North America Hummingbird Identification List

Quick Reference List for Hummingbird Identification

Broad-Billed Hummingbird
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/Flickr/CC by 2.0

There are 20 hummingbird species that regularly visit the United States and Canada, and while only a few of them regularly breed north of Mexico, vagrant sightings are always possible and knowing how to distinguish between similar species is useful. While some of these hummingbirds are unique and distinctive, others are very similar and can only be told apart by one or two definitive clues, clues that may not always be easy to see.

The hummingbird identification list below can help even novice birders narrow down the clues that separate each species, helping improve hummingbird identification skills so every birder feels more confident about the hummers they see.

To use this list, compare the most noticeable characteristics of hummingbirds you see with the notes to help eliminate species from the identification possibilities. With just a few clues such as throat color, bill color and shape, tail color and shape, range, and some other distinct features, you will be able to accurately and confidently identify each hummingbird.

Hummingbird Identification List

Note: The characteristics used below are simplifications for the purpose of easy identification. Male (M) and female (F) distinctions are used where applicable.

Species: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

  • Throat: M - red, F - plain
  • Bill: black, straight
  • Tail: M - slight fork, F - white tips
  • Range: east
  • Other: only hummingbird widely seen in the east 

Species: Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

  • Throat: M - red, F - streaked
  • Bill: black, straight
  • Tail: rufous patches on sides
  • Range: interior west
  • Other: white chin, females show buff flanks, wings make loud metallic trill in flight

Species: Rufous Hummingbird

  • Throat: M - orange-red, F - splotched or spotted black
  • Bill: straight
  • Tail: M - forked, F - white tips
  • Range: west, southeast in winter
  • Other: faint wing trill, very aggressive at feeders, most males have orange upperparts

Species: Allen's Hummingbird

  • Throat: M - orange, F - splotched black
  • Bill: straight
  • Tail: orange
  • Range: Pacific coast
  • Other: generally shows a green back and orange flanks

Species: Costa's Hummingbird

  • Throat: M - pinkish-purple, F - plain
  • Bill: black, straight
  • Tail: straight across
  • Range: southwest, Pacific coast
  • Other: males show purple-pink on the forehead and crown

Species: Black-Chinned Hummingbird

  • Throat: M - black and purple, F - plain or faintly streaked
  • Bill: black, straight
  • Tail: slightly forked
  • Range: widespread in west
  • Other: active tail movement while feeding, white collar contrasts with  male's throat

Species: Violet-Crowned Hummingbird

  • Throat: plain white
  • Bill: red with black tip, straight
  • Tail: slightly curved when spread
  • Range: southwest / rare
  • Other: genders are similar, both show a blue-purple crown

Species: Blue-Throated Hummingbird

  • Throat: M - blue, F - gray
  • Bill: black, straight
  • Tail: broad white corners
  • Range: southwest / rare
  • Other: exceptionally large size, dull underparts, white stripe noticeable on face

    Species: Calliope Hummingbird

    • Throat: M - pink-magenta streaks, F - faintly streaked
    • Bill: black, straight
    • Tail: M - black, F - white tips
    • Range: Pacific northwest, interior west
    • Other: smallest of the North American hummingbirds

    Species: Lucifer Hummingbird

    • Throat: M - pink-purple, F - plain
    • Bill: black, decurved
    • Tail: forked
    • Range: southwest / rare
    • Other: Females show buff underparts

    Species: Anna's Hummingbird

    • Throat: M - pink-red, F - streaked or splotched
    • Bill: black, straight
    • Tail: M - forked, F - slight white corners
    • Range: year-round Pacific coast, southwest
    • Other: tail held still while feeding, males show pink-red forehead and crown

    Species: Plain-Capped Starthroat

    • Throat: red-brown
    • Bill: black, straight, exceptionally long
    • Tail: slightly ridged
    • Range: southern Arizona / rare
    • Other: white rump patch, white malar streak

      Species: Magnificent Hummingbird

      • Throat: M - green-black or turquoise, F - slightly streaked
      • Bill: black, straight, exceptionally long
      • Tail: straight
      • Range: southwest / rare
      • Other: males show a purple forehead and crown

      Species: Broad-Billed Hummingbird

      • Throat: M - blue-green, F - gray
      • Bill: red base, black tip, thick base, straight
      • Tail: slightly forked
      • Range: southern Arizona
      • Other: flips and wags tail when hovering

      Species: Berylline Hummingbird

      • Throat: apple green
      • Bill: black above, reddish below, straight
      • Tail: rusty red
      • Range: southwestern Arizona / rare
      • Other: rust color prominent in tail and wings

      Species: Buff-Bellied Hummingbird

      • Throat: green-black
      • Bill: red with black tip, slightly decurved
      • Tail: rufous, rounded
      • Range: south Texas
      • Other: genders are similar, both show pale buff underparts

      Species: White-Eared Hummingbird

      • Throat: M - blue-green, F - streaked or spotted
      • Bill: red base, black tip, straight
      • Tail: bronze-green, M - forked, F - straight
      • Range: southwest / rare
      • Other: broad white ear stripe

      Species: Xantus's Hummingbird

      • Throat: M - black-green, F - buff
      • Bill: red with black tip, straight
      • Tail: rufous-brown
      • Range: southern California / rare
      • Other: broad bill base, white ear stripe, rich buff underparts

      Species: Green Violet-Ear

      • Throat: bright green
      • Bill: black, straight
      • Tail: blue-green with dark band near tip
      • Range: Texas / rare
      • Other: genders are similar, both show a blue-purple ear patch

      Species: Green-Breasted Mango

      • Throat: M - green, F - white with black central stripe
      • Bill: black, decurved
      • Tail: M - reddish purple, F - white tips
      • Range: south Texas / rare
      • Other: large size and overall dark coloration

      Want to learn more about each of these hummingbird species? See the complete photo gallery of North American hummingbirds!