Hummingbirds are highly adaptable creatures. Their ability to evolve to suit their environment has resulted in great diversification. Over 300 species can be found all over the world from the Andes Mountains in South America to the Caribbean islands. In this article, we look at the top 17 most popular hummingbird species in North America. We’ll cover their location, features, and unique characteristics.
11. Allen’s Hummingbird
This hummingbird resides around the West Coast, mostly in California and the south of Oregon. The name comes from Charles Andrew Allen, an American naturalist who lived between 1841 and 1930. Mature adults can grow up to 3.5 inches in length. Unfortunately, their numbers have been declining because of the limited wintering and breeding range.
Females don’t change much throughout their lives. Their throats have a white center and their tail feathers are broad with white tips. Older ones have a bright green back, a reddish-brown face, and a speckled throat. Immature males look similar to adult females with their narrow tail feathers. Once they mature, they develop a brilliant orange-red throat. The species has a straight bill of medium length.
22. Anna’s Hummingbird
This species permanently resides in Canada and the US. It is the most common type of hummingbird in California. The secret to its large population lies in its expanded range and adaptability. In the summer, it avoids extreme heat by migrating to Canada. In the winter, it flies back to California. The name was taken from Anna Messena, an Italian duchess who lived between 1802 and 1887.
Anna’s Hummingbird can grow to 4 inches in length with a maximum wingspan of 5 1/4 inches. The males have bright rose-red throat and head. Behind their eyes is a white spot. Their backs are green while their underparts are grey. They have long, slender bills. The females have a smaller patch of red on the throat. They have brilliant green crowns and rounded tail feathers.
33. Berylline Hummingbird
The Berylline is a non-migratory species. It breeds in the forests of west Mexico down to central Honduras. It can also stray to the Madrean Sky Islands Arizona and breed there. Females seek out protected spots on trees and shrubs for building nests. They lay two white eggs. The birds get their nutrition from flower nectar. They can also catch insects.
Adults can grow up to 4 inches and weigh as much as 5 grams. They are easy to spot with their metallic olive green head and throat. Their lower belly is of a rusty gray color. Meanwhile, the tail and wings are reddish-brown. Males have straight and slender bills with a dark red color. They tend to be more colorful than females to attract mating partners.
44. Black Chinned Hummingbird
This migratory bird is common Canada and the US West Coast, though it may spend winters down in Mexico. Indeed, it was discovered there by a scientist named Dr. Alexandre. The Black-chinned Hummingbird can also breed in the south and southwestern states. In the summer, they move from the lowlands to the mountains to find nectar.
The name perfectly describes this bird. Adult males have black chins and throats. A strip of brilliant purple can be seen if light hits it at the perfect angle. A white collar goes around the sides and neck. The wings are long and almost reaches the tail tip. They can reach 3.25 inches in length. Females usually build more than one nest as she expects another brood.
55. Blue Throated Hummingbird
Also known as the blue-throated mountaingem. It is a native species in Mexico where it thrives in the mountain woodlands. It may also travel to Arizona’s Madrean Sky Islands, western Texas, and southern New Mexico. Both sexes sing to attract the opposite sex during mating season. Nests are made from plant fibers held together by stolen spider silk.
The average Blue Throated Hummingbird grows to almost 5 inches and weighs up to 10 grams — positively huge in the world of hummers. The top of their body is a dull green while their belly is a medium gray. They have two white stripes at the sides of the head: behind the eye and under it.
66. Broad Billed Hummingbird
If you want to see the Broad-billed Hummingbird, then be prepared to travel to Arizona or New Mexico where most of them reside. You may also find them in West Texas but the population is not as big as the other states. They breed in arid conditions with females building the nest and laying two eggs. The birds retreat to central Mexico during winter.
Most of the species discussed so far have and slender bills so this one is refreshingly different. As the name implies, it has a rather broad bill at the base with a bright red color. The tip tapers sharply and has a black tint. Adults have a metallic green body with brown wings and tail. They can grow to 4 inches long and weigh up to 4 grams.
77. Broad Tailed Hummingbird
This is a highland hummingbird that lives along the western coasts of Canada, the US, Mexico, and Guatemala. They like staying under the shade of pine and oak canopies. When it’s time to forage, they go to grasslands and open areas to drink nectar. They breed around montane valleys, foothills, and sub-alpine meadows.
At 4 inches as adults, they are of medium build in the world of hummingbirds. The females weigh an average of 3.6 grams – slightly heavier than the males. Both sexes have a back with metallic green color. They have a white eye ring and broadly rounded black tails. Males have a rose-red throat while females have paler colors.
88. Buff Bellied Hummingbird
Head over to Texas to see the Buff-bellied Hummingbird. It can often be seen around the woods in the lower portion of the Rio Grande delta. These birds have also been spotted around Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, northern Belize, and the northwest of Guatemala. They are territorial birds that will defend their feeding area with aggression.
Adults can grow to 4.3 inches and get as heavy as 5 grams. They have a metallic green cover along their backs and necks. The tail and wings are reddish brown. The belly is buff, as its name suggests. In males, the bill is red, straight, and slender. In females, the bill is darker and the body is less colorful.
