When birdwatchers travel to the southwestern United States in late summer, hummingbirds usually rank high on their “want lists.” One of the most sought after is the uncommon and enigmatic Lucifer Hummingbird. Although it occurs annually in three states, its status is poorly understood.
Originally known from central Mexico, the Lucifer Hummingbird was first detected in 1901 in arid country of what is now Big Bend National Park of western Texas. This is still the bird’s major stronghold north of the border. Experts have estimated the summer population there at about 50 breeding females and presumably a comparable number of males. (In discussing hummingbird populations, we don’t say “50 pairs,” because they don’t form pair bonds and don’t defend territories as pairs.) Lucifers around Big Bend nest mainly on rocky slopes and dry canyons, feeding at flowers of agave, ocotillo, and other desert plants.