Costa’s Hummingbird

I have just returned from a week of vacation in southern California and wanted to share this hummingbird with you, another dazzler.

The Costa’s hummingbird is a common bird in southern California, as well as the southwest U.S. and northwest Mexico. It winters in western Mexico.

The back is emerald and there are a few white markings. But of course it is the male’s throat that glitters with brilliance.

We saw it often in the desert landscapes and urban gardens. This is a desert canyon, below, on the outskirts of Palm Springs where we saw over a dozen Costa’s hummingbirds.

What is unique about this hummingbird is its purple–deep rich purple–gorget or throat.

Many hummingbirds have red and pink and orange gorgets. And there are other purple hummingbirds, but the purple gorget (pronounced gor-jet) of this Costa’s is not something we see too often.

Sometimes the male’s gorget looks black, depending on the light.

The bird is small, as most hummingbirds are, at 3-3.5 inches long (7-9 cm).

They live year-round in southern California, and last week when we were there, the males were doing their impressive, acrobatic swoops and dives–their courtship displays. See range map at end.

A flash of royal purple as one hummingbird, and then another, zoomed from flowering plant to plant.


Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Costa’s Hummingbird Range, courtesy Wiki. Yellow=breeding, Green=year-round, Blue=winter.

74 thoughts on “Costa’s Hummingbird

      • I mainly see the green backs in the valley and occasionally ones with blue throats. I never see ruby-throated hummingbirds in the valley, but they are in the heights closer to the moutains.

      • Yes, there was a desert flower blooming at the time that the hummingbirds were attracted to and that was a good place to watch their behavior and photograph them. Thanks Tim, always pleasant to have you stop by.

  1. An absolute dazzler for sure! Hope you had an enjoyable desert trip – fabulous geography down there – and did you and your home escape the worst of the snow? Yikes…
    Thanks, Jet!

    • No, we didn’t escape the snow. We were right in the middle of it all–blizzards, snowfall, mountain passes closed, rain. But, I chuckle as I write this, it was beautiful. Joshua Tree NP in the snow was enchanting, you would’ve loved it, pc. More posts to follow. Always a treat to have you stop by, my friend, thank you.

  2. What a stunning bird! And what a thrill to catch its courtship rituals! Glad you were able to enjoy your trip in spite of the unusual and treacherous weather you encountered.

    • Yes, it was tricky with the weather on this trip, but I’m really glad the hummingbirds were out buzzing around in all their glory. Thank you, dear Nan, it was great to share such a beautiful bird with you.

    • I’m glad you stopped by and had a chance to see the hummingbirds, Teagan, I know they have a presence in your writings, too. Wonderful to have this bird on our planet, eh? Thanks very much.

    • OH yes, you know those amazing “quick little buggers” well, Brad. You can imagine how they kept Athena on her toes while photographing. Thanks Brad, always a pleasure.

    • Yes, it really does look like they’re wearing sequins. We watch the hummingbirds for that flash of magic and glamour, don’t we Jan? Seems like a good bird for Oscar weekend. Cheers, my friend, and many thanks.

    • Hi Eliza. Our weather in southern California was not so good, to answer your question. It was part of last week and the week before and we had to keep changing our plans, rerouting due to closed mtn passes, etc.; and since it was more inclement than usual, there was less wildlife and wildflowers. (More posts to follow.) But we’ve been down there before, knew the good wild spots, were dressed warmly and went where we could when there were weather breaks. A great adventure and the snow was gorgeous. Many thanks to you.

    • Oh so fun to bring you a new bird, H.J. They have a rather small range, so I’m glad I could bring this elegant Costa’s hummingbird to you, my friend. Thanks very much.

    • Thanks Bill. We found this canyon trail by accident, when the place we were headed was too crowded, and it was absolutely enchanting to walk through, accompanied by these tiny purple sprites. Thank you very much.

  3. Seems like the birds are ready for Spring even if the weatherman isn’t. You mentioned snow in the Joshua trees up above. I’ve been in some of that in Southern Nevada. It’s kind of offputting, because you don’t expect that.

    • Hi Craig. Yes snow and blizzards in an ordinarily dry desert are a crazy phenomenon and it felt really special to be there to see it. The Joshua trees, so cactus-like, covered with snow was truly enchanting. We’re currently sorting through hundreds of photos. Always wonderful to have you stop by, thank you.

    • I am so glad you enjoyed these beautiful Costa’s hummingbird photos, Barbara, especially with all you have going on right now with your move. Best wishes to you and your husband.

  4. We love hummingbirds around here and I must believe that they
    share much the same exciting qualities that they have here! They
    are a bird we can’t wait to hear in the spring! great photos Val,
    great article too!

  5. Gorgeous gorget on the Costa’s & spectacular photos of this species that I’d love to see someday (anywhere outside of the LA area, that is). Great capture, and thanks for sharing another fine post, Jet.

  6. This blogging world is such a rush at times for me, Jet, for it gives me an opportunity to see what others around the world see. This hummingbird is gorgeous!! I cannot thank you enough for sharing it here.

  7. Hummers are as amusing as they are beautiful, Jet, and Alexander caught some great shots of this little beauty. Please tell Alexander that my favorite photo was Oswit Canyon, however. That road off into the desert calls to my wild heart. –Curt

  8. The Costa’s is a beautiful Hummer. We had the opportunity to see a number of them on our recent trip to Vegas and every time amazed at how brilliant that purple is as it catches the sunlight. Had to pick them out from all the Anna’s that were hanging around out there (more than we have ever seen of that variety at one time), luckily their chubbiness and their humped/slouched look would give them away. Congrats to Alexander on being able to capture their full purple glow

    • Thank you, Brian (or Brad?). It did get a little tricky a few times, between identifying the Anna’s and the Costa’s, because if the sun isn’t catching the gorget color, they can look quite similar…especially when they’re buzzing by so quickly. Glad you enjoyed Athena’s purple glow on these photos, she worked really hard on it, as you can imagine. Many thanks for your comment.

  9. Hi Jet, Such stunning birds and their iridescent colors are mesmerizing. Great shots, Athena- they are not easy to capture! Assume Anna’s and Costa’s are the hummingbirds we are most likely to see here? It’s always a gift.

    • Hi Jane, always a joy to have you stop by. Yes, I would say a general statement is fairly accurate by saying Anna’s and Costa’s are the two hummingbird species you will commonly see in the LA area. And yes, indeed, always a gift. My warmest thanks.

  10. Wonderful Jet and Athena!
    Love the bird and its purple. Thank you for the post!

    On another note…. There are no ads in this post.
    I never saw ads on your blog before. Yet, on the previous post, there were so many ads,I could barely read the post. Most of the ads were the same banner ad, over and over. … something about if your partner is cheating.
    Anyway, I mention this in case something not good is going on.
    Best to both of you!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the Costa’s Hummingbirds, Resa. Thanks for the note on the ads. I was writing a new post today, a draft for Friday’s post, and noticed this Costa’s post was loaded with ads. So I appreciate your observation. Not much I can do about their ads, but geez, some of these ads are too much and sometimes they’re kinda gross, too. lol. Thanks Resa.

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