The following hummingbird species are known to occur in North Carolina (with photos and ID assistance):
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) – Native Breeders – Common during the summer, rare in the winter. They usually arrive in March for the breeding season and leave in September or October to return to their wintering territories Males usually depart first, and females and the young follow about two weeks later.
The male has a ruby-red throat, a white collar, an emerald green back and a forked tail.
The female has a green back and tail feathers that are banded white, black and grey-green.
These hummingbirds are usually found in gardens and at feeders. These birds are fearless, and are known for chasing away other hummingbirds and even larger birds, or rodents away from their favorite nectar feeders and flowers.
Males can easily be identified by their glossy orange-red throats.
Females have whitish, speckled throats, green backs and crowns, and rufous, white-tipped tail feathers.
Rufous Hummingbird versus the similar Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Identification)
Black-chinned Hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) – Rare vagrants
The male has a black, shimmering throat with a purple edge and pale feathers below that create a collar. However, unless the light is just right, the head looks all black. His back is green and there are some green feathers covering the chest.
The female is pale below (sometimes with a slightly speckled throat) and her back is green.
(Amazilia yucatanensis) – Accidental / Vagrants – Occur in fall, winter and spring
The male’s throat is a metallic golden green and the red, dark-tipped bill is straight and slender. Back and head are mostly metallic olive. The lower chest ranges in coloration to whitish with various shades of grey or green, or buffy (yellowish-brown).
The tail and primary wing feathers are rufous (reddish-brown) and slightly forked. The underwing is white.
The female is generally less colorful than the male and has a a dark upper bill
Broad-billed Hummingbirds (Cynanthus latirostris) – Accidental / Vagrants – These mostly Mexican hummingbirds venture into the United States regularly; they mostly visit the southern parts – but a few vagrants travel as far north as Wisconsin.
The male is glossy green above and on the chest. He has a deep blue throat. His straight and slender beak is red with a black tip. His slightly forked tail is dark above, and the under tail feathers are white.
The female is less colorful than the male. Her throat, chest and belly are light to medium grey. She has a white stripe over each eye.
Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) – Rare vagrants.
One of the larger and the most vocal hummingbirds in the United States, where it is the only species to produce a song; specifically the males produce a complex series of scratchy noises, sounding like a sharp “chee-chee-chee; when moving from flower to flower, they emit toneless “chip” vocalizations. All other hummingbirds in the United States are mostly silent.
They are well known for their territorial behavior; the male makes elaborate dive displays at other birds and sometimes even at people. At the bottom of their dives, they produce high-pitched loud popping sounds with their tail feathers.
Males have glossy dark rose-red throats and crowns, which may appear black or dark purple in low light. The underside is mostly greyish; and the back metallic green.
Females have light grey chests with white and red spotting on the throat, greenish back and white tipped tails.
They resemble the Costa’s Hummingbirds, but the male’s Costa’s Hummingbird‘s gorget (throat feathers) is longer than that of the Anna’s. They are larger than the Rufous Hummingbirds and lack the rusty coloration of the Rufous Hummingbirds.
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus) – Rare vagrants
Males can most easily be identified by their iridescent, rose-red throats, white chest feathers and metallic green back and crown and their rounded tails. The males’ tails make whistling noises in flight.
Females lack the flashy throat patch of the male and are mostly pale below. Their white-tipped outer tail feathers are rust-colored close to the body and blackish in the center; the tail feathers in the center range from green to blackish.
Allen’s Hummingbirds (Selasphorus sasin) – Rare vagrants – Easily confused with the Rufous Hummingbird, but the Allen’s can be identified by the green back whereas the Rufous Hummingbird has a coppery back.
The male has a throat that ranges in color from orange-red to yellow-orange, a back that is bright green, a rump that is rufous and its tail feathers are rufous tipped in black.
Green Violetear Hummingbirds (Colibri thalassinus) – Rare / Accidental – They are mostly resident in Mexico and Central America, but some seasonal movements have been observed. They may wander north to the United States and even as far north as Canada..
The plumage is mostly grass green turning into a bronze on the rump and uppertail feathers. There is a broad violet central spot on the upper breast. The violet-blue band along the chin often connects to the violet-blue “ear.” The tail is square and slightly notched with a broad dark blue band at the end of it.
The smaller females have a slightly duller plumage.
Calliope Hummingbirds (Stellula calliope formerly Archilochus calliope) – Rare vagrants.
(Anthracothorax prevostii) – Increasingly frequent vagrants and extremely rare residents in Texas and accidental vagrants to other U.S. states – These hummingbirds are native to Mexico, Central America down to Costa Rica, and some Caribbean islands. However, juveniles especially have been venturing into the United States. A juvenile male was reported in Concord, North Carolina in November 2000.
Adult Males: The plumage is mostly glossy bright green, more yellowish brown on its flanks (sides) and vent. There is a broad blue area from its throat to below the chest – which may appear black in poor light conditions. The outer tail feathers range in color from an orangey-red to magenta or a deep purple tipped with black.
Females and Juvenile Males: The outer tail feathers have broad magenta and glossy dark blue bands and the 3 – 4 outer tail feathers are white tipped. The plumage above is bronze-green. Below they are white with a dark middle stripe that changes from black at the chin to blue-green on the throat.
Is it a Hummingbird or an Insect?
The Hawk Moths (often referred to as “Hummingbird Moth”) is easily confused with hummingbirds, as they have similar feeding and swift flight patterns. These moths also hover in midair while they feed on nectar. Moths have a couple of sensors or “antennas” on top of the head, which are key identifiers.
(Note: Hawk-mo th photo refers to a European species, which is out of the range of the American hummingbirds – but the American hawk-moth looks quite similar.)
- Hummingbird Information
- Hummingbird Amazing Facts
- Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Garden
- Hummingbird Species
- Feeding Hummingbirds