Birdorable Northern Mockingbird inspiring a song writer

Birds have long been a source of inspiration for musicians, symbolizing freedom, beauty, and nature. Songs about birds or those that mention birds capture these themes in melodies and lyrics, resonating with listeners in various ways. Here’s a look at some iconic songs that feature our feathered friends. Here are some catchy tunes along with the birds that inspired them.

Blackbird

One of the most famous bird-themed songs is "Blackbird" by The Beatles. Released in 1968 on their "White Album," the song was written by Paul McCartney. "Blackbird" is a beautiful acoustic track featuring a delicate guitar melody and McCartney’s soulful vocals. The lyrics, "Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly," are often interpreted as a metaphor for overcoming adversity and achieving freedom. McCartney has stated that the song was inspired by the civil rights movement in the United States, adding a deeper layer of meaning to its seemingly simple lyrics. 

unknown Jamaican birds

Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" is a reggae anthem that spreads positivity and reassurance. Featured on the 1977 album "Exodus," the song’s chorus, "Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing gonna be all right," is a comforting reminder to stay optimistic. Marley was inspired by the birds he saw outside the window of his Jamaican studio, and their carefree demeanor reflected the song's message of hope and tranquility. We can only speculate what feathered songsters may have inspired Marley's uplifting song.

White-winged Dove

Another beloved song that mentions birds is "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks. This 1981 hit from her debut solo album "Bella Donna" features the famous line, "Just like the White-winged Dove sings a song, sounds like she's singing." The song is a tribute to John Lennon and Nicks' uncle Jonathan, who both passed away in the same week. The White-winged Dove symbolizes the soul's journey and the inevitable process of life and death. Nicks' haunting vocals and the powerful guitar riff make this song a timeless classic.

American Robin

"Rockin' Robin" by Bobby Day is a classic rock and roll song that has charmed audiences since its release in 1958. The upbeat, catchy tune is centered around a bird, the titular "Rockin' Robin," who "rocks in the treetops all day long," singing and dancing to its own delightful melody. With its infectious rhythm and playful lyrics, the song quickly became a hit, capturing the joyful spirit of the rock and roll era. Bobby Day's vibrant performance and the song's whimsical narrative about a bird who loves to rock and roll made "Rockin' Robin" a timeless favorite that continues to bring smiles to listeners' faces. This American classic is surely inspired by the familiar American Robin.

Sparrow sp.

Simon & Garfunkel's "Sparrow" from the 1964 debut studio album "Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M" is a poignant song that uses the story of a sparrow seeking help from others to explore themes of compassion and kindness. The sparrow's journey reflects the challenges and loneliness that can come with seeking understanding and empathy in the world. There are several sparrow species that could be the inspiration behind this mournful folk ballad. Historical eBird records from New York in 1964 indicate the most abundantly reported sparrows to be the Song Sparrow, and the non-native but always ubiquitous House Sparrow.

Bald Eagle (?)

"Fly Like an Eagle" by the Steve Miller Band is a timeless classic that captures the spirit of freedom and the desire for change. Released in 1976, the song features a smooth blend of rock and spacey synthesizers, creating a dreamy, almost ethereal atmosphere. The lyrics speak to social issues and the longing for a better world, with the repeated refrain, "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future," emphasizing the urgency for progress. The imagery of an eagle flying high in the sky symbolizes the ultimate freedom and the potential for humanity to rise above its challenges. The Bald Eagle is known as the symbol of the USA, and a fitting inspiration for this song. However, North America's other eagle species, the Golden Eagle, is found all across the west, including the San Francisco area -- where the Steve Miller Band is from. 

Northern Mockingbird (?)

