The 2 Types of Hummingbirds in Iowa! (ID Guide)
What types of hummingbirds can you find in Iowa?
Hummingbirds are one of the most popular birds in Iowa and have captivated people’s interest and attention for a long time. But because hummingbirds are incredibly fast and small, these birds can be hard to distinguish from each other. Most of the time, they just look like little green, iridescent blurs streaking by your face!
- *RELATED: Watch the LIVE bird feeder and animal cameras in MY backyard* (You may get lucky and see a hummingbird on my cams RIGHT NOW!)
But don’t worry.
Today, you will learn the 2 hummingbird species that can be found in Iowa (and how to identify them).
Each description includes identification tips, pictures, *range maps, fun facts, AND how to attract these beautiful birds to your yard!
- The range maps below were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!
To learn more about birds that live near you, check out these other guides!
Here are the 2 types of hummingbirds in Iowa!
Please let me know which hummingbird species you have spotted before in the “Comments” section at the end!
#1: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Most likely, these hummingbirds are the ONLY type you will ever see in Iowa!
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. 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. Their face lacks 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.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Range Map
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are common in Iowa during warm summer months. Once cooler temperatures start to arrive, these birds migrate to Mexico. Amazingly, most individuals travel ACROSS the Gulf of Mexico to reach their wintering grounds. Remember, they must make this incredibly long journey in a single flight, as there is nowhere to stop and rest. 🙂
How do you attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in Iowa?
While there are many ways to draw these winged beauties to your yard, here are the two BEST strategies:
#1. Put out nectar feeders.
The most common way to get hummers to visit your backyard is to hang a quality hummingbird feeder filled with homemade nectar (sugar water).
The reason this strategy works is that nectar is a primary food source for hummingbirds. To fuel their active lifestyle, hummingbirds need to feed on it almost continuously throughout the day.
Supplying a FRESH and RELIABLE nectar source will be sought after by hummingbirds.
#2. Plant native plants that have long, tubular flowers.
As we just discussed, hummingbirds need nectar continuously, which is naturally obtained from flowers. Did you know that a hummingbird can visit up to 2,000 flowers each day looking for nectar?
With that being said, I hope it’s easy to see why you should plant shrubs, trees, and flowers in your yard that hummingbirds can’t resist! Establishing a hummingbird garden provides birds with a safe place to reliably find food.
Look for red flowers, because hummingbirds are naturally attracted to this color. Also, long, tubular flowers are great for hummingbirds because they can access the nectar with their long beaks and tongues, but bees and other insects can’t!
What sounds do Ruby-throated Hummingbirds make?
Press PLAY above to hear the sound these birds make!
Believe it or not, these hummingbirds do make distinctive noises. The sounds that I most often hear are a series of calls seem to be given as individuals are chasing each other around. It resembles a chattering “chee-dit.”
- Their legs are so short they are unable to walk or hop! If needed, they can sort of shuffle and scoot down a branch.
- These hummingbirds can beat their wings up to 53 times per SECOND!
- Ruby-throated Hummingbirds drink nectar for energy, but they obtain nutrition by eating a wide variety of small bugs. The list includes spiders, mosquitoes, gnats, fruit flies, and small bees.
- Nests are tiny (about the size of a thimble), and amazingly are held together by spider webs!
#2: Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbirds are VERY rare to see in Iowa. If you’re extremely lucky, you may observe one during migration.
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 of these two species are incredibly hard to tell apart.
Rufous Hummingbird Range Map
Rufous Hummingbirds have an interesting migration pattern. In the spring, they fly north up the Pacific Coast to their summer breeding grounds. 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:
Just put out a hummingbird feeder full of homemade sugar water or plant native nectar-filled flowers in your backyard!
But please be aware that Rufous Hummingbirds may drive away any other hummers that visit your yard. These aggressive birds are incredibly territorial and will relentlessly scare away all other hummingbird species. They have even been seen chasing chipmunks!
If an aggressive Rufous Hummingbird has taken over your hummingbird feeder, you have a few options to help alleviate the pressure. My favorite strategy is setting up multiple feeders around your entire yard. The farther you can place them apart, the better! There is no way your problem bird can defend all the feeding stations at once, ensuring that other individuals get a chance to eat. 🙂
What sounds do Rufous Hummingbirds make?
The most common sound you will hear these birds make is a series of chipping notes, which are given as a warning to intruding birds. Males also make a “chu-chu-chu” call at the bottom of a dive while trying to impress females.
- 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.
- They build their nests with soft plant down held together with spider webs. Like other hummingbird species, females prefer lichen, bark, and moss as camouflage.
- In addition to drinking nectar from plants, these birds enjoy hunting gnats, midges, and flies in the air, while plucking aphids from leaves.
Do you want to learn more about hummingbirds?
If so, here are a few books you should consider purchasing. 🙂
What’s your favorite strategy for attracting hummingbirds in Iowa?
Leave a comment below!