What is Allen’s Hummingbird?
Allen’s Hummingbird is a small species of hummingbird native to North America. Native to the western coast of the United States, the species is distributed in woodlands, meadows, and coastal ranges from Oregon to Baja California.
The species is aptly named after Charles A. Allen, the first person to identify it in 1923. A remarkable hummingbird, this species has a unique and striking appearance. As a member of the Trochilidae family, Allen’s Hummingbird features colorful and vibrant plumage, a slender and long beak, and a characteristic buzzing sound when in flight.
Identifying Allen’s Hummingbird
Allen’s Hummingbird is a medium-sized hummingbird and can be identified by its deep red head and neck, and its green back and wings. The species has a deeply forked tail and a long and slender beak. Males of the species feature a deeper, more conspicuous red on their heads, necks, and back, while females of the species are generally duller with a paler and grayer toned head.
The species is fairly small, measuring around 3.2 to 3.9 inches (8 to 10 cm) in length. The most defining and notable feature of Allen’s Hummingbird is its ability to make a loud, high-pitched buzz when in flight. The species utilizes its unique sound to attract mates and to deter competing hummingbirds.
Behavior and Habitat
Allen’s Hummingbird is generally found in woodlands, meadows, and coastal ranges of Oregon, California and Baja California. The species can also be found in backyards, parks and gardens, and is often seen hovering around the nectar-rich flowerbeds and feeders.
The species is usually quite solitary in nature; rarely seen in flocks or fluttering around in large groups during migration. They can also be quite shy and wary of humans. Generally seen alone, these hummingbirds will only associate with other hummingbirds to feed or to mate during breeding season.
Diet and Feeding
Allen’s Hummingbird feeds primarily on nectar from flowers, though they can also feed on small insects. To feed, the hummingbirds dart their beaks into the flowers and lick up the nectar with their long tongues. They also consume small insects, such as aphids and small spiders, to supplement their diets.
The species has a unique relationship with the “flower of love” or Oenothera californica, a deep red flower found in its native habitats. During the mating season, these hummingbirds make exclusive use of Oenothera californica for their courtship rituals.
In fall, Allen’s Hummingbirds tend to undertake a long-distance migration as they flock to breeding grounds in California and Baja California. The species migrates mainly by day and night and may take several weeks to make the journey. During its migration, the species will often pause at stopover points to feed and rest.
It is believed that the hummingbirds undertake a northern migration in spring before breeding, returning to the areas in which they spent the winter months in their southern range.
Breeding and Reproduction
Allen’s Hummingbirds mainly breed during early spring in the west coast of California, as well as in Baja California. During mating season, the males of the species display an impressive courtship ritual, hovering and zipping around the female in a brightly red-colored courtship display. They will also make loud buzzing sounds in the process of trying to woo a mate.
The species have a relatively strong competitive drive and will actively defend a breeding territory if threatened. The female Allen’s Hummingbird builds a nest in the form of a small cup; usually placed in the safe confines of a small tree or shrub. The nest is usually made from plant fibers, horse hair, and animal down, and is camouflaged with bits of lichen.
The female lays two small, white eggs which she incubates for two weeks. The young can be heard cheeping as soon as three days after hatching, signaling the start of the species’ post-hatching development. The young hummingbirds fledge after a few weeks and join their parents in search of food.
Threats and Conservation
The species is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List and is considered one of the most successful and abundant hummingbird species in the world. However, habitat destruction, degradation, and disturbances pose significant threats to the species.
The species has lost large amounts of its native habitat due to urban development and intensive agriculture activities, especially in the western coast of the United States. If left unchecked, these activities could further threaten the species’ population in the future.
To minimize these threats and to promote conservation efforts for the species, a number of programs have been developed in recent years. Chief among these is the Allen’s Hummingbird Capture and Monitoring Program, which collects and monitors data of the species’ population and movements. The program plays an important role in helping to conserve and protect this unique species.
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