"Mockingbird" by Carly Simon and James Taylor is a delightful duet that brings a modern twist to the traditional lullaby "Hush, Little Baby." Released in 1974 (as a remake of a Inez and Charlie Foxx track), the song features a playful back-and-forth between Simon and Taylor, with each singer echoing the other's lines. The lyrics reference a mockingbird's ability to mimic sounds, using it as a metaphor for the promises and reassurances given to a loved one. The upbeat tempo and catchy melody, combined with the singers' charismatic performance, make "Mockingbird" a charming and enduring piece that continues to resonate with listeners. There are several species of mockingbird in the world, but in the United States, the Northern Mockingbird is by far the most common.

These songs, among many others, highlight the enduring connection between birds and music. Whether as symbols of freedom, love, or life's journey, birds continue to inspire musicians across genres and generations.

Song-Inspiring Birds

Birdorable Bushtit

The Bushtit, sometimes called the American Bushtit, is a charming little bird that often goes unnoticed due to its diminutive size and subtle coloration. Measuring up to about 4.5 inches in length, this tiny songbird can be found across a wide range of habitats in western North America, from southern Canada all the way to Central America. Despite its small stature, the Bushtit plays a big role in the ecosystems it inhabits.

Bushtits have soft, grayish-brown plumage, with lighter underparts and a slightly darker face. Some populations, particularly those in interior regions, have a darker cap, giving them a more pronounced facial contrast. The Bushtit’s small, round body and short tail make it look almost spherical when perched. 

Bushtits have several different recognized subspecies spread across North America, each with slight variations in appearance and range. While the most commonly referred to is the American Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus), ornithologists recognize at least 10 different subspecies that are grouped into three subgroups, including Pacific, Interior, and melanotis. 

Bushtit by Becky Matsubara (CC BY 2.0)

American Bushtits are social creatures, often found in large, bustling flocks that can number from a few individuals to over 50 birds. These flocks move through trees and shrubs with remarkable agility, constantly chattering and flitting about as they forage for food. Their diet consists mainly of small insects and spiders, which they glean from foliage, branches, and bark. In winter, they may also eat seeds and berries.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the American Bushtit’s life is its nesting behavior. These birds are known for their elaborate, pendulous nests, which are intricately woven from spider silk, plant fibers, and other soft materials. The nests hang from branches like small socks, with a topside entrance that provides access to the interior. Both the male and female work together to build the nest, which can take several weeks to complete. Once finished, the nest is a cozy, well-insulated structure that can protect the eggs and chicks from the elements.

Breeding in American Bushtits is highly cooperative, and very interesting. Pairs often raising two broods in a single season, but this is done with the help of additional male birds, who may or may not be related to either parent. Males and females incubate the eggs, which takes less that two weeks before the chicks hatch. During this period, and while the chicks are being cared for after hatching, all of the attendant adults who are caring for the chicks may roost together in their pendulous nest!  This cooperative breeding behavior is relatively rare among birds and highlights the strong social bonds within Bushtit flocks.

Bushtits are not particularly loud, but they have a variety of soft, high-pitched calls that they use to communicate with each other. Their calls include a mix of chips, trills, and twittering sounds, which help keep the flock together as they move through dense vegetation. They do not sing a typical song.

The Bushtit is a new addition to our Birdorable family. They belong to our Tits, Chickadees & Kinglets group, and are most closely related to the Long-tailed Tit of the Old World. 

Birdorable Bushtit Gifts

Happy 4th of July, Birdorable fans! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Today is a special day in the United States as we celebrate our nation's Independence Day. To mark this festive occasion, we've created a vibrant graphic featuring some of our favorite Birdorable birds and iconic species found across the United States. Can you spot the Northern Cardinal, the American Goldfinch, the Bald Eagle, the Blue Jay, the American Robin, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird? These vibrant birds are celebrating with us, surrounded by stars, stripes, and fireworks.

Birdorable Shareable Graphic for 4th of July / Independence Day

Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. On this day, the thirteen American colonies declared their independence from British rule, laying the foundation for the United States of America. The celebration of this historic event includes a variety of traditions such as fireworks, parades, barbecues, and concerts.

