Of the more than 300 hummingbird species in the world, fewer than two dozen venture as far north as the United States and Canada, and only a handful remain there year-round. Yet these are beloved birds, welcomed in thousands of yards with hummingbird feeders, nectar-rich flowers, and eager backyard birders. Birders who can distinguish between these flying jewels can take steps to see all the hummingbirds of North America.
Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Range in North America: Summer breeder in the eastern and central United States and the southern edge of eastern and central Canada.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is one of the most common hummingbirds in North America and it is the only one seen regularly in the east, though other vagrants may appear at any time. The males are aptly named for their vibrant strawberry-red gorget, set off by a contrasting white collar on the throat. Females are plainer but share the iridescent green upperparts and white underparts.
These hummingbirds regularly visit nectar feeders and are easily found in backyards as well as suburban and urban parks and gardens, particularly where nectar-rich flowers are planted.
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Scientific name: Selasphorus platycercus
Range in North America: Summer breeder in the southwestern mountains of the United States, with populations as far west as eastern California and north to southern Idaho.
At first glance, the broad-tailed hummingbird may seem identical to the eastern ruby-throated hummingbird, and range is a key characteristic to distinguish between the two species. A closer look, however, reveals that broad-tailed hummingbirds have a rufous patch in their tails that ruby-throats lack. Female broad-tailed hummingbirds also show a light rufous wash on their flanks and streaking on the throat that female ruby-throated hummingbirds do not have.
In addition to plumage, a key characteristic to identify the broad-tailed hummingbird is the distinct "zinging" of its wings in flight. While many hummingbirds do produce a mild thrumming in flight, the male broad-tailed hummingbirds' wings are much louder and the sound more prominent.
Broad-tailed hummingbirds prefer meadows and other open habitats in the lower elevations of the mountains, though during migration they will regularly visit nectar feeders.Continue to 2 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Selasphorus rufus
Range in North America: Summer breeder along the northern Pacific coast, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia, with some individuals as far north as Alaska. Some birds winter in the southeastern United States and along the Gulf Coast.
Male rufous hummingbirds are unmistakable with their orange plumage and iridescent orange-red throat. Females are less distinct but have a rufous wash over their green upperparts and along their flanks bordering a white chest and abdomen. Females also have spotting on the throat.
These are fiercely territorial birds and rufous hummingbirds will regularly dive at and chase intruders near their nests or preferred feeding sites. They regularly come to nectar feeders but birders should consider widely spacing multiple feeders to reduce aggression.Continue to 3 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Selasphorus sasin
Range in North America: Summer breeder along coastal California from the southwestern corner of Oregon south to Los Angeles. Year-round residents on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Allen’s hummingbirds are often confused with rufous hummingbirds because of their similar orange plumage. Close inspection, however, shows a much greener back and head on Allen’s hummingbirds, as well as more extensive orange on the flanks. Females can appear identical to rufous hummingbird females.
These birds are relatively common in their limited range, and they can be found in open woods and suburban gardens. They will regularly come to nectar feeders, particularly early in the spring because of their early migration.Continue to 4 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Calypte costae
Range in North America: Year-round resident in southeastern California and southwestern Arizona as far north as the southern tip of Nevada. Summer breeding range extends further north and east.
Costa’s hummingbirds are distinctive for the males’ bright purple or pinkish crown and gorget that extends into sharp points at the sides of the throat. Females lack the iridescent color but share the green upperparts and whitish underparts with a slight green wash along the flanks.
These small hummingbirds prefer desert climates and are commonly found in arid, open regions. They are not regularly found in urban areas, though they may venture into backyards on the edges of the suburbs.Continue to 5 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Archilochus alexandri
Range in North America: Summer breeder throughout the mountainous west from eastern Washington and Oregon through Idaho and as far south as southwestern Texas. Isolated summer populations also found in central California and along the southern California coast.
The black-chinned hummingbird is one of the most common western hummingbirds. Males are easily identified by the iridescent purple band at the bottom of a dark gorget contrasting with a white collar, though the purple color is only seen in the best light. Females have green upperparts and white underparts, and they may show faint streaking on the throat. Both genders have exceptionally long bills.
These hummingbirds are common in backyards and regularly visit nectar feeders, where they will flip and fan their tails while feeding. They can also be found in parks, gardens and riparian areas in the mountain lowlands.Continue to 6 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Amazilia violiceps
Range in North America: Uncommon summer resident in extreme southeastern Arizona and southwestern corner of New Mexico.
