Did you know there are over 350 hummingbird species in the world?

 

I had no idea!

 

Unfortunately, less than a dozen types of hummingbirds are commonly seen in the United States and Canada.

 

For example, where I live in Akron, Ohio, we only get to observe the Ruby-throated Hummingbird during the warm summer months.

 

Because hummingbirds are incredibly fast and small, these birds can be hard to distinguish amongst each other. Much of the time, they just look like a little green, iridescent blur streaking by your face!

 

Today, you are going to learn EIGHT common types of hummingbirds and how to identify them.

 

The species below were chosen because they are the ones most common in North America (above the Mexico border). Each description includes identification tips, pictures, range maps, and fun facts.

 

*Make sure to scroll to the bottom to see a LIVE hummingbird camera from Los Angeles, California.* SIX different species have been observed here, so it’s a great way to test your knowledge.

 


Species #1: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

If you live in the eastern half of the United States or Canada, then the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is likely the only hummer you have ever observed in your backyard!

species of hummingbird

How To Identify:

  • Males: Medium-sized hummingbird with a bright red throat and a black chin and mask that extends behind the eyes. The top of their head and back is iridescent green. Their underparts are pale grey with a green wash on the sides of their belly.

 

  • Females: Duller than males. The chin and throat are white with pale green streaks and lack the black chin and red throat of the male. Their belly is mostly white with buffy flanks, and the back is green.

 

  • *Similar Species: Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, which have a duller red throat and lack a black chin. These two species have ranges that do not overlap.

 

Range:

Range map provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

Their breeding range extends from the Gulf Coast to southern Canada across the eastern and central United States. It’s the only hummingbird that breeds east of the Mississippi River. This hummingbird species spends its winters mostly in southern Mexico, but some individuals stay in south Florida.

 

How To Attract:

The two best ways to attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are to put out nectar feeders and to plant lots of native plants that have long, tubular flowers.

 

Fun Fact:

Their legs are so short they are unable to walk or hop! If needed, they can sort of shuffle and scoot down a branch.

 


Species #2: Anna’s Hummingbird

These jeweled beauties are the most common hummingbirds observed on the Pacific Coast and are mostly year-round residents.

hummingbird species

How To Identify:

  • Males: They are best known for their beautiful iridescent pinkish-red throat and hood. Underparts are a mix between gray and green. Tail and back are dark green. Most of the time, a broken white eye-ring is visible.

 

  • Females: Duller than the males, with a green cap and body. Their tail has a white tip. Many birds have a patch of metallic purple or red on their throat.

 

  • *Similar Species: Costa’s Hummingbird, which is smaller with a purple throat and slightly down-curved bill.

 

Range:

Range map provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

 

Anna’s are different than most types of hummingbirds since they don’t migrate much, if at all. They are year-round residents from southern British Columbia to northern Mexico. They have varied habitats, including deserts, mountains, woodlands, gardens, and chaparral.

 

How To Attract:

They are a relatively easy hummingbird species to attract all year round. Make your own nectar using table sugar and water and set it out in a hummingbird feeder.

 

Fun Fact:

Anna’s Hummingbirds are known for their thrilling mating displays. The male starts by hovering in front of his chosen female for a few seconds. Then he flies straight up to heights of 130 feet (40m), concluding with him diving straight down and giving a loud squeak within a few feet of his target.

 


Species #3: Rufous Hummingbird

The feistiest type of hummingbird you will encounter! Be careful if one finds your hummingbird feeders or garden, as they will relentlessly attack and drive away other hummingbirds (including much larger species) aggressively away.

hummingbird species

How To Identify:

  • Males: Bright copper-orange on their back (although some males have a green back) and sides of their belly. Beautiful reddish-orange iridescent throat. White breast and ear patch behind eye. Compared to other hummingbird species, they are small.

 

  • Females: They have a green crown, neck, and back. Rufous (copper) colored sides with a white breast and belly. Some females have a spot of red or orange on their throat.

 

  • *Similar Species: Allen’s Hummingbird, which has slightly more green on their crown and back. Allen’s also has narrower outer tail feathers and a slightly downward-curved bill. Females are incredibly hard to tell apart.

 

Range:

Range map provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

Rufous Hummingbirds have an interesting migration pattern. In the spring, they fly north up the Pacific Coast to their summer breeding grounds in Oregon, Washington, western Canada, and southern Alaska. They return to their winter homes in Mexico and parts of the southern United States by flying a completely different route along the Rocky Mountains!

 

How To Attract:

Put out a hummingbird feeder full of homemade sugar water. Just be aware that Rufous Hummingbirds may drive away any other hummers that visit your yard. They have even been seen chasing chipmunks!

 

Fun Fact:

They have one of the longest migrations of any bird in the world, which is incredible given their small size (roughly 3 inches)! A one-way journey from Mexico to Alaska is about 3,900 miles (6,275 km), and remember they make this trip twice a year.

 


Species #4: Black-chinned Hummingbird

I will never forget the first time I saw this type of hummingbird. I had woken up early from camping in Zion National Park and was taking a walk when a male Black-chinned Hummingbird started feeding on the wildflowers in front of me!

types of hummingbirds

How To Identify:

  • Males: A medium-sized hummingbird with a metallic green body with a white breast and greenish flanks. Their head appears black overall, but their crown is actually very dark green, and their lower throat is iridescent violet. You typically can’t see the strip of purple unless the light hits it just right. Look for a white spot behind their eyes.

 

  • Females: Have a greenish-grey cap on their heads and a green back. There is a white spot behind their eyes, similar to the males. Females have a dark-spotted grey throat and a white breast.

