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Hummers making way to NM

Editor’s note: Today we begin a monthly column on bird-watching – where to go and what to look for – written by Mary Schmauss, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Albuquerque. It will appear the first Thursday of each month.

Hummingbirds are returning to New Mexico.

Hummingbirds are one of the most popular birds in New Mexico, and with good reason. They can hover, fly backward and upside down and travel at speeds of up to 60 mph. These tiny, feisty birds migrate north, traveling hundreds, some over 1,000 miles, from wintering grounds in Mexico to summer nesting territories here in New Mexico and as far north as Alaska.

There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds in North and South America. Of these, New Mexico lays claim to two nesting species, the broad-tailed and black-chinned Hummingbirds. Later in the summer, we’ll see a couple of other hummingbird species passing through as they migrate south.

The broad-tailed is the first to arrive with sightings in the Albuquerque area as early as mid-March. Male broad-tailed come first to set up nesting territories and can be identified by their red throat patch. All hummingbirds display acrobatics when trying to attract a mate, but the male broad-tailed takes the cake. In spring it’s common to hear broad-tailed hummers as they buzz by. The louder the wing noise, the more aggressive the male. Males are so territorial that they not only make this sound to attract a mate but will trill loudly to guard a nectar feeder or flower patch.

The smaller black-chinned hummingbird comes a bit later than the broad-tailed. This little guy has a violet-colored throat patch that often appears black until the light catches the throat’s true color.

Female hummingbirds of both species lack the colorful throat patch and begin to arrive shortly after the males.

Hummingbirds are common throughout New Mexico in warmer months. You don’t have to travel far to find them. Just hang a feeder in your backyard or stand still in any local park and watch hummingbirds hover as they hunt for tiny flying insects.

If you are going birding and want to be sure to see some hummingbirds, here are a few safe bets:

  • In Albuquerque, there is no better place to experience hummingbirds in action than the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park.

Here you will see many hummingbird feeders placed in strategic locations. One is even hung above the pond for easy viewing from the visitor center.

2901 Candelaria NW, Albuquerque.

  • The Asombro (means wonder) Institute for Science Education and home of the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park, in Las Cruces, lives up to its name. It has easily accessible trails that can bring hummingbirds up close and personal.

56501 N. Jornada, Las Cruces

If a trip north is in your plans, a stop at the Randall Davey Audubon Center in Santa Fe is a must; the views from the trails are spectacular.

1800 Upper Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM

Mary Schmauss is the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Albuquerque. A lifelong birder and author of For the Birds: A Month-by-Month Guide to Attracting Birds to your Backyard.