Violet-crowned hummingbirds are relatively uncommon in the United States. Their distinctive white underparts, plain white throat, gray-green upperparts, and blue-purple crown make them instantly recognizable when they are seen. The bill is also a distinctive red with a black tip. Male and female birds look similar, though females are slightly duller.
While their range in the United States is limited, violet-crowned hummingbirds are best seen at low elevations near water sources, and they tend to prefer sycamore trees. They are frequently seen in canyon habitats.Continue to 7 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Lampornis clemenciae
Range in North America: Uncommon summer visitor to common summer resident in extreme southeastern Arizona and western Texas. Summer ranges may extend slightly further north when populations are high.
The blue-throated hummingbird is another rare visitor to North America, but in some areas, it is becoming a more common seasonal resident. Boldly distinctive, males have a rich blue throat, white brow line and white throat border with gray underparts and gray-green upperparts. Females have similar markings but lack the blue throat. Both genders have wide white tips on the corner tail feathers. These birds are also easily recognized by their size, with a 5” length that is larger than most other hummingbirds.
Blue-throated hummingbirds are most frequently seen near streams in mountain canyons, and they will occasionally visit feeders, particularly when other nectar sources are scarce.Continue to 8 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Stellula calliope
Range in North America: Summer breeder in southern British Columbia and as far south as Idaho and northern Nevada, Utah, and California. Summer range extends east to western Montana and west to eastern and central Washington and Oregon.
At just 3.25 inches in length, the calliope hummingbird is the smallest North American hummingbird and one of the most beautiful. Males have a streaked pink or magenta gorget that extends to points on the sides. Females lack the gorget but share the bright green upperparts and slight rufous wash on the flanks of white underparts. Males have more extensive green on the flanks.
These birds prefer low flowers for feeding and can be found regularly in mountain meadows. Males often perch higher to defend their territory, though they are less aggressive than many hummingbird species and are easily intimidated because of their small size.Continue to 9 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Calothorax lucifer
Range in North America: Rare summer visitor and occasional breeder in west Texas as well as extreme southeastern Arizona southwestern New Mexico.
The Lucifer hummingbird is a rare but beautiful hummingbird in North America. Males have a boldly iridescent purple throat, green upperparts and flanks, and a dark, forked tail. Females have green upperparts and buff underparts and can be identified by a blurry gray ear streak. Both genders have heavy, long bills that are curved downward.
This desert hummingbird prefers areas with plentiful agave and ocotillo plants, though they can also be found along the fringes of mountain canyons. They rarely visit backyards.Continue to 10 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Calypte anna
Range in North America: Year-round resident along the western coast of North America from southern British Columbia to southern California. Extensive year-round populations are also found southwestern Arizona.
Anna’s hummingbirds are familiar along the west coast. Males are instantly recognizable with a red or pink crown and extensive iridescent gorget, dusky greenish underparts and brighter green upperparts. Females are similar but paler on the underside and lack the extensive gorget, but may show some red or pink spotting on the throat.
These hummingbirds are common visitors to backyards, gardens, and parks, especially where nectar feeders and hummingbird flowers are present. They will also nest regularly in backyards. Away from habitation, they prefer open woodlands and riparian areas.Continue to 11 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Heliomaster constantii
Range in North America: A rare visitor to extreme southern Arizona; not known to breed in North America.
Aptly named, the plain-capped starthroat is a relatively dull hummingbird with drab brown-green plumage and gray underparts. The face is marked by a white whisker and a white line behind the eyes, and a white patch is also visible on the back and at the base of the wings. In good light, a small red patch may be visible at the base of the throat, though the extent of the red can vary.
When sighted, these hummingbirds are often seen at feeders. They prefer lower elevations, but are solitary birds and can be defensive in their territory.Continue to 12 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Eugenes fulgens
Range in North America: Summer breeder in the corners of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Rare summer visitors, occasionally seen in western Texas.
The dark plumage of male magnificent hummingbirds is easily recognizable, as is the long, straight bill. Males have dark green bodies with brighter blue gorgets and violet crowns. Females are plainer with bright green upperparts and grayish-white underparts. Both genders have a bold white spot behind the eye that is easily visible. At 5-5.25 inches in length, this is one of the largest hummingbirds in North America.
Magnificent hummingbirds are most often found in arid pine forests and open woodlands, though they will regularly visit nectar feeders, where they can be very aggressive.Continue to 13 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Cynanthus latirostris
Range in North America: Summer breeder in south-central and southeastern Arizona and extreme southwestern New Mexico, with a few birds remaining in the same range year-round.
