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.
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.
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.