Alaska may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of hummingbirds, but did you know that these tiny and colorful birds do in fact visit the state? In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the different types of hummingbirds that have been spotted in Alaska, their habitats, behaviors, and conservation status.
From the rare and beautiful Rufous Hummingbird to the elusive Calliope Hummingbird, we’ll explore the fascinating world of these tiny creatures and their roles in Alaska’s ecosystems. We’ll also provide tips on how to spot and identify hummingbirds in the wild, as well as resources for further reading and exploration.
Whether you’re an experienced birdwatcher, a nature lover, or simply curious about the wildlife in your area, we invite you to join us on a journey to discover the amazing hummingbirds of Alaska.
4 Types of Hummingbirds in Alaska
- Anna’s Hummingbird
- Rufous Hummingbird
- Calliope Hummingbird
- Costa’s Hummingbird
- Scientific name: Calypte anna
- Lifespan: Up to 10 years in the wild
- Weight: 3.5 to 6 grams
- Size: 9 to 11 cm (3.5 to 4.3 inches) in length, with a wingspan of 12 to 13 cm (4.7 to 5.1 inches)
- Origin: Found on the western coast of North America, from southern Alaska to Baja California
Little Anna’s Hummingbirds are mostly green and grey in color. The female’s neck is grey with spots of red whereas the male’s head and throat are iridescent reddish-pink.
Anna’s Hummingbird is the most common non-migratory hummingbird along the Pacific Coast. The males do a stunning dive performance during mating, climbing as high as 130 feet in the air before plummeting back to the earth while making a loud noise with their tail feathers.
While they may also be found in scrub and savannah, Anna’s hummingbirds prefer the backyards and parks with, vibrant flowers and nectar feeders.
The nests of Anna’s hummingbirds are located high in trees, between 6 and 20 feet above, and they often have two to three broods each year.
- Scientific name: Selasphorus rufus
- Lifespan: 3 to 5 years in the wild
- Weight: 2.7 to 4.3 grams
- Size: 7 to 9 cm (2.8 to 3.5 inches) in length, with a wingspan of 11 cm (4.3 inches)
- Origin: Found in western North America, from Alaska to Mexico
Rufous Hummingbirds are bright orange on the back and belly, have a white patch below the neck, and have an iridescent red throat. The females have a pale belly and a back that is greenish-brown and rusty in color.
As compared to their size, rufous hummingbirds have one of the longest migration routes, covering up to 4000 kilometers on each trip. They move south to Mexico and the Gulf Coast to spend the winter after breeding in northwest Alaska.
In the spring, they go north along the Pacific Coast, and in the late summer and autumn, they pass past the Rocky Mountains.
The main sources of food for rufous hummingbirds are nectar from vibrant tubular flowers and insects including gnats, midges, and flies. They use soft plant down and spider webs to keep their nest together as they make it high up in the trees. They lay two or three very little, white eggs that are 0.5 in (1.3 cm) long.
They are quite hostile and will attack any other hummingbirds that appear, even bigger ones or those who are resident during migration. They won’t stay around for very long during migration and will often chase off other hummingbirds if they have the opportunity. They inhabit mountain meadows and, during the winter, woodlands, and woods.
- Scientific name: Selasphorus calliope
- Lifespan: 3 to 5 years in the wild
- Weight: 2 to 2.5 grams
- Size: 7 to 8 cm (2.8 to 3.1 inches) in length, with a wingspan of 11 cm (4.3 inches)
- Origin: Found in western North America, from southern Canada to Mexico
The Calliope Hummingbird, the tiniest bird in America with the size of a ping pong ball, travels more than 5000 miles annually from Mexico to Canada and back. Moreover, they fight valiantly to protect their territory and even pursue Red-tailed Hawks.
Male Calliope Hummingbirds have shiny green backs and sides, brilliant magenta throats (known as the gorget), and black tails. The underside of females is more pinkish-white than white, unlike that of males, who have iridescent throats.
They migrate in spring from the Pacific Coast to breeding grounds in California, Colorado, and up to northern states and Canada, They migrate pretty early and arrive between the middle of April and the beginning of May.
Their nests are often found on evergreen trees and may be reused or built over an older nest.
- Scientific name: Calypte costae
- Lifespan: Up to 5 years in the wild
- Weight: 3 to 4 grams
- Size: 8 to 10 cm (3.1 to 3.9 inches) in length, with a wingspan of 12 to 13 cm (4.7 to 5.1 inches)
- Origin: Found in the southwestern United States and Mexico, primarily in desert and scrubland habitats.
Costa’s Hummingbirds are mostly desert-dwelling hummingbirds with eye-catching, outward-curving purple neck patches and purple crowns. Their bellies are white with green coloration on the sides, and their backs are green. Female Costa’s Hummingbirds have a more white belly and lack the purple tint.
Baja California, southern California, and southwestern Arizona are home to Costa’s Hummingbirds. Also, throughout the winter, they go between Mexico’s Pacific Coast and Arizona, the southern reaches of Nevada Utah, and California for breeding.
Costa’s Hummingbirds live in desert scrub, chaparral, and deciduous forests, and they frequent a wide variety of plant types. They may have up to two broods a year and build their nests in bushes between three and seven feet from the ground.
while Alaska may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of hummingbirds, these tiny and colorful birds do in fact make an appearance in the state. With a bit of luck and careful observation, birdwatchers can spot species such as the Rufous Hummingbird and the Calliope Hummingbird during the summer months. The state’s vast and varied landscapes offer unique opportunities to observe these fascinating creatures, whether in gardens and parks or in the wilds of Alaska’s stunning natural areas. As with all birdwatching, it’s important to approach hummingbirds with care and respect, observing them from a safe and appropriate distance to avoid disturbing their natural behavior. With the right preparation and a keen eye, experiencing the beauty and grace of hummingbirds in Alaska can be an unforgettable experience.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Are there hummingbirds in Alaska?
A: Yes, there are hummingbirds that can be found in Alaska. The most common species is the Rufous Hummingbird, which migrates to Alaska during the summer months to breed before returning to its wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America.
Q: When do hummingbirds arrive in Alaska?
A: Rufous Hummingbirds typically arrive in Alaska in late April or early May and can be seen throughout the summer months. However, exact arrival dates can vary depending on migration routes and weather patterns.
Q: How can I attract hummingbirds to my yard in Alaska?
A: Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly colored flowers, especially those with tubular shapes that allow them to easily feed on nectar. You can also hang hummingbird feeders filled with a mixture of water and sugar (4 parts water to 1 part sugar) to supplement their nectar intake.
Q: What is the best time of day to see hummingbirds in Alaska?
A: Hummingbirds are most active during the early morning and late afternoon hours when temperatures are cooler and nectar sources are abundant. However, they can be seen throughout the day as they search for food.
Q: How can I help protect hummingbirds in Alaska?
A: You can help protect hummingbirds by providing habitat with plenty of nectar-rich flowers, avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides in your yard, and keeping your hummingbird feeders clean and free of mold. You can also support conservation efforts by donating to organizations that protect hummingbirds and their habitats