Feeding Habits

Hummingbirds can be attracted either by planting flowers that they feed upon or by putting out a feeder. Some of the many garden plants that attract hummers include:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Monarda
  • Nicotinia
  • Penstemons
  • Petunia
  • Salvias
  • Trumpet Vine

The proper mix for hummingbird feeders is one part of white sugar to four parts of water; a stronger sugar mix can cause liver damage. Bring the sugar water to a boil to sterilize it and let it cool before putting it out for the birds.

Rufous Hummingbirds

Of the four species of hummingbirds that regularly occur in Washington State, the one most commonly seen locally is the Rufous Hummingbird. These aggressive birds will buzz any creature that enters their territory as well as chase all other hummingbirds away from bird feeders that they have claimed. While female hummingbirds are difficult to identify as to species the males are all quite distinctive. The word "rufous" is Latin for red and this hummingbird is a reddish-brown bird with an orange-red throat patch (gorget). They breed along the West Coast from Southern Oregon to as far north as Southeast Alaska and winter in the Yucatan in Mexico.

Anna's Hummingbirds

The second most common hummingbird in the Clark County is a fairly recent arrival having only been in the Northwest for about 30 years. Anna's Hummingbirds spread here from their original range in California after fires destroyed their habitat. Male Anna's Hummingbirds are green bodied with a rose-red head and throat, with the color extending a short distance onto the sides of their neck. These non-migratory hummingbirds account for most of the local winter reports of hummingbirds and are now regularly seen as far north as the Vancouver Island area of British Columbia.

Black-Chinned Hummingbirds & Calliope Hummingbirds

The other two species of hummingbirds commonly found in Washington supposedly only breed east of the Cascades. They are occasionally seen at feeders in Clark County during migration, and those birds were thought to be individuals that had accidentally wandered down the Gorge. Both species have been seen recently on Silver Star Mountain during the months of May and June, which suggests that we may have local breeding populations.

The Black-chinned Hummingbird male has a metallic green body and when viewed in good light a purple band can be seen on the lower border of its black throat. They winter in all of Mexico except the southernmost areas and the Yucatan.

The smallest North American bird is the Calliope Hummingbird; the male has a throat pattern of raised purplish-red stripes on a white background giving it a peppermint candy appearance. They are also the smallest long distance migrant bird species with individuals traveling as far as 5,600 miles in a year between their breeding grounds and their wintering areas in South America.

Local Contact

I would appreciate immediate reports of any other species of hummingbird at your feeder for confirmation of identification, and so photos can be obtained if possible.