8 Types of Hummingbirds in North Carolina

Hummingbirds in North Carolina

As soon as the warm winds come around in North Carolina, you know a diverse species of hummingbirds isn’t too far behind. This state is home to some of the most exuberant hummingbirds that arrive from March onwards and inhabit the North Carolinian land. In fact, since these birds are adept at flying as long as 23 miles every day, they might also take a short break in your backyard!

Today, we are rounding up all the different species of hummingbirds that you may spot across the Tar Heel State. Although Ruby-throated hummingbirds most commonly migrate to North Carolina in huge populations, there are many more varieties that you are likely to come across.

Generally, eight of these tiny hummingbird species can be found in the state. So, let’s take an in-depth look at each one of these, and get to know the most common North Carolinian visitors more closely.


Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Average weight: 0.071 to 0.212 oz
Wingspan: 3.1 to 4.3 inches
Lifespan: 5 – 9 years
Appearance: Slender, deep red throat, downcurved bill, expeditious flyers
Diet: Insects, nectar, sugar-water
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in North Carolina: March – April

A dash of red and green, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbirds that breeds in eastern North America. This brilliant, diminutive, precisely-aviating creature dazzles like jewels under the Carolinian sun and manages to swiftly vanish towards the next nectar source.

This slender bird can be found in several brushy and wooded habitats. Its bill is slightly downcurved and the wings are shorter in a way that they don’t meet the tail whenever the bird sits.

Males are coated with green upperparts, an iridescent reddish-black throat, a deep-toned tail, and a whitish belly. Females somewhat vary in terms of their overall profile and lack the buffy-orange hues underneath. They possess green upper bodies and whitish underbodies.

Flower gardens and feeders with sugar-water are some ways to draw these birds’ attention. That is why many birders tend to turn their backyards into whirring flocks of hummingbirds every year. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are skilled at flying and fastidiously glide in the sky while being able to instantly stop, hover, and reposition themselves with seamless control.

You may often spot these species plucking small insects out of spider webs or from the air. They mostly inhabit forest edges, woodlands, grasslands, meadows, and urbanized parks, backyards, and gardens.


Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Scientific name: Archilochus alexandri
Average weight: 0.1-0.2 oz
Wingspan: 4.3 inches
Lifespan: 10 years
Appearance: Straight black bill, slender body, iridescent purple streak on the black chin
Diet: Mostly insects and nectar
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in North Carolina: April

The Black-chinned Hummingbird is a fairly slender species with a straight bill. This greenish-back creature does not bear any vibrant colors on its throat, apart from a thin, iridescent streak of purple that borders its velvety black-colored chin. However, it is only visible when the light hits the right spot. It is also characterized by its low-pitched humming sound, caused by its wings. Females carry broad white tips towards the outer feathers of the tail.

This bird can be seen hovering at distinct feeders and flowers, erratically swooping to catch hold of little swarming insects. It is known to perch over high snags as it probes for its territory and observes other competitor species chasing flying insects. Additionally, this bird is marked by its excessive territorial defense skills and can dive up from 66 to a whopping 100 feet.

Mostly, you can expect to spot the Black-chinned Hummingbird at feeders or among dead branches of tall trees. It would be safe to call these birds a habitat generalist, as they can be found in mountainous woodlands or lowland deserts. As long as they are surrounded by plenty of flowering vines and tall trees, they can adapt well to urbanized areas.

While the Black-chinned Hummingbird isn’t the most commonly found species in North Carolina, there have been multiple sightings of it along the coastal regions. Also, it is habitual to using human-made feeders and drawn to tubular plants sugar-water.


Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

Scientific name: Calypte anna
Average weight: 0.1-0.2 oz
Wingspan: 4.7 inches
Lifespan: 8.5 years
Appearance: Rose-pink throat, emerald-colored feathers, short bill, wide tail
Diet: Nectar, insects, sugar-water
Conservation status: Least concern
Best time to see them in North Carolina: Mid March – April

Anna’s Hummingbird is a common creature that dwells along the Pacific Coast. Yet, this species is anything but usual in terms of appearance. It carries a shimmering rose-pink throat with lustrous emerald feathers, almost giving an impression of an ornament flying in the air.

Although this bird is no heavier than a coin and no larger in size than a ball, it never fails to leave a strong impression. It features a straight and short bill and a broad tail that reaches beyond its wingtips when perched.

During its courtship period, it is capable enough to dive up to 130 feet and swoop to the ground with a loud noise produced through the feathers on its tail. Also, this bird is far more vocal than other species of hummingbirds. Males are characterized by their scratchy and buzzy metallic songs, often heard when they are perched over the head level in shrubs and trees.

Through the decades, Anna’s Hummingbird has expanded its range due to the abundance of feeders and flowers established in suburban areas. Another interesting fact to know is that this bird seems like a blur of motion as it flies over flowers searching for insects and nectar. Many people have spotted it across North Carolina, especially in the south-eastern areas.

