The Allen’s hummingbird is frequently found in central Mexico and the western coast of California and southern Oregon.
These birds are often mistaken as rufous hummingbirds, but there are noticeable differences with a closer look.
This article provides you with a detailed look with photos of this beautiful, coppery-green hummingbird.
Scientific name: Selasphorus sasin
Length: 3.5 inches
Wingspan: 4.3 inches
Weight: 0.11 ounces
The Allen’s Hummingbird is a relative of the rufous hummingbird, but has an even more restricted range, nesting mostly in California.
Female and juvenile Allen’s hummingbirds are nearly identical to rufous females. Allen’s are known for their copper-bronze (rufous) and orange feathers.
Allen’s hummingbird males have compact and stocky bodies.
Their throat (gorget) is a vibrant orange-red and the underbelly is copper-colored. They have bronze-green feathers on their backs.
Their black, red-tipped tail feathers are narrow when spread apart.
Female Allen’s hummingbirds are small and compact with dulled metallic green backs.
They have copper flanks and a subtle copper-toned eyebrow. They may have brown-bronze, or brown-orange spotting on the throat.
Juveniles look like females until they shed their duller plumage as they mature.
Males and females defend territories, nesting sites, and nectar sources.
They produce “tick” calls while feeding and high-pitched “chatters” when defending areas.
Allen’s hummingbirds are known to chase other hummingbirds away from hummingbird feeders and nectar sources.
Males court females with a pendulum-like flight display as well as threaten other species.
The small and restricted range of Allen’s hummingbirds extends from their winter grounds in central Mexico and southern California to breeding grounds along coastal California to southern Oregon.
Some Allen’s hummingbirds are permanent residents in parts of Los Angeles, CA, and the Channel Islands, CA.
Allen’s hummingbirds eat primarily nectar and insects.
They favor red and tubular flowers such as red columbine, paintbrush, red monkey flower, gooseberry, penstemon, manzanita, and scarlet sage.
Allen’s hummingbirds typically hover while feeding, pushing their bill deep into blooms. At hummingbird feeders with sugar water, they hover or perch to drink.
To catch insects, Allen’s hummingbirds fly out and catch them on the wing or pluck them from foliage. They also eat insects caught in spider webs.
Their breeding habitats are typically in coastal forest areas with chaparral and scrubs. They may also breed in semi-open areas with oak woods, streamside groves, and wooded suburban areas such as parks.
Males spend the majority of their time perched on exposed branches in scrub and chaparral areas to watch over their territory.
Females will come to breed with males in this territory but then spend the majority of their time in protective thickets and wooded areas while raising the young.
Wintering habitats are often in the foothills and montane forests of Mexico, or along pine-oak forest edges with scrubby, flower-filled clearings.
Male Allen’s hummingbirds display a pendant J-shaped pattern, by flying high, diving, and curving to court females. He moves side to side in front of her, fans out his tail, and ruffles his neck feathers.
If a female accepts a male’s courtship they mate and she begins building a nest.
Males mate with more than one female in their territory.
Nesting & Offspring
Cup-shaped nests are typically built low in a tree or shrub on a diagonal or horizontal branch, but range from 2 to 50 feet high.
The female builds a nest of moss and plant fibers, held together with spider webs. She lines it with downy plant materials. The outside is camouflaged with lichen.
The babies leave on their first flight about 22 to 25 days later.
Allen’s hummingbirds primarily stay on the coastal land of California and southern Oregon during the breeding seasons.
Late in the summer, they migrate south to central Mexico or southern California for the winter. Some Allen’s hummingbirds are permanent residents in Los Angeles, CA, and the Channel Islands, CA.
When hummingbirds travel back to their breeding grounds, they typically leave sometime in February or March.
This is earlier than many other birds, but Allen’s hummingbirds feast on the nectar of early blooms from winter rains along the coast.
The Allen’s hummingbird has unfortunately shown a steady decline in its population over the past few decades, making it a species of concern.
Since they depend on a narrow strip of coastal land, urban and land development is negatively impacting their livelihood.
How To Attract Allen’s Hummingbirds
You may spot Allen’s hummingbirds on the tops of shrubs surveying the land or hear their buzzing wings or vocal tics.
If you live in this hummingbird’s range, setting up a hummingbird feeder with homemade nectar is a great way to entice them to your yard.
Fun Facts About The Allen’s Hummingbird
- The Allen’s hummingbird is named after Charles Andrew Allen, who first identified the bird in 1879 in California.
- There are 2 subspecies of Allen’s hummingbirds: Selasphorus sasin sasin which tends to migrate to Mexico for the winter and Selasphorus sasin, a permanent resident in southern California.
- When it is cold, Allen’s hummingbirds tuck their feet up when flying to keep them warm. When it is hot, they let them dangle down to cool off.