 

  • *Similar Species: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which has a greener crown, shorter bill, and red throat. Also, their ranges are incredibly different.

 

Range:

Range map provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

Black-chinned Hummingbirds breed from southern British Columbia south across many western states to northern Mexico and central Texas. In winter, they migrate to the west coasts of Mexico. They are one of the most adaptable of all hummingbird species. They can be found in various habitats such as mountain and alpine meadows, canyons with thickets, orchards, urban areas, and recently disturbed areas.

 

Fun Fact:

Their eggs are only about the size of a coffee bean!

 


Species #5: Calliope Hummingbird

The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the United States at under four inches in length and weighs between 2 – 3 grams (0.071 to 0.106 oz).

How To Identify:

  • Males: These small birds are easy to identify because of their long, magenta throat feathers that appear as streaks going down their neck. Their head, upperparts, and flanks are metallic green. The breast is white. Males can be observed performing a unique U-shaped dive that is used to impress females.

 

  • Females: They have small dark spots on their white throat instead of the vibrant magenta throat feathers like the male. Their head and back are covered in a metallic green with a white, buffy breast.

 

  • *Similar Species: It’s hard to distinguish between female Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, but the latter species are larger with a longer bill and more copper coloring at the base of the tail.

 

Range:

Range map provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

This hummingbird species has an incredibly long migration route, especially when you consider their tiny size. The Calliope spends their winters in Mexico, and they make their spring migration up the coast of California. They breed anywhere from central British Columbia through Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, California, Montana, Utah, and parts of Wyoming.

 

During fall migration, they return to Mexico by following the Rocky Mountains instead of heading back down the California coast.

 

Fun Fact:

Even though they are tiny, Calliope Hummingbirds are known to be feisty during the breeding season. They have been observed chasing away birds as large as Red-tailed Hawks!

 


Species #6: Costa’s Hummingbird

I “mustache” you a question? Have you ever seen a hummingbird quite like this one?

types of hummingbirds

How To Identify:

  • Males: Their large, iridescent purple gorget makes them easy to identify, as it flares out along the sides of their neck like an overgrown mustache along with covering their head. These hummers appear compact with a short tail.

 

  • Females: Females have a white throat and underparts, along with a green back and head. Look for white-tips on the green tail feathers.

 

Range:

Range map provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

Costa’s Hummingbirds have a limited range. They only breed in the deserts of the southwest United States and prefer arid habitats surrounded by cacti and Joshua trees. They spend their winters in extreme southern California and Mexico.

 

How To Attract:

In their range, they will commonly visit feeders, but also enjoy eating spiders, sap, and insects.

 

Fun Fact:

Researchers have found that Costa’s Hummingbirds need to visit up to 1,800 flowers per day to obtain enough energy to sustain themselves.

 


Species #7: Broad-tailed Hummingbird

This species looks very similar to the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, except that it lives in the western half of the United States.

How To Identify:

  • Males: Adults have a white breast, buffy flanks, and green covering their head, back, and tail. Look for their iridescent red throat.

 

  • Females: Similar to other types of hummingbirds, females are larger than males. They have a lightly speckled throat, white upper breast, and a brownish belly. Head and back are green.

 

  • *Similar Species: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but their ranges do not overlap, so these two species should be easy to tell apart.

 

Range:

Range map provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are a bird of mountain meadows and breed at elevations up to 10,500 feet! They reproduce in the mountains from eastern California and Idaho through the Rocky Mountains to southern Arizona, western Texas, and Mexico. This species only stays in the United States for a few months, from late May to early August.

 


Species #8: Allen’s Hummingbird

Only people living along California’s coast are lucky enough to see this hummingbird species.

types of hummingbirds

How To Identify:

  • Males: Small, compact, and stocky hummingbirds with copper-colored sides, belly, rump, and tail. Both sexes have a straight, black bill, white breast, and a green crown and back that glitters in the sun. Males have a deep reddish-orange throat.

 

  • Females: Look similar to males, except they are a bit duller in color and lack the bright copper-red gorget. Instead, they have a small patch of coloring on their throat.

 

  • *Similar Species: Rufous Hummingbird, which has slightly less green on their crown and back. Allen’s also has narrower outer tail feathers and a slightly decurved bill.

 

Range:

Range map provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

The breeding range extends from the coasts of southern Oregon to southern California. They can be found year-round in southern California, and their preferred habitats include coastal chaparral, brushlands, and the edges of redwood forests.

 

How To Attract:

Setting up a hummingbird feeder and planting a hummingbird garden are the two best ways to see this species in your yard.

 

Fun Fact:

Male and female Allen’s Hummingbirds use different types of habitat during the breeding season. The male sets up his territory in open areas of chaparral or coastal scrub. The female visits these areas, but after mating, she heads into the forest or thickets to raise her young.

 


Other Types of Hummingbirds That May Visit (RARE)

 

 

 

 

  • Lucifer Hummingbird 
    • Males have a vivid purple throat and typically breed in northern Mexico, but some birds make it as far north as Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas.

 

 

 

 


Do you want to watch LIVE hummingbirds?

 

Now it’s time to test your identification skills!

 

Below you will find a LIVE stream that shows an incredible hummingbird feeding station from southern California.

Common types of hummingbird observed above:

  • Year-round: Anna’s, Allen’s (You should be able to see these two species daily)
  • Summer: Black-chinned
  • Migration: Rufous
  • Rare: Costa’s, Calliope

 

As long as it’s daylight, you are almost guaranteed to see hummingbirds. Carole, a hummingbird enthusiast, has been feeding and supplying fresh sugar water to her birds for many years.

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