Bird GuideHummingbirdsLucifer Hummingbird

At a Glance

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.
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Southwest, Texas
Flitter, Hovering, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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


3 3/4" (10 cm). A small hummingbird with a heavy, curved bill. Male has long black tail (sometimes looks forked), purple throat. Female warm pale buff below and on face, with dusky ear patch. Note that several other southwestern hummers have slightly curved bills.
About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Green, Purple, Red, Tan, White
Wing Shape
Narrow, Rounded, Short
Tail Shape
Forked, Multi-pointed, Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A shrill shriek.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip


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.



2. White. Incubation is by female only, about 15 days.


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

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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Uncommon but possibly increasing in its limited U.S. range. Status of Mexican populations not well known.