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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.

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Written by Rex Trulove

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15 Comments

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    • It depends on the year. I’ve seen hummers impatiently waiting for me to hang up a feeder as early as late March. I’ve seen them still visiting the feeders in October. However, May to mid-September is probably fairly accurate.

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        • Interestingly, they love the heat. When it is close to triple digits here, the hummers are almost constantly around the feeders. That’s when we see the most hummingbird fights as they all want to eat at the same time. Part of that could just be the fluids, but personally, drinking sugar-water when it’s hot would just make me thirstier.

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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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