Do you know how to tell the difference between a male and female hummingbird? This is often quite difficult to determine with certainty, but there are distinguishing characteristics which can help with this process. This includes size, migration habits, plumage and tail. This post will discuss the characteristics which will aide you in becoming more of an expert at determining if the hummingbird at your feeder is a male or a female.
Generally speaking, female hummingbirds are usually larger than male hummingbirds. This is not always the case though so this is not an absolutely foolproof way to help you determine the gender of the bird. Also, it is necessary for the female hummingbird to be slightly bigger to be able to produce eggs, to afford to share their body heat with the eggs while incubating, and to be able to share their food when feeding nestlings.
It is the male hummingbirds which migrate first before the females and the juveniles. The males will migrate up to three weeks ahead of the females and the juveniles, so if you think a hummingbird which is migrating early then this could indicate that the bird is a male hummingbird.
There is a difference in the plumage of the male and female hummingbird. It may come as a bit of a surprise to many of you, but it is only the male hummingbird which has the brilliant iridescent throat feathers. Just in case you were wondering, yes, these feathers serve two very important functions: attracting a female and defending their territory. They use these to display to one another. Females find it attractive, and other males are repelled. Male hummingbirds are extremely feisty and territorial and these feathers are part of their territorial display.
The tail of a hummingbird can provide a vital clue to help determine if it is a male or female hummingbird. Most of the time, the tail of an adult male hummingbird will be solid in color while most female and juveniles’ tails have white tipped rather then solid in color.
There is no absolutely foolproof method of determining the gender of a hummingbird, but with the aide of the characteristics listed above you should have much greater success in doing so. Best of luck everyone and happy birdwatching!