A Guide to American Hummingbirds

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American hummingbirds offer endless entertainment with their aerial acrobatics as they buzz among flowers and defend backyard feeders against rivals. (OK, they aren’t really American hummingbirds, they are hummingbirds that can be seen in the United States.)

But whatever you call them, the delightful species of hummingbirds found in America boast jeweled hues and distinctive markings that reveal their species. Pay close attention to their colors (and sometimes their size) and you can identify which species are visiting your backyard.

Also note that most male hummingbirds look very different from their female mates. As with most birds, the males are the colorful ones.

Here’s a guide to 10 of the most common hummingbirds to visit yards and gardens in the United States. Hummingbirds are much more common in the western states, so that part of the country is best for watching these marvelous creatures. NOTE: If you want to attract more hummingbirds to your yard and garden, consider getting a hummingbird feeder.

 

American Hummingbirds in the West

Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus

Rufous is a popular type of American humminbird
Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus (male)

Rusty-orange rufous hummingbirds migrate through every state west of the Great Plains on their annual migration circuit. From overwintering grounds in Mexico and the Gulf Coast, birds fly north along the Pacific coast to breeding grounds as far north as Alaska. They return to wintering grounds following the Rocky Mountains. Occasional visitors can be spotted throughout the eastern states.

  • Identification: Brilliant orange coloration including an iridescent red-orange throat; females green with rust-colored accents on flanks and tail feathers.
  • Range: California east to Texas; Alaska to Mexico
Rufous hummingbird Selasphorus rufus perched on a branch
Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus (female)

 

Calliope Hummingbird, Stellula calliope

stellula calliope male hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird, Stellula calliope (male)

The smallest American hummingbird (also the smallest North American bird), the calliope’s body is the size of a large bumblebee. This hummingbird frequents high meadows and streambanks throughout the Rockies and Cascade Mountains. These birds breed in the Pacific Northwest as far north as British Columbia and south into the mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Nevada.

  • Identification: Iridescent green above. Males sport distinctive magenta-streaked throat. The belly of females is tinged a cinnamon color.
  • Range: Oregon to Wyoming; British Columbia south to Mexico
Calliope Hummingbird, Stellula calliope female
Calliope Hummingbird, Stellula calliope (female)

 

Allen’s Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin

Allen’s Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin (male), common American Hummingbirds
Allen’s Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin (male)

Look for Allen’s hummingbirds in very early spring as they arrive from wintering grounds in Mexico. These green and orange jewels breed in a very narrow strip of habitat along coastal California into the southern part of Oregon. Populations around the Channel Islands and Los Angeles often remain year-round.

  • Identification: Males boast coppery-orange plumage and iridescent red-orange throat; distinguish from rufous by all-green back and crown.
  • Range: California east to New Mexico; Oregon to Mexico.
Allen’s Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin (female)
Allen’s Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin (female)

 

Costa’s Hummingbird, Calypte costae

Costa’s Hummingbird, Calypte costae male
Costa’s Hummingbird, Calypte costae (male)

Stunning purple plumage sets the Costa’s hummingbird apart. This species breeds in the southwest and makes its home among desert washes, scrub, chaparral, and woodlands. Watch for these gems on sage, chuparosa, and ocotillo. Costa’s hummingbirds can be found year-round through much of its range.

  • Identification: Purple gorget (throat feathers) on males flair out like a mustache; males and females are greenish above and have a white spot behind the eye.
  • Range: Southern California to Utah, south to Mexico
A female Costa’s Hummingbird, Calypte costae
Costa’s Hummingbird, Calypte costae (female)

 

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus

American hummingbirds include the Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus (male)
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus (male)

Common and widespread throughout the central and southern Rockies and Great Basin mountains, broad-tailed hummingbirds breed from the foothills up to 11,000 feet where they can be found in a wide range of habitats. Seek them out during spring migration foraging among wildflowers in meadows.

