flowers. This helps propagate important species like cacti, agaves, and oaks.

20. They visit hummingbird  feeders

Violet-crowned hummingbird
Violet-crowned Hummingbird | image by Shawn Taylor via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

These birds are often attracted to hummingbird feeders. They are quick and agile flyers, so they can be seen rapidly darting in and out of view at the feeder. With a bit of patience and luck, you may even be able to spot one up close! This is an excellent way to observe these birds in their natural environment.

21. They were only discovered nesting in the US in 1959

Prior to 1959, the Violet-crowned Hummingbird was only known to nest in Mexico. It wasn’t until that year that a nesting female was discovered in the U.S. Gradual expansion of its range has been seen over the past few decades. 

Although they are still considered rare in many parts of their range, they have become more common in some areas of the U.S. in recent years. 

22. The oldest recorded Violet-crowned hummingbird was 6 years old

Violet-crowned hummingbird at rest
Violet-crowned hummingbird at rest | image by Don Faulkner via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

The oldest recorded Violet-crowned Hummingbird was around 6 years old, and the average lifespan is 4-5 years. These birds can live longer if they have access to adequate food sources and habitats that offer protection from predators. Conservation efforts will continue to be important for protecting these birds in their natural habitat.

23. They are considered of least concern on the IUCN red list

Violet-crowned Hummingbirds have a large range and are considered Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Populations appear to be stable, although there are some localized declines due to habitat loss and degradation. Conservation efforts should focus on protecting their habitats and ensuring food sources remain abundant for these beautiful birds.