Hummingbirds are beautiful, delicate, and fly at impressive speeds when they’re not hovering in order to drink their fill of precious nectar. There are more than three hundred species of hummingbirds in the world. The common types of hummingbirds in North America consist of fewer than two dozen. Only a handful of these birds will stick around North America year-round.
However, these birds are welcomed in thousands of yards all over the country. People will lure them into their yards with beautiful, fragrant flowers, and hummingbird feeders. If you’re a new birder, then it’s important that you become familiar with these popular backyard birds and learn more about the different species that you will find visiting your feeders and flowers.
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North America’s Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are known for their very small size, lightning-fast flight speeds, their ability to hover when feeding or scanning the area, and their beautifully colored plumage. Because of these characteristics, they’re probably the most welcome backyard bird on the planet, which is why many birders will go to great lengths to encourage these birds to visit.
If you’re trying to make your backyard more bird-friendly for hummingbirds, there are many steps you can take, such as using a hummingbird feeder and placing them in highly visible places, which will allow birds flying overhead to clearly see them.
Additionally, many birders recommend purchasing beautiful flowers that attract hummingbirds, which will also add some aesthetic beauty to your yard. There are many things you can do to make your yard more appealing to these beautiful birds, such as hanging multiple feeders and setting up your yard to provide protection from the elements, food, water, and nice resting spots. But before you get started making these changes to your yard, it’s also important to research which particular species of hummingbirds can be found in your part of the country.
Now, let’s go over the most common species you can expect to see in late spring.
These birds will breed in the summer in the central and eastern parts of the US. They’re probably the most common species that are found in North America and they’re more commonly found in the east. The males are the real show stoppers here, due to their bright red gorget, which is set off by a bright white collar around the throat. The females don’t have the same bright coat but they do have a beautiful iridescent green body, with white underparts. These birds will visit hummingbird feeders regularly and can easily be spotted in backyards, gardens, and urban and suburban parks, or wherever nectar-rich flowers are planted.
These birds are also summer breeders and can commonly be found in the southwestern mountains in America. Their population expands as far as southern to northern Idaho and as far west as eastern California. These birds may seem almost identical to the ruby-throated hummingbirds, so the range will be the easiest way to distinguish between these two species of hummingbirds. Upon closer inspection, the broad-tailed bird has a rufous patch on their tails, and ruby-throated birds do not.
Additionally, the broad-tailed female also has a light rufous wash streaking on the throat and on the flanks, which ruby-throated hummingbirds do not. The zinging of the broad-tailed hummingbird is another important characteristic that can easily help you to identify it. There are many species of hummingbirds that produce a mild thrumming sound in flight, but the male broad-tailed hummingbird has wings that are much larger, so the sound is more prominent.
These birds prefer open habitats such as meadows located in lower elevations of mountains. They will often stop by a hummingbird feeder for nectar visits during migration, which helps to provide fuel for their journey.
These birds can be found in and around the Northern Pacific coast including British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The male is unmistakable with it’s iridescent red and orange throat and other bright orange plumage. The female features coloring that’s less distinct, however, they have a rufous wash along their flanks and over their green upperparts. The females also have a very distinctive spotting pattern on their throats.
These birds are very territorial and will dive regularly at intruders that come near their preferred feeding site or nest. These birds will often go to feed at hummingbird feeders, but considering how territorial they are, if you plan on hanging multiple feeders for these birds, make sure they are widely spaced apart, in order to prevent any fights over territory.
The Allen’s hummingbird can be found along coastal California and Oregon. These birds are usually confused with the rufous hummingbird since they have similar plumage. A closer look will show a head and back that’s much greener. These birds also have more extensive orange plumage on their flanks. The female looks almost identical to the female rufous hummingbird. These birds can often be found in urban and suburban gardens, in open wooded areas. The birds regularly feed at nectar feeders and are usually found out and about in early spring due to their early migration.
These birds call Southwestern Arizona and Southeastern California home. The males feature a bright pinkish or purplish crown with a gorget that extends to the side of the throat. The female doesn’t have any iridescent coloring but she does have whitish underparts that are slightly green, as well as green upperparts. These birds typically prefer a desert climate and can be found in open, arid regions. These birds are not commonly found in urban areas, however, some will venture into backyards in search of food.
