Most people know a hummingbird when they see one, but did you know that male and female hummingbirds look different? Do you know how to tell if a hummingbird is male or female? If you answered no to either of those questions, this article is for you!
In this article by Seabirdsanctuary, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about the differences in hummingbird gender. Read on for information on the differences in hummingbird male and female:
So let’s get learning!
Male Vs Female Hummingbirds: Differences In Markings
One of the first things that you’ll notice when comparing male and female hummingbirds is that the males tend to have much bolder markings. Typically, the most obvious features to look out for when identifying a male hummingbird are the markings on its throat and head.
Many of the North American hummingbirds are named after markings that are only visible on adult males. To illustrate this point, you’ll find that the female Black-chinned Hummingbird does not have a black chin, and female Blue-throated hummingbirds don’t have blue throats!
The result is that most female hummingbirds look a lot plainer overall, which can make identification pretty tricky. Knowing which types of hummingbirds occur in your area, and when they are likely to be around is a huge help in narrowing down the list to help you identify a female hummingbird.
If you live in the American Northeast for example, and you spot a hummingbird, you can be pretty sure it’s a Ruby-throated Hummingbird or a Rufous Hummingbird, because they are the only species that are normally present in the area.
Female American Hummingbirds Don’t Have Gorgets
The brightly colored markings on the throats of male hummingbirds are known as gorgets. An interesting fact about hummingbird colors is that they are only really visible when the sunlight reflects off them at the right angle. The effect is that the same bird can look like a gleaming jewel one second and then colorless the next!
The function of the gorget is for displaying to the females, who clearly like shiny things. Because the gorgets of different hummingbird species are different shapes and colors, this is also thought to assist females in recognizing males of their own species.
What Do Juvenile Hummingbirds Look Like?
It can be very difficult to tell the gender of young hummingbirds out in the field. This is because both Immature male and female hummingbirds can look very similar to adult females. As they mature, young males will begin to develop their bold color and gorgets to help identify themselves.
Male Vs Female Hummingbirds: Color Differences
Apart from the differences in markings, male hummingbirds are far more colorful overall. Female hummingbirds do have some color, of course, it’s just a lot more subtle.
If you watch them outside at your hummingbird feeders or take a look at some female hummingbird pictures, you’ll notice that they almost all have lovely green backs. This color often extends up onto the back of the head and shines in the sunlight.
There are definitely some advantages to having dull colors. Bright colors and markings can attract predators, which is especially dangerous because the females must incubate the eggs and feed the chicks.
Why Do Male Hummingbirds Have Such Bright Colors?
In good light, male hummingbirds have incredible plumage that catches and reflects light, displaying gorgeous iridescent hues of a variety of colors.
But why would a male hummingbird have bright shining feathers, especially when drawing too much attention can easily attract predators? This is a risk that the males of many bird species have to take in order to pass on their genes! The bright colors are vital for attracting females, and showing off their strength to other males.
Some Female Hummingbirds Do Have Colorful Markings
Interestingly, scientists have figured out that not all hummingbirds that have bright colors are males. It turns out that being a female hummingbird can be a pretty rough deal. The males aren’t always that friendly and tend to give the females a little too much attention at times.
So how do the females avoid unwanted attention? Female White-necked Jacobins (A type of tropical Hummingbird) have adapted to displaying male coloration to go by unnoticed!
Male vs Female Hummingbird Size
Usually, female hummingbirds are slightly larger than males, although this isn’t really something that can be used visually to tell the difference. Hummingbird size does vary between the different species, but again, this isn’t a very reliable way of identifying the different species.
The largest of the North American hummers is the Blue-throated Mountain-gem. They are still tiny birds by all accounts, tipping the scales at just 5/16 oz and measuring 5 inches in length. Most of the North American hummingbirds are much smaller though, weighing around 3/32 to 7/32oz and measuring 3-4 inches in length.
Male Vs Female Hummingbirds: Behavioral Clues
Apart from just differences in the way they look, it is possible to tell the difference between male and female hummers by watching the way they act. Let’s take a look at some of the most important behavioral differences between the sexes.
When it comes to parenting, male hummingbirds aren’t exactly model fathers. In fact, the male disappears after mating and leaves all the hard work to the female! She alone builds the nest, which is an expertly constructed bowl of natural materials like plant fibers, moss, and spider web silk.
Once built, she must get on with the business of incubating the eggs, which usually takes about 2 weeks. Once the eggs have hatched, she’ll need to care for the baby hummingbirds for another 3 weeks or so until they are ready to leave the nest.
Hummingbird nests aren’t often seen because they are usually expertly hidden and camouflaged, but if you are lucky enough to spot a hummer building or sitting on a nest, you can bet that it’s a female!
Hummingbirds have a lot of heart for such small birds. Any hummingbird, male or female can show aggressive behavior. Territorial aggression is a natural behavior for these birds because it can be really important to guard scarce resources like nectar-filled flowers.
You’ll often see this behavior at your hummingbird feeders, even though there’s usually more than enough nectar to go around! It is usually the male hummingbirds that tend to be more aggressive around food sources. Females hummers are more likely to show off their fiery attitudes while defending their nest sites.
Male hummingbirds perform incredibly elaborate courtship displays to impress the females. This often involves more than just showing off their colorful gorgets and markings. Male hummingbirds will also make amazing, acrobatic flights with high ascents and death-defying dives, all to impress the females.
During these displays, males also use sound to enhance the effect. Interestingly, the sounds produced are not only vocal. Air rushing over his feathers is also harnessed to add to the romance.
Hummingbirds are sexually dimorphic birds. The simple reason for this is because the female hummingbird does not need to show off to get attention from the males. Getting a clear look at a still hummingbird is easiest if you have a good set of binoculars and some quality hummingbird feeders with perches where the birds can rest.
To help you remember the most important facts, here’s a quick summary of the most obvious differences between the hummingbird genders.
- Female hummingbirds have mostly green colored feathers on the back
- They have mostly plain-colored throats with few markings
- They are usually slightly larger than the males
- They build the nest and raise the chicks
- They are more aggressive around nest sites
- Male hummingbirds are a lot more colorful than females
- They have bolder markings and often have brilliant patches of colorful feathers under their throats known as gorgets
- They are slightly smaller than the females
- They are more aggressive around mating areas and food resources
Do female hummingbirds have red throats?
Usually, female hummingbirds do not have red throats. In the United States, only the females of Anna’s and the Rufous Hummingbirds have small reddish markings on their throats. Females of the other hummingbird species have dirty white throats.
Are ruby-throated hummingbirds males?
Strangely enough, not all Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have red throats. In fact, the female Ruby-throated hummingbird does not have a ruby-throat at all. I suppose you could say that all Ruby-throated Hummingbirds with ruby-throats are males!
Do all male hummingbirds have red throats?
Throat color varies between the different hummingbird species. Amazingly, there are over 300 different species of hummingbirds in the world! Of the American types, throat color varies from red through blue, green, black, white, pink, or purple.
Well, identifying different hummingbird females can be pretty tricky, but telling the males from the females doesn’t have to be. After reading this article, you should have no trouble judging the sex of the hummers at your feeders. Happy birdwatching!