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14 White-eared Hummingbirds Facts (Photos)

The hummingbird world is full of amazing creatures, and the white-eared hummingbird stands out as one of the most unique. These beautiful birds are native to Mexico, Central America, and visit parts of the southwestern United States. Scientifically known as the Hylocharis leucotis, they are members of the Trochilidae family and can be found in subtropical and tropical regions. Read on to discover more white-eared hummingbird facts.

14 White-eared Hummingbirds Facts

1. White-eared hummingbirds prefer forested habitats

White-eared hummingbird on branch
White-eared hummingbird on branch | image by Ron Knight via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Unlike many hummingbird species that can tolerate a variety of habitats, the white-eared hummingbird is found mainly in forested areas. They prefer oak and pine forests but can also be found in shrublands and wetlands.

2. They are named after how they look

These vibrant, beautiful birds get their name from the distinctive white stripe found on each side of their head. This distinguishes them from other hummingbird species which lack this white marking. Both males and females sport this white stripe.

They have other unique colorations, but the white stripe is their main distinguishing feature. Unlike the iridescent throat feathers of some species that depend on good lighting to see, this white stripe is nearly always visible, making them easier to identify.

3. These hummingbirds feed on nectar and insects

Like other hummingbirds, this species survives mainly on the nectar it collects from flowers. As for proteins, white-eared hummingbirds also eat a variety of small insects, including ants and gnats. They will be seen darting around to catch these tiny creatures with their unusually long beaks.

4. White-eared hummingbirds are highly territorial

White-eared hummingbird
White-eared Hummingbird | image by Juan Cruzado Cortés via iNaturalist | CC BY-SA 4.0

These birds have aggressive personalities and often defend their territories from intruders. This territorial behavior can be seen in both males and females, although the males are usually more dominant. White-eared hummingbirds will aggressively chase away any other birds that encroach on their territory, especially smaller species.

5. White-eared hummingbirds have a unique sound

In contrast to the buzzing sound of other hummingbird species, the white-eared hummingbird has a distinct call that is more melodic and high-pitched. This call is often accompanied by a series of wing-flicking behaviors and interspersed rattling noises as the bird moves from flower to flower.

6. Their tongues are made for nectar collecting

White-eared hummingbird on flight
White-eared hummingbird in flight

The tongue of the white-eared hummingbird is specially designed for nectar collecting. It is stretchable with a forked tip that allows the hummingbird to reach deep within flowers and pull out the sweet nectar. This, combined with the unique ability to hover in place, allows these birds to feed from flowers that other species cannot reach.

7. Males have brighter plumage

Compared with the females, the males of this species have brighter and more vibrant plumage. Both sexes have a green back with dark wings. Adult males have dark iridescent plumage on the front of their face and iridescent blue-green throat feathers. Adult females have a pale throat and lack the purple face feathers. 

8. White-eared hummingbirds are not migratory

Unlike many other hummingbird species, the white-eared hummingbird does not migrate. Instead, these birds will stay in one area throughout their lives, only venturing farther during times of food scarcity or harsh weather conditions. They are common in Mexico and some visit the U.S. each year, mainly in Arizona. Although there are not official records of any nesting in America.

9. Bills are red and broad tipped

White-eared hummingbird perched on twig
White-eared hummingbird perched on twig | image by Ryan Mandelbaum via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The bill of the white-eared hummingbird is two-toned, with a slightly broad tip. Males have a beak that is half bright red, and half black. Females have much darker beaks that may only show some red at the base or barely show red at all.

Their beaks help them reach deep into flowers to collect nectar and catch insects in mid-flight. The unique color and shape of the bill also helps distinguish this species from others, and birdwatchers use it as a reference for identification.

10. Males do not help incubate eggs

Male white-eared hummingbirds typically do not help the female incubate her eggs. The male will often leave immediately after mating, leaving the female to care for the eggs and chicks until they can fend for themselves. This behavior is quite common among hummingbird species and helps males quickly move on to find another mate.

Females, on the other hand, will fiercely guard their nests and chicks against potential predators. The white-eared hummingbird is no stranger to defending its young and will go to great lengths to protect them from danger.

11. White-eared hummingbird males sing for potential mates

During the mating season, male white-eared hummingbirds will sing a variety of high-pitched songs to attract potential mates. These tunes consist of various chirping behaviors and interspersed rattling noises as the bird moves from flower to flower. The song is typically loud and can be heard up to five feet away.

While some males perform their songs alone, others form small flocks and find a suitable perch before beginning their display. The males will then sing and flaunt their feathers while attempting to attract a female’s attention. Once a female shows interest in a male, he leaves the flock and begins following her around to her nest territory, performing intricate aerobatics in an effort to impress her.

White-eared hummingbird
A white-eared Hummingbird | image by Dominic Sherony via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

12. White-eared hummingbird females build expandable nests

The white-eared hummingbird female builds her nest from plant fibers, spider webs, and bits of lichen. The structure is cup-shaped and expands with the growing chicks inside.

This allows for more room as the chicks get older and become too large for the original nest. Mothers will also line their nests with soft down feathers, creating a more comfortable and insulated spot for their young.

The nests are typically found in trees, bushes, or other plants that can provide the necessary protection from predators and the elements. These birds also have some of the longest incubation periods among hummingbird species, with the mother sitting on her eggs for up to fifteen days before hatching.

13. White-eared hummingbirds visit feeders

White-eared hummingbird on feeder
White-eared hummingbird on feeder | image by ALAN SCHMIERER via Flickr

While they prefer to forage from natural sources, white-eared hummingbirds can also be attracted to feeders filled with sugar water or specialized nectar. They often visit the feeder during the cooler months when floral resources are scarce, and there is no other food source nearby.

Birdwatchers who wish to observe this species should set up a hummingbird feeder in their yard or garden, as this will attract the birds and make them easier to spot.

14. White-eared hummingbird populations are stable

The white-eared hummingbird is a species of least concern, with populations remaining relatively stable throughout its range. However, it is still important to take measures to protect the bird’s habitat and ensure their food sources are plentiful. By providing a safe space for these birds and offering them an adequate food source, we can help ensure that this species continues to thrive in the wild for years to come.