Please celebrate responsibly. Be mindful of wildlife and the environment, and the impact your festivities may have on your surroundings. If your day will involve fireworks, take special care. Avoid setting off fireworks near natural habitats, wildlife sanctuaries, or areas known for nesting birds. Try to choose fireworks that are labeled as "low noise" to admire the spectacle with less audible disturbance. And after your fireworks show, barbecue, party, parade, or other celebration, be sure to clean up trash and debris. Leave only footprints!

We hope you enjoy this special Birdorable graphic and consider sharing it with your bird-loving friends! And we hope you enjoy your Independence Day, whether you're attending a fireworks show, enjoying a backyard barbecue, or simply spending time with loved ones.

Happy birding and happy 4th of July! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸŽ‰

800th Birdorable Bird

Meet the Puerto Rican Tody: Puerto Rico's Tiny Gem

Today we're revealing a new bird, and it's a big one -- our 800th Birdorable! πŸŽ‰ Actually, it's a really SMALL one -- our newest species to join Birdorable is the Puerto Rican Tody!

Birdorable Puerto-rican Tody

The Puerto Rican Tody is a tiny gem of a bird found exclusively in Puerto Rico. Known locally as "San Pedrito" (meaning Little Saint Peter), this vibrant little bird is a delight to spot in the wild. Measuring just about 4 inches in length, the Puerto Rican Tody packs a lot of charm into its small frame.

One of the first things you'll notice about the Puerto Rican Tody is its striking coloration. It sports a bright green head and back, a white underbelly, and a vivid red throat. This colorful plumage makes it easy to spot among the dense foliage of its habitat. Despite its small size, the Puerto Rican Tody is quite bold in appearance, a feature that makes it a favorite among birdwatchers. 

The Puerto Rican Tody belongs to the Todidae family, which includes five species in total, all of which are found in the Caribbean. The species’ scientific name, Todus mexicanus, might suggest a connection to Mexico, but this is a bit of a misnomer. The Puerto Rican Tody is a true endemic species, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world.

Birdorable Puerto-rican Tody

This little bird thrives in a variety of habitats across Puerto Rico, from dense forests to more open woodland areas. It’s often seen flitting about in the understory, where it hunts for insects using a unique method known as "leaf-feeding". Prey items are found from below, and then captured on a short flight with a sweeping motion of the beak. The Puerto Rican Tody is a master insectivore, preying on a wide variety of bugs, including beetles, flies, and ants. Its diet also includes small spiders and other arthropods, making it an important part of the local ecosystem as a natural pest controller.

Puerto Rican Todies are cavity nesters, meaning they nest in holes. They dig their nests in soft soil banks; the nest-building process is a team effort, with both the male and female participating. They use their small, sharp bills to excavate a burrow. At the end of this tunnel, they create a small chamber where the female will lay her eggs, typically 2-3 per clutch. The incubation period lasts about three weeks, with both parents sharing the duty of keeping the eggs warm and later feeding the chicks. Both males and females develop brood patches to aid in incubation.

Today this little jewel of Puerto Rico joins our Birdorable family as our 800th bird! It's a tiny bird making a big debut!

Photo of Puerto Rican Tody

Puerto Rican Tody by Juanantonioortiz (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Cute Birdorable Tody Gifts

Birdorable Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the most striking and recognizable birds in North America. With its impressive size, distinctive markings, and unique behaviors, this bird is of interest to serious birdwatchers, curious nature lovers, and everyone in between.  Here are some interesting facts about the Pileated Woodpecker:

That's a Big Bird!

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the largest woodpeckers in North America. Measuring from 16 to 19 inches in length, with a wingspan of 26 to 30 inches. Its large size and striking appearance make it hard to miss in its natural habitat.

Excavation Experts

These woodpeckers are skilled excavators, using their strong, chisel-shaped bills to dig out large holes in trees. Due in part to the size of their impressive roosting and nesting cavities, they are an important keystone species in their environment. Their role as avian engineers highlights their importance in maintaining healthy forest ecosystems. Unused Pileated Woodpecker holes provide housing and shelter to other species, like Wood Ducks and American Martens.

