Conservation status Uncommon but possibly increasing in its limited U.S. range. Status of Mexican populations not well known.
Family Hummingbirds
Habitat Arid slopes, desert canyons. In southwestern U.S., mostly on very dry hillsides with scattered ocotillos, agaves, cacti, and thorny shrubs. Also moves into some less arid areas, including grassland with scattered oaks.
A hummingbird of Mexico's central plateau that enters our area in the Big Bend region of western Texas and locally farther west. Adapted to desert regions, it is most often seen feeding at flowering agave stalks on arid hillsides. Although small in body size, it has a relatively long, curved bill and long tail. The tail of the male Lucifer is deeply forked, but this is rarely visible except when he spreads the tail wide during his display flight.

Feeding Behavior

At flowers, usually feeds while hovering, extending its bill and long tongue deep into the flower. At feeders, may either hover or perch. To catch small insects, may fly out and take them in midair; sometimes takes insects from spider webs.


2. White. Incubation is by female only, about 15 days. Young: Female feeds the young. Age at first flight about 19-24 days. May raise two broods per year.


Female feeds the young. Age at first flight about 19-24 days. May raise two broods per year.


Mostly nectar and insects. Takes nectar from flowers, and will feed on tiny insects as well. Often visits tubular flowers such as agave, penstemon, and paintbrush. Will also feed on sugar-water mixtures in hummingbird feeders.


Male has unique habit of performing courtship display to female while she is at her nest, during the nest-building or egg-laying stage. In display, male shuttles back and forth several times in short flight, with loud rustling noise of wings, then flies high and dives steeply past the nest. Nest site is in open cholla cactus, on stem of ocotillo, or on agave stalk, 2-10 feet above the ground. Nest (built by female) is a compact cup of plant fibers, spider webs, lined with plant down. The outside is camouflaged with bits of leaves or lichens.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Birds from the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico apparently move to south-central Mexico for the winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

A shrill shriek.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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