99. Calliope Hummingbird
This small hummingbird lives most of the year in the US and Canada but it can migrate as far down south as Central America for winter. Its name comes from Greek mythology. Calliope is a Muse who has a beautiful voice. The males do use vocalization and wing sounds while diving to attract the attention of females. They nest at high altitudes.
Adults can be as short as 2.8 inches or as long as 3.9 inches. The wingspan is up to 4.3 inches. Like many hummingbirds, their backs have a green gloss while the crown has white underparts. Adult males are distinguished by their red streaks around the throat. Their sides are also green but culminate in dark wings and tail.
1010. Costa’s Hummingbird
The name commemorates Louis Marie Pantaleon Costa, an early French zoologist who specialized in birds. This is a hummingbird that thrives in the heat of the desert. It is common to see it along the southwestern sides of the US and the Baja California Peninsula of northwestern Mexico. Females build cup-shaped nests from plant fibers held together by lichen.
It’s a small bird with adults growing between 3 to 3.5 inches in length. The back and sides of males are mostly green. The wings and tail are black. However, the star of the show is the gorgeous purple coloring on the head and throat. Females are less distinctive with a gray-green body and a white underbelly.
1111. Lucifer Hummingbird
Also known as the Lucifer Sheartail, this medium-sized hummingbird is partial to deserts and other arid areas. Many are found in southwest Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico. They like to feast on nectar, spiders, and tiny insects. Lucifer Hummingbird females builds a cup-shaped nest when it lays two eggs.
Adults grow to 4 inches in length. They have a long curved bill and small wings. A white patch can be seen behind their eyes. Males have an eye-catching throat with a metallic magenta cover and a white chest. The tail is dark and forked, hence the alternate name of “sheartail”. Meanwhile, the crown and the rest of the body are green with brownish spots.
1212. Magnificent Hummingbird
This one also goes by the name Rivoli’s Hummingbird after the Duke of Rivoli who was an amateur ornithologist. It lives in mountains at altitudes of 2,000m and up to the timberline. When it’s time to feed, it may go down to lower grounds in search of feeders. When breeding, it goes to ravines around south Arizona, New Mexico, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
This hummingbird is rather large as it can grow up to 5.5 inches and weigh as much as 10 grams. The males are often larger and more colorful than females. Their black bills are long and straight. They look dark in the shade but they shimmer under sunlight. Adult males are a mixture of green and bronze. Their throat is a bright blue-green.
1313. Ruby Throated Hummingbird
You can find this around the northeastern US during summer and further down south around Florida to Central America during winter. Migrations can be as long as 900 miles. It is common to see it around the Mississippi River. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird likes to stay in pine and deciduous forests, as well as gardens and orchards.
It can grow up to 3.5 inches long and weigh up to 6 grams. It is a solitary bird. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird can be aggressive when defending territories against other hummingbirds. Adults have a metallic green cover along their backs and grayish white fluff along their bellies. Their black bills are long and slender.
1414. Rufous Hummingbird
This bird breeds around forest edges, mountainsides, and open areas. It can be found at the western section of western North America from Alaska to California. It is the only hummingbird that nests that far north. This species is known for its incredible ability to migrate distances of up to 2,000 miles via overland route.
Adult males have a rufous or reddish-brown face, sides, and tail. Their throat patch is a brilliant orange-red. They could have green on their backs. As for females, they have rusty flanks and undertails. They look a lot like the Allen’s Hummingbird and are bigger than the males. Length is usually between 2.8 and 3.5 inches while the weight is from 2 to 5 grams.
1515. Violet Crowned Hummingbird
A mountain species that breed around southeastern Arizona to southwestern Mexico. It can also reach as far as California and Texas. They migrate south for winter. It is not a very common bird but its unique characteristics makes it easy to identify.
The descriptive name is spot on. It has a majestic violet cap and a wide red-orange bill punctuated by a black tip. Unlike many hummingbirds, this one has a plain white throat and chest. Meanwhile, the super parts are a mixture of bronze and green. Females are similar but less colorful.
1616. White Eared Hummingbird
You can find these hummers in and around pine oak forests. Their breeding grounds cover Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nicaragua, and Mexico. They feed on nectar and small invertebrates. The birds catch prey using their wings or by gleaning from tree bark.
This is a rather dark species with dark green spots all over their bodies. The tail is bronze-green while the head is a mix of black and violet. This only serves to make the white streak behind the ears more prominent which is where it the name. The bill is red with a black tip. They can grow to 4 inches and weigh about 4 grams.
1717. Xantus Hummingbird
This species is endemic to Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. A few have been sighted along North America’s Pacific Coast up to Canada’s British Columbia. It was named after the Hungarian zoologist John Xantus de Vesey who lived between 1825 and 1894.
It grows to about 3.5 inches and can be as heavy as 4 grams. Adults look quite similar to the white-eared hummingbird due to the stripe in the same region, the dark head, the green back, and the red bill. However, this one has a lighter cinnamon-brown chest and belly.
Alyssa McDuff received a Masters Degree in biology from The University of California. Alyssa has been working as a full-time biologist for the past 4 years. In her spare time, Alyssa writes for several publications including National Geographic and Hummingbird World.