Western Hummingbird Partnership


BirdNote shows are aired on public radio stations everyday throughout the country. BirdNote strives to transport listeners out of the daily grind and into the natural world with outstanding audio programming and content. Several past BirdNote shows have focused on hummingbirds. We share the links to those programs here:

Hummingbird - Mighty Puffball

What bird can fly straight up and down, backwards and forwards, and even upside down? A hummingbird can do all this, and fly up to 75 miles an hour. And most amazing of all? This bird can slow from 25 miles an hour to a dead stop in a space no longer than your index finger. Learn more about this Rufous Hummingbird at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. Find out more about hummingbird migration - and what hummingbirds might be coming your way - at HummingbirdWorld. You can learn how to attract hummingbirds to your yard at Hummingbirds.net.

Hummingbird Migration Myths

Does a hummingbird migrate by hitching a ride on the back of a goose? Not exactly. This Rufous Hummingbird flies 49,000,000 times its body-length as it makes its full migration loop. That's about like a human traveling more than 50,000 miles! They can fly forwards, backwards, or hover in one spot. Learn more about hummingbird migration at JourneyNorth. Nancy Rumbel composed and played today's music.

Thirsty Rufous Hummingbird

Hummingbirds need to consume five times their body weight each day. This Rufous Hummingbird of the West is looking for flowering plants to quench that mighty thirst on its spring migration. A feeder would work, too. Put a hummingbird feeder up in your yard, and see who turns up!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the only hummingbirds that nest in the Eastern states. Most Ruby-throats spend the winter in Central America. By March, some males are already returning to the Southeast. But it's well into April before they reach the northern states. Female hummingbirds arrive a couple weeks later. What hummingbird might you see in your region? Check out hummingbirds.net. Put up a feeder and attract one to your yard.

Why a Gorget Glitters

A hummingbird's brilliant throat feathers are called a "gorget," a term applied in past centuries to the metallic swatch protecting the throat of a knight-in-armor. Light waves reflect and refract off the throat feathers, creating color in the manner of sun glinting off a film of oil on water. The gorget of this Rufous Hummingbird is stunning!

Tiniest Bird on the Continent

The tiniest bird in continental North America: the Calliope Hummingbird - a 3-1/4-inch jewel, weighing in at just a tenth of an ounce. These birds migrate north each spring from Western Mexico. From its perch, a male Calliope Hummingbird surveys its territory. This exquisite bird was named for the Greek muse of epic poetry, and it's the smallest long-distance avian migrant in the world.

A Natural Feast for Hummingbirds

Hoping to attract hummingbirds to your yard or balcony? One way is to grow native plants. Native plants provide cover, and they offer nectar in spring and summer. They also attract insects, the most important part of a hummingbird’s diet. Just add a source of water for drinking and bathing, and you’ll have a hummingbird haven. Check out some guides to native plants of the East and the West. Or find a Master Gardener near you who can help you choose plants for your garden.

Audubon and the Ruby-throat

Strictly birds of the Americas, hummingbirds don't exist in the Old World. John James Audubon, the French naturalist who spent his adult life studying and painting the birds of North America, saw only this Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a bird of eastern North America. Audubon described the Ruby-throat as a "glittering fragment of the rainbow."

A Rufous in the Rain

In a garden near the McKenzie River in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, a downpour pummels the landscape. Imagine this Rufous Hummingbird out and about, extracting nectar, searching for gnats and aphids. No doubt, she’s feeding nestlings that await her return. Her stamina against the heavy rain is marvelous. Consider this: her body is nine and a half centimeters long; the average raindrop is about four millimeters. That would be like a person five foot eight being pounded by a torrent of raindrops each three inches across. Incredible!

Anna's Hummingbirds Winter in the North

Most hummingbirds retreat south in autumn, but Anna's Hummingbirds are found in northern latitudes throughout the year. Since 1960, they've moved their year-round limit north from California to British Columbia. They're taking advantage of flowering plants and shrubs, as well as hummingbird feeders. But how do they survive the northern cold? They suspend their high rate of metabolism by entering a state of torpor – a sort of nightly hibernation, where heart rate and body temperature are reduced to a bare minimum. Many hummingbirds, including those in the high Andes, rely on the same strategy.

Hummingbirds See Red

Red flowers, and of course red feeders, are often rich sources of food for hummingbirds, including this Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Nectar is high-octane fuel for their intensely active way of life. The hummingbirds' sense of color is due to the dense concentration of cones in its retina. But it turns out that it's the nectar, not the color that makes the most difference with hummingbirds.

Who was Anna?

