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Pictorial Look at the Hummingbirds Commonly Seen in Montana

I’ve mentioned in the past that we have a lot of hummingbirds that nest in Montana in the summertime. We put out hummingbird feeders every year and they are usually swarmed by hummers. I’ve also mentioned that at one time, we had 38 hummingbirds at one feeder, representing 8 different species of hummingbirds.

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at 7 of the 8 species that we saw and that are commonly seen in this state, though I couldn’t find a picture of the 8th. All of these nest here and breed here, but all of them migrate south every year to avoid our bitter winters.

When these hummingbirds nest, they build small hanging cup-shaped nests, largely made out of spiderweb silk and lined with thistledown. They will actually carefully dismantle a spiderweb to use for building a nest. The eggs that they lay are about the size of a dried pea and the chicks are likewise tiny. It isn’t unusual for several pairs to have nests in the trees of our yard.

Although the primary food for hummingbirds is the very high-energy nectar of flowers, hummingbirds also eat small insects and spiders. Hummingbirds live in the fast-lane and their metabolism is enormous. Yet, hummingbirds usually live at least 3-4 years and some have been recorded as living over 14 years in the wild. This is a good thing because most hummers lay only two eggs per clutch/year. There are a number of creatures that will eat a hummingbird if they can catch them (not at all easy to do), so if they didn’t have a reasonably long lifespan, the species would probably die out.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

This is one of the most common and well-known hummingbirds in the US. This kind of hummer was even seen at Crater Lake National park. Notice the bright red throat for which it is named. It is a male that is pictured. The females are nearly always more drably colored in all the species shown here.

Anna’s hummingbird

This kind of hummingbird has a pinkish-violate throat and a patch of the same color over the eye. 

Black-chinned hummingbird

This hummingbird is inaccurately named. The throat patch isn't black, it is an iridescent deep purple. It can look black in bright sunshine, though, depending on the angle the bird is viewed at.

Costa’s hummingbird

Costa's hummingbirds have a light breast, a dark patch on the forehead, and totally gorgeous deep royal blue throat patches and patches on the side of the head. The patches of color are also iridescent. 

Calliope hummingbird

This species of hummingbird has deep red on the throat, but it is streaked with lighter feathers that give it an interesting coloration. Females and juveniles have white throats streaked with brown.

Broad-tailed hummingbird

Here is a species that is quite similar in appearance to ruby-throated hummingbirds, except that the throat is a different shade of red and the back and head are an iridescent green that is more pronounced than in ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Rufous hummingbird

Sometimes called rufous throated hummingbirds, these hummers have light brown bellies and backs and the throat is sort of a reddish-bronze color. These are usually the largest hummers that we see, mostly in bulk, and they are the bullies on the block, often chasing other hummers away from the feeders when they eat.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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15 Comments

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    • It sure can be. The wings are often a blur. But modern electronic cameras are often fast enough to freeze the motion of the wings. The best pictures I’ve taken have been of the hummingbirds at the feeders because they stay put long enough to take the picture.

    • That is something that puzzled me when we first moved here. Someone said that there were no hummingbirds. We’ve never lived anywhere that didn’t have hummingbirds. So we put up hummingbird feeders anyway and within hours, we had hummingbirds feeding at the feeders. I don’t know why we were told that there weren’t any.

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