  • Identification: Iridescent green above with buff or greenish flanks and a relatively large head; males have magenta-rose throats.
  • Range: Nevada to Colorado; Montana south to Mexico
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus (female)
Broad-Tailed Hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus (female)

 

American Hummingbirds in the East

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris (male)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris (male)

The only species to breed in eastern North America, the ruby-throated hummingbird is a common site in gardens from the Great Plains to the Atlantic coast. They have the largest breeding range of any North American hummingbird. A regular at feeders, also look for these dynamic flyers in meadows, orchards, and deciduous forests.

  • Identification: Emerald green back and crown; males have a ruby-red throat.
  • Range: Canada from Albert to Nova Scotia; U.S.A. Minnesota to Maine south to Texas and Florida; overwinters Mexico to Costa Rica and southern tip of Florida
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris (female)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris (female)

 

Rufous Hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus

This popular hummingbird can be occasionally spotted in the Eastern states. (See the description and photos above.)

 

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird, Amazilia yucatanensis

This hummingbird lives along the Gulf Coast from the Yucatan peninsula and into Texas and Louisiana. Sometimes this species can be seen well into the southeastern states of the U.S.

(See the description and photos below.)

 

American Hummingbirds in the Southwest

Black-Chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri

Black-Chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri (male) are American hummingbirds
Black-Chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri (male)

Widespread throughout the western states, black-chinned hummingbirds can be found from deserts and canyons to mountain forests, often along rivers. They are common visitors to gardens and easily attracted with nectar feeders.

  • Identification: Metallic green above and dull gray-white breast; males have black throat with thin purple band at the base.
  • Range: California to Texas; British Columbia south to Mexico
A female Black-Chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri
Black-Chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri (female)

 

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird, Amazilia yucatanensis

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird, Amazilia yucatanensis
Buff-Bellied Hummingbird, Amazilia yucatanensis

The buff-bellied hummingbird lives along the Gulf Coast from the Yucatan peninsula northward into Texas and Louisiana. Though its breeding range only extend as far north as the Rio Grande Valley, individuals often disperse northward into southeastern states. Look for these hummers along the edges of woodlands, citrus orchards, and gardens.

  • Identification: A red bill sets this species apart from others on this list. Head, throat, and upper back metallic green. Buff-colored belly and rust-colored tail.
  • Range: Texas and Louisiana; south to Mexico

 

Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna

Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna (male)
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna (male)

Ranging along the Pacific Coast, Anna’s hummingbirds are common visitors to the garden and can be found year-round through much of its range. Outside the urban setting, they frequent coastal lowlands, chaparral, and open woodlands. Males perform thrilling courtship flights.

  • Identification: Emerald green above; males head and throat a vivid raspberry pink.
  • Range: California east to New Mexico; British Columbia south to Mexico
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna (female)
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna (female)

 

Magnificent (Rivoli’s) Hummingbird, Eugenes fulgens

Magnificent (Rivoli’s) Hummingbird, Eugenes fulgens (male)
Magnificent (Rivoli’s) Hummingbird, Eugenes fulgens (male)

The deserts, canyons, and high mountain meadows of Arizona, New Mexico, and Big Bend Texas are hummingbird havens. The magnificent hummingbird (a.k.a. Rivoli’s hummingbird) frequents gardens and feeders within this range. Also look for broad-billed, blue-throated, and Lucifer hummingbirds in these areas.

  • Identification: Males shine with a purple crown and emerald throat; both sexes have a long, straight bill and dark green back.
  • Range: Far-southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas; south to Nicaragua
Magnificent (Rivoli’s) Hummingbird, Eugenes fulgens (female)
Magnificent (Rivoli’s) Hummingbird, Eugenes fulgens (female)

 

How to Feed Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are voracious eaters. They have a high metabolism, so they need to feed every 10 or 15 minutes.

American hummingbirds sip nectar from flowers, and they also eat small insects. If you want to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Yard, the two best ways are to grow lots of nectar-rich flowers and put out hummingbird feeders.

There are many types of hummingbird feeders. Many of the best feeders are red, because red is a color that most hummingbirds are naturally attracted to. When choosing a hummingbird feeder, it’s a good idea to choose one that can be easily cleaned—perhaps in a dishwasher. Here is a selection of different types of hummingbird feeders.

If you don’t want to make homemade nectar from scratch, consider buying hummingbird nectar on Amazon.

 

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