Broad-billed hummingbirds are often confused with magnificent hummingbirds because they share the same dark green and blue plumage, but the red bill with its broad base and black tip are distinctive. Females have bright green upperparts and gray underparts, with less extensive red on the bill and white post-ocular stripe. Broad-billed hummingbirds are also substantially smaller than magnificent hummingbirds, though size can be difficult to judge.
These hummingbirds are commonly seen in lowland, arid habitats. They are solitary and can be fiercely territorial, and they will stake out hummingbird feeders and defend them from intruders. While feeding, they wag and fan their tails.Continue to 14 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Amazilia beryllina
Range in North America: Rare summer visitor to southeastern Arizona and western Texas, with a few birds sighted annually though nesting is unusual in this range.
The berylline hummingbird is distinctive for its bright iridescent green head, throat and chest paired with darker rufous or chestnut wings and tail. The lower abdomen is buff to whitish-gray, and the undertail covers can show a rufous tinge. The bicolored bill is red below and black above.
These birds prefer scrub oak forests and are frequently found near streams. They are solitary and aggressive and will chase intruders away from prime feeding or perching locations.Continue to 15 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Amazilia yucatanensis
Range in North America: Year-round resident in the extreme southern tip of Texas. Wintering populations may spread along the Gulf Coast as far as Louisiana.
Often confused with the berylline hummingbird, Buff-bellied hummingbirds have similar plumage but a more extensive buff wash on their underparts and no chestnut wing coloration. In contrast, the long, rounded tail is brightly rufous and can be a better field mark than the buff underparts. Both genders have a bicolored bill, but the red is much more extensive on males. The range of these two types of hummingbirds does not overlap.
Buff-bellied hummingbirds regularly visit gardens and nectar feeders, and they can often be found in orchards and citrus groves as well as along woodland edges.Continue to 16 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Hylocharis leucotis
Range in North America: Rare summer visitor to west Texas and year-round resident in southeastern Arizona.
White-eared hummingbirds are aptly named for the broad white ear stripe on both males and females. Males are overall darker with green plumage and a blue throat, while females share the green upperparts but have paler whitish-gray underparts. Both genders have a strongly bicolored bill that is red with a black tip, but males’ bills show redder. Both genders also have dark tails, but males have forked tails while females’ tails are straight.
These hummingbirds can be aggressive at feeders where they will dive and chase intruders. While hovering to feed, they will spread their tails as an intimidating display. They are bold and will even come close to humans wearing red to inspect them as a potential nectar source. Away from habitation, white-eared hummingbirds are found most frequently in pine forests in mountains and canyons.Continue to 17 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Hylocharis xantusii
Range in North America: Rare visitor to southern California with vagrant sightings as far north as British Columbia.
Though similar at first to the white-eared hummingbird, this hummer is easily recognized by its broad red bill with a black tip, white postocular eye stripe, and green plumage and rufous tail. Females are paler but share the white postocular stripe and red bill, though their faces have more buff coloration as opposed to males' darker faces.
Xantus's hummingbirds live year-round in the mountainous areas of Baja California, where they prefer dry scrubland habitats and open forests. They also readily visit backyard gardens and nectar feeders.Continue to 18 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Colibri thalassinus
Range in North America: Rare visitor to southern Texas, but vagrants have been sighted across the eastern and central United States and as far north as Ontario.
The green violet-ear has iridescent green plumage marked by a triangular blue or purple ear patch and a similarly colored chest patch. The wings are dark, and the blue-green tail is marked with a wide dark band that can be difficult to see in the field. Females have similar coloration and markings but are duller overall.
The green violet-ear is a widely wandering hummingbird. Reports of these birds visiting feeders have been recorded in Missouri, Michigan, North Carolina, and various other states, giving backyard hummingbird lovers hope that this rarity may appear at their feeders. They can be aggressive birds and will chase other hummingbirds away from feeders.Continue to 19 of 19 below.
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Scientific name: Anthracothorax prevostii
Range in North America: Rare visitor to southern Texas along the Gulf Coast.
This large hummingbird has brilliant dark green plumage and a dark blue-black chest and abdomen. The rufous or richly reddish-purple tail is the most distinctive field mark for males; females have white underparts with a black central streak and a darker tail with white tips. Both genders have a long, downward curved bill.
Green-breasted mangos prefer open habitats such as forest edges, parks, gardens, and backyards, where they will visit feeders. They also eat many insects, often hawking to catch prey in flight.