The lush state of Tennessee is known for its breathtaking sights. It boasts of the famous Appalachian mountains, the historic Mississippi River, and the world-famous Smoky mountains. Due to its favorable location, it witnesses a temperate yet subtropical climate. The magic of this culminates in the Spring season.
This season also brings in the bi-annual entry of the iridescent yet voracious breed of the famous hummingbird. Out of the nearly 350 varieties, six are in Tennessee. One of which is endemic, the other five visit for nesting and wintering purposes.
What makes these birds an irresistible delight among bird lovers and ornithologists from around the world? Let us find out as we attempt to study 6 of its species.
- Scientific name -Archilochus colubris
- Both sexes-Length: 2.8–3.5 in (7–9 cm)
- Male Weight- 3.4 g (0.12 oz)
- Female weight-3.8 g (0.13 oz).
- Both sexes-Wingspan- 3.1–4.3 in (8–11 cm)
- Conservation-Low concern
The Ruby-throated hummingbird is the most popular bird of its species. The gorgeous red throat of the male resembles the Ruby gemstone. The male has a black mask, an emerald-colored back, and a forked tongue. The female has buffy flanks, a short tail with white tips on her outer feathers. Even though these birds are about 3 inches long, they double their body weight, completing nearly 600 miles in one flight. They arrive at their mating ground by early April. They usually depart in winter, migrating through parts of Tennessee to reach the warmer shores of Mexico.
They usually habitat in the East pine forests of Central America or the deciduous range of southeast Canada. One can see them glimmering about in small shrubs of suburban towns where the female species are sole caretakers of their young ones. Due to their distant nature, the males usually engage in polygamous behavior. The male entices the female through squawks and his side-to-side flight displays, where they land close to their mate with a tik-tik mating or territorial sound.
These birds are sexually dimorphic. On closer observation, the female appears smaller than the male species. The Juvenile female species resembles the male through her red gorget. Due to their tiny feet, they shuffle on land. They are also scientifically identified as the Apodiformes. With a wing speed of nearly 50–53 flaps per second, one can see them almost turn invisible as they cross the Gulf of Mexico, migrating between their breeding and wintering grounds.
- Scientific name -Selasphorus Rufus
- Both sexes-Approximate length: 2.8–3.5 in (7–9 cm)
- Both sexes-Approximate weight-0.1–0.2 oz (2–5 g)
- Both sexes-Approximate wingspan-4.3 in (11 cm)
The Rufous Hummingbird is the most common visitor of central Tennessee. The male has a glossy orange-red throat and is often confused with the native species of the Ruby-throated hummingbird. The Ruby-throated male sports a forked tongue as opposed to the pointed tongue of the Petite Rufous hummingbird. The female has a whitish speckled throat, straight bill, and white-tipped tail feathers.
Even though the Rufous is about 3 inches, it is known for its ferocious territorial skills, fighting off rodents and other birds from its territory. The adult male has a slightly shorter wingspan as compared to the female. They take advantage of this and fly at faster frequencies covering a large expanse of land. The male usually guards and feeds on lush terrains of flowers while the female darts back and forth through sparsely lush land.
The bird has a wingbeat of nearly 52–62 beats per second. They migrate almost 4000 miles from the Northern regions of British Columbia to the hotter terrains of South Mexico. It can complete a clockwise circuit of North-Western America, flying with ease between the East and West coast.
What makes this species versatile is its enhanced spatial memory to remember locations of sugary nectar. It can recall its previous migratory path with ease. They are gifted with speed and agility as they can feed on nearly 1,000 flowers in a short period.
- Scientific name-Selasphorus sasin
- Both sexes-Approximate length-3.5 in (9 cm)
- Both sexes-Approximate weight-0.1–0.1 oz (2–4 g)
- Both sexes-Approximate wingspan-4.3 in (11 cm)
Allen’s hummingbirds occasionally nest in Coastal California, fleeing to parts of Tennessee and Mexico during winter. Out of the two subsets, the smaller one (Selasphorus sasin) migrates to Mexico, while the other (S. s. Sedentarius) remains in California throughout the year.
The adult male is small with a coppery orange tail, an eye patch, and a glimmering back. The female species is a compact bird with a dull metallic green back and pale coppery flanks.
A signature feature of this bird is the red-orange pearl-like structures that glisten around the throat. One can confuse them with the Rufous hummingbird. The distinguishing feature is its back. Allen’s hummingbird usually has a greenish back. The Rufous Hummingbird has a coppery-brown back.
The male species usually attracts its male by flying almost 100 feet into the air sporting two flying patterns. The side-to-side shuffle leads to the trilling of wings that attract its mate. The pendulum flight is another mating display that causes the bird to stutter back and forth, producing a sharp trilling sound on landing. While the male sits perched on the coastal branch, protecting his territory, the female heads to the forests to raise the young in walnut-shaped nests made from willows and silken threads.