Inspiring Appearance

This woodpecker is easily identified by its black body, white stripes running down its neck, and bright red crest. Males have a red stripe on their cheeks, while females do not, making it possible to distinguish between the sexes. The species bears a resemblance to the is-it-or-isn't-it-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker, which is/was also a very large bird with a distinctive crest. Certainly some recent alleged sightings of Ivory-billeds can be attributed to Pileated Woodpeckers seen under poor conditions. With its impressive and bold appearance, along with its boisterous call, the Pileated Woodpecker is thought to be the inspiration behind the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker

What's In A Name?

The pronunciation of "Pileated" can vary based on regional differences and personal preferences, leading to two commonly accepted pronunciations: "PIE-lee-ay-tid" and "PILL-ee-ay-tid." Both pronunciations are widely recognized and accepted among birders, ornithologists, and the general public. This acceptance helps perpetuate the use of both versions without strong pressure to conform to a single pronunciation. Do you pronounce it Pileated, or Pileated? πŸ˜‰

Flap, Flap, Glide

In flight, the Pileated Woodpecker exhibits a distinctive undulating pattern, characterized by a series of rapid wing flaps followed by a glide. This flight style, combined with their large size and striking plumage, makes them easily recognizable even from a distance.

A Wide-Ranging Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is found throughout a wide range across northern North America, from California up through Canada to the eastern and southeastern United States. They inhabit deciduous and mixed forests, often preferring areas with large, mature trees and plenty of deadwood, which provide ample foraging opportunities and nesting sites. Despite being a bird of mature forests, the Pileated Woodpecker has shown remarkable adaptability to changing environments. They can sometimes be found in suburban areas with large trees and wooded parks, demonstrating their ability to thrive in a variety of habitats.

Diet Diversity

While their primary diet consists of ants (especially carpenter ants) and beetles, Pileated Woodpeckers also consume a variety of other foods. They eat fruits, nuts, and berries, particularly in the winter when insect prey is scarce. They have also been known to visit backyard feeders, especially those offering suet.

A Popular Birdorable

The Pileated Woodpecker has been in our Birdorable family since December 5, 2011! Shop for Birdorable Pileated Woodpecker gifts for anyone who loves this bold, charismatic species.

Birdorable Pyrrhuloxia on cactus

The Pyrrhuloxia is a captivating bird found in the arid regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Known for its striking appearance and unique adaptations, the Pyrrhuloxia is a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Here are some interesting facts about this remarkable bird.

What's In a Name?

The name "Pyrrhuloxia" comes from the Greek words "pyrrhos," meaning flame-colored or red, and "loxos," meaning oblique or crooked.  These refer to the flame colors in the bird’s plumage, and their unique bill shape.  Pyrrhuloxia was formerly considered to be in its own genus, Pyrrhuloxia, but was later reclassified into the genus Cardinalis. A common nickname for the Pyrrhuloxia is Desert Cardinal.

Distinctive Looks

The Pyrrhuloxia has a striking appearance, characterized by its grayish body with vibrant red accents. Males are particularly eye-catching with their bright red face, crest, chest, and tail, while females have a more subdued coloration with touches of red. Their thick, curved, yellow bills are another key distinguishing feature.

Variable Noms

Pyrrhuloxia have a varied diet consisting of seeds, fruits, and insects. Their strong, curved bills are specially adapted to crack open tough seeds and nuts, making them efficient foragers in their harsh desert habitats. They also feed on cacti fruits and other desert vegetation. Cotton worms and cotton pest weevils are a treat -- a tasty nutritious bite for the birds, and free pest-control for cotton farmers.

Pyrrhuloxia by Andy Morffew (CC BY 2.0)

Similar Songsters

Pyrrhuloxia sing a song similar to their reddish cousins, Northern Cardinals. Pyrrhuloxia songs tend to be shorter and weaker. The Pyrrhuloxia vocal repertoire also includes a variety of whistles, chirps, and trills with a more metallic tone than cardinals. Males are particularly vocal during the breeding season, using their songs to attract mates and defend territories.