The Anna's Hummingbird is the only hummer that stays in the Northwest and West for the winter. How did this lovely jewel get its name? Anna's Hummingbird was named for Princess Anna de Belle Massena. John James Audubon himself was charmed by her, but it was actually naturalist Rene Primevere Lesson who named the bird in her honor. Learn more about this dazzling jewel at Cornell's AllAboutBirds. You'll find a recipe for hummingbird nectar at SeattleAudubon.org.

Green Birds on St. Patrick's Day

You'd think that with so much green in nature, many birds would be a'wearin' the green for camouflage. Not just on St. Patrick's Day, but every day. Yet very few of our birds cavort in Irish green. There be some wee exceptions, however - some of the hummingbirds, with their backs of bright green, including this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Thirsty Hummingbirds

Here they come! Rufous Hummingbirds, Black-chins, Broad-bills, Ruby-throats like this one, and others are migrating north after a hot, dry winter in sunny Mexico or Central America. And they’re ready for a drink. You can help these thirsty birds by hanging a hummingbird feeder filled with the right kind of nectar. Select a feeder that you can easily clean on the inside, and one that has plenty of red to attract the birds. Then fill it with sugar water made by dissolving one part sugar in four parts water (use plain table sugar - no honey or sugar substitutes allowed). And please -- no red food coloring!

A Treasure Chest of Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds' names evoke their exquisite qualities and variety, from sabrewings to woodstars to sunangels-to this Green Violet-ear. Central and South America are home to well over 300 species of hummingbirds! Find out more about hummingbird migration -- and what hummingbirds might be coming your way.

Hummingibrds at the Border

Thousands of hummingbirds - including these Ruby-throats - are now in southward migration. Hummingbirds that summer in the western US will arrive in the mountains of southern Arizona. (Ruby-throats take a more easterly route.) Countless hummingbird feeders provide continuous nectar in this hummingbird heaven. But with so many birds in competition, they fight constantly. Do raised levels of aggression alter the birds' physiology and survival? What about the native flowers that evolved to be pollinated by hummingbirds? So many questions...

Hummingbirds at Home

During spring migration, hummingbirds like this Ruby-throat rely on the nectar of flowering plants. But flowers blooming earlier because of warming temperatures could affect them severely. To better understand and protect these marvelous birds, Audubon has launched a new citizen-science initiative: Hummingbirds at Home. The project will help scientists understand how climate change, flowering patterns, and feeding by people are affecting hummingbirds. Your reports could make a difference!

Rufous Hummingbirds' Marvelous Nest

The nest-building skills of the female Rufous Hummingbird are amazing. She first weaves a cup of soft, fluffy plant material, then envelops it with moss and binds it with strands of spider web. The final touch: a layer of lichen flakes to provide perfect camouflage. A favorite nest site is the fork of a downward-drooping twig, perhaps low in a shrub or up higher in an old conifer. Watch a slideshow of a Rufous Hummingbird nesting season. Learn more about this amazing nest builder at Cornell's All About Birds.

Banding Hummingbirds

Dan Harville has banded more than 6,000 hummingbirds! He affixes a tiny aluminum ring bearing a unique number around the lower part of the bird's left leg. That number will provide vital information to any bander who recaptures it. From the work of the banders, we know that a Rufous Hummingbird, like this one, returns to the same site every year, after flying perhaps more than 2,500 miles to Mexico and back. If you see a hummingbird or other bird wearing a band, please report it at ReportBand.gov.

Rufous Hummingbirds are on the Way

It's March, and - following a winter sojourn in Mexico - thousands of fiery-orange male Rufous Hummingbirds are migrating northward, ahead of the females. Many pass through California on their way to breeding sites in the Northwest. To learn more about how to attract hummingbirds to your yard -- and which might visit -- see Hummingbirds.net.

Rufous Hummingbirds Head South

Right now in the Northwest, male Rufous Hummingbirds are heading south. By late July, they will pour into southeastern Arizona on their way to wintering areas in Mexico. The females and their offspring will leave later in the summer, some lingering until mid-September. Along the way, they will take advantage of the wildflowers blooming in north-south mountain ranges. Wherever you live, you can document the comings and goings of hummingbirds at Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home program. Together, we can help hummingbirds!

Sapsuckers and Hummingbirds

The sapsucker is a type of woodpecker that notches rows of small holes in trees, causing sap to well out. The birds eat the sugary liquid flowing from these sapwells. Now tree sap is similar in sugar content to the nectar hummingbirds take from flowers. And it is no coincidence that just as the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers get their sapwells flowing in spring, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds come migrating north. Several species of hummingbirds partake of the bounty of sap released by sapsuckers, even nesting close to active sapwells and following the sapsuckers as they fly from one sap tree to another.