The Black-Chinned Hummingbird is found in Idaho, Texas, Washington, and Oregon. Some can also be found in southern and central California. This is one of the most common species of hummingbirds. The males are very easy to identify due to the purple coloring. The females have green upperparts, with white underparts. The females may have faint streaking of green on the throat. Both the male and female have very long bills.
This species of hummingbird is very common in America. They have green upperparts, plain white throats, white underparts, and a purple or blue crown, which is what makes them very recognizable. The distinctive bills are bright red with a touch of black at the tip. The female and male look very similar, although the female’s plumage isn’t as vivid.
This hummingbird is very rare in North America, however, there are some areas in the country where it can commonly be found. The males have very distinctive coloring with a deep blue and bright white throat, gray underparts, a white brow line, and green upperparts. The female has markings that are similar, but she does not have any blue on her throat. Both the female and male have wide white tips on their tail feathers. These birds measure in at five inches, which makes them significantly larger compared to other species of hummingbirds.
This bird measures in at a little over three inches in length and it’s one of the smallest hummingbirds in North America and considered one of the most eye-catching. The male Calliope hummingbird features a magenta or pink-streaked gorget that extends to the sides. The female doesn’t have the gorget but has bright green underparts, with hints of white located on the underparts. Males have more green on their flanks than white. These birds can be regularly found in mountain meadows and prefer to feed on low flowers. The males usually perch up much higher than females, in order to protect the territory. However, compared to many species of hummingbirds, these birds are considered much less aggressive.
These birds are much rarer compared to other species of hummingbirds found in North America. The males have a throat that’s an iridescent purple color, with green flanks and underparts, in addition to a forked, dark tail. The female has beige and green underparts and can be identified by a blurry gray ear streak. Both the male and the female have long, heavy bills that curve down. The Lucifer hummingbird is categorized as a desert species and prefers to live in areas with ocotillo and agave plants, however, they can also be found in mountain canyons.
This is a hummingbird that’s very familiar along the west coast. The males are more recognizable with pink or red crowns, in addition to dark green underparts and a beautiful iridescent gorget, with bright green upperparts. The females have a similar appearance but are slightly paler on the underside and don’t have the extensive gorget that the males do, however some show a little red spotting on the throat. This species of hummingbird is a common backyard visitor and enjoys drinking nectar from feeders. They will commonly nest in backyards and also enjoy nesting in open woodlands.
The male’s plumage is very recognizable, as is the bird’s straight, long bill. The male has a bright blue gorget, a dark green body, and violet coloring at the crown. The female is not quite as brightly colored and has underparts that are grayish-white, with bright green upperparts. Both the male and female have a bright white spot located behind the eye. These birds can commonly be found in open woodlands and in arid pine forests, however, they are also common backyard visitors.
Often confused with the magnificent hummingbird, the board-billed hummingbird shares the same blue and dark green plumage, but their red bill is much broader at the base, with a black tip. The females have gray underparts and bright green upperparts, with less red on the bill. These birds are usually seen in arid habitats and lowlands. They are very territorial and solitary birds that will set up camp by a hummingbird feeder and scare away any interlopers. These birds often fan and wag their tails when eating.
Making sugar water for hummingbirds can be a great way to encourage more hummingbirds to visit your yard this upcoming season. Other options include removing brush from the yard, to make your bird feeders more visible, planting flowers, ensuring there are no places for predators to hide in your yard, and placing the feeders in highly visible areas. These are some of the most fun and exciting birds to sight, especially when it comes to the rarer species.
Now that you know more about the common species of hummingbirds in your part of the country, you can create a birding journal that will help you keep track of the species you sight, their characteristics, gender, behaviors, and how active they were based on time of day. Sighting this species can take patience, since they often feed and fly through your yard before you have the opportunity to capture all of the details. Due to their tiny size, it can also be difficult to identify a male from a female, which is why I recommend investing in the best birding binoculars, such as the Gosky 10×42 roof prism binoculars.
There’s no doubt that the hummingbird is one of the most popular species of backyard birds in the world. They’re tiny, fast, and live on the nectar of flowers. What’s not to love? While you may not be able to sight all of the birds in this guide, you’ll be surprised to learn which species call your area home, how to identify each species, and how many species of hummingbirds can be very aggressive to other hummingbirds and even humans.
This guide on the common types of hummingbirds in North America will allow you to check off some of the most common and most rare hummingbirds in your neck of the woods, using these descriptions to properly sight each species. Keep in mind, many of these birds look similar, which is why it’s so important to take careful notes concerning their descriptions and behaviors. Happy Birding!