Long Live the Pyrrhuloxia

The longevity record for Pyrrhuloxia is at least 8 years and 1 month for a male bird banded in the 1980s in Arizona. Like most longevity records, this data is known from bird banding efforts by biologists.  The typical lifespan for a wild bird is typically much shorter, due to predation and environmental factors. Predators include birds of prey, snakes, and mammals such as foxes and domestic cats.

Conservation Status

The Pyrrhuloxia has a conservation status of Least Concern, though the current population is trending downward. Degradation and reduction of habitat is a factor for their continued survival.

More to Learn

The life history of the Pyrrhuloxia is understudied, and there is much more to learn about the habits and behaviors of the Desert Cardinal.  For example, these birds are non-migratory, but little is known about seasonal movements, the size of their home range, and other territory information. There is still much to learn about the Pyrrhuloxia!

Birdorable Pyrrhuloxia Gifts

Birdorable Ruby-throated Hummingbird flying

Hummingbirds are known for their extraordinary flight capabilities, including their unique ability to fly backwards. Unlike many bird-related myths, this particular belief is entirely true. Hummingbirds are indeed capable of backward flight, a remarkable skill that sets them apart from almost all other bird species. To better understand, let's look at the mechanics behind this ability and see why hummingbirds are such exceptional fliers.

The key to a hummingbird's aerial prowess lies in its wings and the way it flaps them. Unlike most birds, which primarily use up-and-down wing strokes to generate lift and thrust, hummingbirds employ a figure-eight motion with their wings. This motion allows them to produce lift on both the upstroke and downstroke, enabling them to hover in place with pinpoint accuracy. 

When a hummingbird wants to fly backwards, it simply adjusts the angle of its wings and the direction of its wingbeats. By reversing the direction of the figure-eight motion, hummingbirds can generate thrust in the opposite direction, propelling themselves backward. This adaptation is particularly useful when navigating tight spaces, such as when they are feeding on nectar from flowers or avoiding obstacles in dense foliage.

The ability to fly backwards is not the only impressive aspect of hummingbird flight. These tiny birds can also hover, fly sideways, and perform rapid, acrobatic maneuvers. Their flight muscles are incredibly powerful, making up 25-30% of their body weight, which is significantly more than the flight muscle mass of most other birds. This muscle power, combined with their rapid wingbeats—ranging up to 80 beats per second—allows hummingbirds to execute their complex flight patterns with ease.

Backward flight is crucial for hummingbirds' feeding habits. These birds primarily feed on nectar, which they extract from flowers using their long, specialized bills and extendable tongues. When feeding, hummingbirds often need to hover in front of flowers and occasionally move backward to position themselves correctly or retreat from a flower they have finished feeding from.

If you've ever watched a hummingbird feeding, you have probably seen this behavior and not even realized it, because it happens fast and naturally. The hummingbird simply zips from flower to flower (or nectar port to nectar port on a feeder), and in the process ends up moving backwards as it goes between the blossoms. This ability to maneuver with such precision is essential for ease of feeding, and thus their survival, as it enables them to efficiently exploit a wide range of floral resources.

Myth: Confirmed!

The myth that hummingbirds can fly backwards is not a myth at all but a fascinating fact. Their unique wing structure and powerful flight muscles enable them to perform a range of impressive aerial maneuvers, including backward flight. This remarkable skill is just one of the many adaptations that make hummingbirds such captivating and extraordinary creatures.

Thanks for following along for our celebration of hummingbirds here at Birdorable during Hummingbird Week, in conjunction with Pollinator Week! We hope you enjoyed the new additions to Birdorable's hummingbird family and that you learned something about these tiny feathered jewels!

Cute Birdorable Hummingbird Gifts

Birdorable Calliope Hummingbird

As our Hummingbird Week 2024 starts to wind down, we are proud to introduce the smallest breeding bird of North America to our Birdorable family-- it's the Calliope Hummingbird!

