Look for a Violet Crowned Hummingbird in the Southwest

Look for violet-crowned hummingbirds in Arizona and New Mexico. Learn what these birds look like and discover facts about their song, behavior and nests.

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Violet crowned hummingbird perched on a branch

How to Identify Violet-Crowned Hummingbirds

Both male and female violet crowned hummingbirds measure about 4 inches with snowy white underparts. No other U.S. hummingbird shares the starkly white unmarked belly, throat, and flanks, which strongly contrast with the bronze-greenish back. The back can appear grayish under some light conditions. The crown, nape, and face are purplish, sometimes appearing violet-blue or even more blue than purple, and varying in intensity among individuals. A bright red bill with a black tip adds a splash of color to these striking birds. Juveniles are paler, often appearing plain gray above and white below.

Learn how to identify Anna’s hummingbirds and rufous hummingbirds.

Violet Crowned Hummingbird Range and Migration

The bulk of the species’ range is in Mexico, throughout most of which the violet crowned hummingbird is nonmigratory. In the southeast corner of Arizona, it is an uncommon year-round resident and generally uncommon spring and summer resident. However, it is locally common and reliable at specific Arizona locations. It’s rare to locally uncommon in the southwestern corner of New Mexico. Elsewhere, sightings are rare to accidental.

The Arizona and New Mexico populations are generally migratory. Birds spend winters in Mexico and return to the United States starting in March, then departing south by September. A few individuals routinely remain year-round at key sites, especially in and near Patagonia, Arizona.

Check out 13 jaw-dropping facts about hummingbirds.

Violet Crowned Hummingbird Nest

This species is generally riparian. It nests in stands of Arizona sycamore and perhaps a few other species of deciduous trees. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, almost all nests in Arizona and New Mexico are found some 20 to 40 feet above ground, in the outer branches of Arizona sycamores. These hummers lay two eggs in their tiny cup-shaped nests, which are composed of plant down, spiderwebs and lichen.

Violet Crowned Hummingbird.Dopeyden/Getty Images

Violet Crowned Hummingbird Song

Their song is a loud, ringing series, cheer-cheer-cheer. Calls, especially at dawn, include a kissing chip-chip-chip. Learn more about the many sounds of hummingbirds


Violet crowned hummingbirds will actively chase away other species, especially in the absence of multiple nectar sources, and can dominate smaller species. They often select a favorite perch to use routinely. These birds feed on a variety of flowers and readily come to feeders.

To learn more, check out The Hummingbird Handbook: Everything You Need to Know About These Fascinating Birds, published by Timber Press.

John Shewey
Lifelong birding enthusiast John Shewey is a veteran writer, editor, and professional outdoor photographer, with credits in Birdwatching, Portland Monthly, Northwest Travel & Life, and dozens of other magazines, and co-author of Birds of the Pacific Northwest, a Timber Press Field Guide, and The Hummingbird Handbook. John has photographed birds from the mountains of Alaska to the jungles of Central America to the islands of the Caribbean, and his website chronicles many of these travels in rich photographic detail.