To protect themselves from the cold, they usually tuck their feet closer to their bellies, providing warmth for their flight. Their feet fall free when temperatures soar, producing a reverse effect during their commute.
- Scientific name-Stellula calliope
- Both sexes- Approximate length-3.1–3.5 in (8–9 cm)
- Both sexes-Approximate weight -0.1–0.1 oz (2.3–3.4 g)
- Both sexes-Approximate wingspan -4.1–4.3 in (10.5–11 cm)
The Calliope hummingbirds are star-like glittering birds that derive their inspiration from the Goddess of beauty Calliope. They are the smallest long-distance birds who are native to parts of Central America. They are known to make oval flights between the Pacific springs of the North and the wintering grounds in parts of Tennessee, Florida, and Southern Mexico. They typically travel nearly 5000 miles, which causes their metabolic rate to increase 16 times rest level.
The male has a hunched posture, dark tail, greenish back with magenta rays around his throat. The female species has a pinkish underpart on her flanks, short wings, and a bronzed-green back.
The male is known for his territorial nature and usually arrives before the female species for demarcating his territory. They are also known to migrate immediately on mating. They feed and enjoy the early bloom of the Wildflower lush found in North West America.
The male is known for his semi-circular dive and flaps his wings nearly 95 times a second to create a loud buzzing sound. It has three independent feathers that work on a high frequency. The sounds produced by their burst have a message for its potential mate.
- Scientific name-Stellula calliope
- Both sexes- Approximate length-3.9 in (10 cm)
- Both sexes-Approximate weight -0.1–0.2 oz (3–6 g)
- Both sexes-Approximate wingspan — 4.7 in (12 cm)
- Conservation-least concern
Anna’s hummingbirds are stocky birds that boast of a long yet dense rose-pink gorget. The female sports a metallic green body with a pale line over the eye. The male sports a straight bill, greyish underpart, and a bronze-green back. The color may vary at certain angles appearing to be black instead of green in low light.
These birds are known to breed in parts of North America. They are also known to expand their breeding territories to new locations due to local attempts of placing bird feeders in non-native lands of Central America. The male presents an airshow of flying nearly 130 feet into the air. His mating call on landing sounds like a metallic chee-chee noise, caused mostly by the burst of their tail feathers.
These birds reside in parks and bird feeders. They eat flying insects through their long extendable tongue. They move their bodies 55 times while flying to free their bodies of rain and pollen. They also exhibit a high body temperature of nearly 107 degrees Fahrenheit, which they reduce from time to time through a temperature reduction mechanism known as Torpor.
Due to their glimmery and enigmatic appearance, these birds have been an intrinsic part of Nvajo tradition and myth folklores. The early Europeans that reached America in the early Fifteenth Century have also included them in their fascinating travel stories.
- Scientific name-Archilochus alexandri
- Both sexes- Approximate length-3.5 in (9 cm)
- Both sexes-Approximate weight -0.1–0.2 oz (2.3–4.9 g)
- Both sexes-Approximate wingspan — 4.3 in (11 cm)
- Conservation-low concern
The Black-chinned Hummingbird is an accidental visitor that occupies a broad nesting range across central America. They usually fly through deserts and mountains of urban and natural areas. The male has a metallic green-black back with a purple band around the neck. The female has a speckled throat and is usually pale below. The back is green and has a white spot behind the eye.
The female is bigger as compared to the male. Their young ones usually appear bigger as compared to their parents. A signature feature of the young ones is its ability to use its forked tongue to suck up nectar like a sponge. They are known to squeeze in nearly 0.61 Milliliters of nectar in a single meal.
They are known to dive before their mate from a height of nearly 12 feet above sea level, causing a high-pitched trill on landing. They also cross-pollinate while collecting nectar from flowers and bird feeders. The collected nectar nearly triples their body weight giving them the much-needed nutrition for their migratory commute.
These birds experience a varied fluctuation in their body temperature. In warmer climates, their recorded heartbeat is at 480 beats per minute. As winter approaches, these birds gradually reduce their heartbeat to nearly 180 beats per minute. This inbuilt temperature reducing mechanism is known as Torpor. One can typically witness this species engage in this as they travel through a vast expanse in a short duration.
The male is known to exhibit territorial behavior. The male leaves the breeding ground on mating, leaving the female to work on her nests made out of plant down and insect silk. These thickly cushioned nests expand as their young ones grow, briefly topped on branches nearly 10 feet above ground level. One can see these birds hovering beautifully on snags that make these the most coveted jewel of this species.
Tennessee enjoys a favorable location and welcomes a variety of birds through its seasons. One can enjoy their sightings at local backyards or various bird festivals. Feel free to adopt a hummingbird or work on their conservation, for they are a fascinating gem of their local habitat.