The Calliope Hummingbird is a marvel in the bird world despite its small size. Named after Calliope, the muse of epic poetry in Greek mythology, this tiny bird packs a punch with its vibrant plumage and dynamic behavior. During the breeding season, these little ones are found primarily in the western United States and parts of Canada. They winter in Mexico. The Calliope Hummingbird is the world's smallest long-distance migratory bird.

First and foremost, the Calliope Hummingbird holds the title of the smallest breeding bird in North America. Measuring up to just 3.9 inches (10cm) in length and typically weighing less than 0.1 oz (2 to 3 grams), it’s hard to believe how much energy and beauty can be contained in such a tiny package. Despite its small stature, the Calliope Hummingbird exhibits incredible flying abilities, capable of hovering in place and performing swift aerial maneuvers with ease.

One of the most striking features of the Calliope Hummingbird is its vibrant plumage, especially in males. Adult males are adorned with a striking magenta streaked gorget, or throat patch, which can appear almost iridescent in the sunlight. The rest of their body is mostly green with white underparts, creating a beautiful contrast. Females and juveniles, while less colorful, still display a delicate beauty with their green backs and subtle buffy flanks.

Calliope Hummingbird by Alan Schmierer (Public Domain)

The Calliope Hummingbird’s diet consists mainly of nectar from a variety of flowering plants. They have a particular affinity for tubular flowers, which complement their long, slender bills. In addition to nectar, they also feed on small insects and spiders, which provide essential proteins. This varied diet helps maintain their high metabolism and energy levels required for their active lifestyle.

During the breeding season, the Calliope Hummingbird showcases some fascinating behaviors. Males perform a unique courtship display to attract females, involving extremely rapid wingbeats (significantly faster than normal hovering or flying wingbeats) which create a buzzing sound. This is accompanied by the display of throat feathers. After this display, the male ascends and then performs a high-speed dive, which produces different sounds as the feathers slice through the air. The male vocalizes during this performance as well -- all to attract the attention of a potential mate.

The Calliope Hummingbird is also known for its impressive migratory behavior. Despite their small size, these birds undertake long migrations, traveling from their breeding grounds in the western United States and Canada to their wintering grounds in Mexico. This journey can span over 5,000 miles round trip!

The Calliope Hummingbird is a tiny bird with an impressive presence. Its vibrant colors, dynamic behaviors, and impressive migratory feats make it a fascinating subject for bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike. The Calliope Hummingbird joins Birdorable as our 799th bird!

Birdorable's Calliope Hummingbird Swag

Birdorable Violet Sabrewing

Our Birdorable Hummingbird Week 2024 continues today with a new species added to our flock: it's the Violet Sabrewing!

The Violet Sabrewing is one of the largest and most stunning hummingbirds in the Americas. This vibrant bird is a spectacle with its iridescent plumage and dynamic behavior. Found primarily in the tropical regions of Central America, the Violet Sabrewing captures the fascination of bird enthusiasts with its striking appearance and unique characteristics. 

One of the most distinctive feature of the Violet Sabrewing is its vivid plumage. Adult males are particularly striking with their deep violet-blue feathers covering most of their bodies. They have a distinctive white spot behind their eyes and a curved bill that is adapted to feed on nectar. Females are slightly less colorful, with green upperparts and a mix of violet and white on their underparts. This sexual dimorphism is typical in many hummingbird species and plays a significant role in their mating rituals.

Violet Sabrewing by ryanacandee (CC BY 2.0)

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Violet Sabrewing is its size. This bird is big -- for a hummingbird! It is one of the largest species of hummingbirds, measuring up to 5.9 inches (nearly 15cm) in length. Even at this size, they're still hummers, and these hummingbirds are incredibly agile and can perform impressive aerial maneuvers. Their powerful wings allow them to hover in place while feeding and even fly backward, showcasing their remarkable flight capabilities.

The diet of the Violet Sabrewing is primarily composed of nectar from a variety of flowering plants. They have a preference for flowers with long corollas, which match their long, curved bills. In addition to nectar, they also consume small insects and spiders, which provide essential proteins, especially during the breeding season. This diet helps sustain their high energy levels and supports that active hummingbird lifestyle!

Violet Sabrewings are typically found in humid tropical forests, often at elevations ranging from 1,600 - 6,600 feet (500 to 2,000 meters). They prefer habitats with abundant flowering plants, naturally, which provide a consistent food source for these nectar-lovers. These hummingbirds are also known to visit gardens and feeders, where they can be observed up close, much to the delight of bird watchers.

The conservation status of the Violet Sabrewing is currently classified as "Least Concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), though the population is thought to be decreasing. Habitat loss due to deforestation and human encroachment poses a significant threat to their population, which is currently large and widely distributed. 

The Violet Sabrewing hummingbird joins our avian family and becomes our 798th Birdorable bird! Tune in tomorrow as we wrap up Hummingbird Week (and reveal one more new hummer!).

Violet Sabrewing Gifts from Birdorable

Hummingbird Week 2024

Allen's Hummingbird: A Jewel of the California Coast

Birdorable Allen's Hummingbird

Today for our Hummingbird Week new bird reveal, we're sharing the Birdorable Allen's Hummingbird

The Allen's Hummingbird is a small, captivating bird, known for its dazzling colors and remarkable agility. This hummingbird breeds along coastal regions of California and parts of southern Oregon. Despite its petite size, the Allen's Hummingbird boasts a vibrant personality and an array of interesting characteristics that make it a bird-lover's favorite. 

One of the most striking features of the Allen's Hummingbird is its brilliant plumage. Adult males are particularly eye-catching with their bright orange-red throat, known as a gorget, and a green back. Their underparts are mostly orange, adding to their fiery appearance. Females and immature males are less vividly colored, sporting greenish-brown backs and white underparts with a sprinkling of rusty hues. This sexual dimorphism is quite common among hummingbirds and plays a role in courtship and mating.

Speaking of courtship, the Allen's Hummingbird has a unique and elaborate display routines to attract mates. During the breeding season, males perform two different types of dramatic displays to attract mates. Shuttle displays involve intimate fly-bys with gorgets flared for maximum visual impact, along with a loud accompanying sound produced by fluttering wings. Dive displays include high-speed fly-bys. These displays are not just about showing off their flying skills, but also about demonstrating their fitness and health to potential mates. The displays may even be directed at other birds -- not just potential mates. The combination of visual and auditory signals makes for an interesting method of attracting attention!

The diet of the Allen's Hummingbird primarily consists of nectar from various flowering plants, which provides them with the energy needed for their high metabolism and active lifestyle.  Additionally, they consume small insects and spiders, which supply essential proteins. This diet not only sustains their energetic behavior but also helps them during breeding season, when nutritional needs are higher.

The Allen's Hummingbird is also known for its migratory behavior. While some populations are year-round residents in southern California, especially on off-shore islands, others migrate to Mexico during the winter months. This migration is relatively short compared to other bird species. The coastal habitats they favor provide abundant food resources and suitable nesting sites, making these areas critical for their life cycle.

Allen's Hummingbird by Alan Schmierer (Public Domain)

Although their conservation status is considered to be "Least Concern", Allen's Hummingbirds face several environmental threats. Habitat loss due to urbanization and agriculture is a significant concern, as it reduces the availability of their preferred nesting and feeding sites. Climate change also poses a threat, potentially altering the timing of flower blooming and insect availability, which can affect their food sources. Human activity has been beneficial to the non-migratory population, where year-round blooming trees have been planted.

The Allen's Hummingbird is a remarkable bird that enchants with its vivid colors, agile flight, and fascinating behaviors. This species joins our hummingbird family and becomes the 797th Birdorable!

Birdorable Allen's Hummingbird Swag