You can come across these species of birds in parks, yards, residential streets, riverside woods, eucalyptus groves, coastal scrubs, and savannahs. They readily arrive at hummingbird feeders, so keep your sugar-water ready if you want to attract these birds to your garden.


Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

Scientific name: Selasphorus rufus
Average weight: 0.071–0.176 oz
Wingspan: 4.3 inches
Lifespan: 4 – 8 years
Appearance: Orange body, white chest, greenish-tones on the back, iridescent throat
Diet: Insects, nectar, and sugar-water
Conservation status: Least Concern
Best time to see them in North Carolina: November

One of the feistiest species of hummingbirds, the Rufous Hummingbird is distinguished by its brilliant orange profile in males, and a greenish-orange body in females. They tend to relentlessly attack feeders and flowers, even picking up a quarrel with larger hummingbirds of the Southwest. These autumnal-toned birds are a wide-ranging species.

Apart from the entirely orange body, males bear a whitish chest and vague hues of green towards their back. Their throat is iridescent and can appear anywhere between red, orange, lime green, and yellowish depending on the sunlight. On females, you can look for their orangish tails and sizes to distinguish them from Black-chinned and Anna’s hummingbirds.

The Rufous Hummingbird finds its home in a plethora of forested habitats, and even meadows, suburbs, and other bushier landscapes. Just like other hummers, this one also feasts on nectar and small insects, taking their share from spider webs or grabbing them halfway in the air.

Birds belonging to this species are solitary in nature and never form breeding pairs. In fact, males have been documented chasing their female counterparts away from food-abundant areas, even during the mating season! Also, they have a tendency to copulate with multiple female Rufous’, if given the opportunity. In North Carolina, they are predominantly seen in the southern regions.

These pugnacious birds are gifted with a speedy, darting flight and excellent maneuverability. Although Rufous Hummingbirds may take up temporary residence in your backyard or garden (provided you welcome them with feeders or flowers), you must watch out! Their aggressive personality may make life difficult for other hummingbirds that pay you a visit.


Allen’s Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

Scientific name: Selasphorus sasin
Average weight: 0.1 oz
Wingspan: 4.3 inches
Lifespan: 4 years
Appearance: Small, stocky, straight bill, long wings, coppery orange and green body
Diet: Nectar and insects
Conservation status: Least Concern
Best time to see them in North Carolina: December

Highly similar to the Rufous Hummingbird, Allen’s Hummingbird almost bears an identical plumage. This bird only breeds along a linear strip of Southern Oregon and coastal California.

These creatures are quite compact, small, and stocky, and possess a straightened bill that matches the length of their head. The tails of these birds elongate past their wings while perched. The outermost feather of the tail is much narrower than the rest. They are distinguished from other species by their green and coppery orangish overall.

While adult males feature a copper-hued tail, belly, and eye patch that contrasts with their green-colored back and deep red gorget, females are mostly coated with bronze-green and a much paler coppery side. Both sexes carry minute bits of bronzed spots over their throats, with an additional small patch of orangish-red towards the center on the throat of females.

Allen’s Hummingbirds wander from flower to flower and hover over them to engulf the nectar, ticking as they pass by. They are also known to pluck insects from vegetation or fly catch them. During the flight, males emit a bumblebee-like buzzing sound produced by their wings. You can find these birds in scrubs, coastal forests, and chaparrals.

An interesting fact to know about Allen’s Hummingbirds is their ability to utilize their feet to govern their body temperature. During the colder months, they tuck their feet against their bellies during flight.

As the temperatures rise, they suspend their feet in the air to cool them down. If you happen to live around the range of these birds, setting up a sugar-water feeder in your patio may get you an opportunity to spot one.


Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

Scientific name: Selasphorus calliope
Average weight: 0.071 to 0.106 oz
Wingspan: 4.3 inches
Lifespan: 7 years
Appearance: Magenta streak, tiny body, short wings, and tail,
Diet: Insects, nectar, and sugar-water
Conservation status: Least Concern
Best time to see them in North Carolina: Not known

The Calliope Hummingbird often hovers and dances, showcasing its U-shaped dives for its female counterparts. During such displays, this bird produces a sputtering buzz through the feathers on its tails and also gives an explicit zinging call.

Too small even for a hummingbird, this is by far the tiniest bird across the United States. Yet, it breeds in open forests and meadows, situated high up in the Northwestern terrains. Moreover, it is a skilled flier, expanding its range beyond 5,000 miles every year.

This bird stands in a hunched posture that visually reduces its size even further. It bears a shortened tail with short wings that barely reach towards the bottom end of its tail. When compared to most hummingbirds, the bill of the Calliope is much thinner and smaller.

The standout attribute of these birds is the magenta streaks engraved on the males’ throats. Both sexes are covered with green towards the upper body, but females are distinguished by a peachy wash over their underparts while males wear a green-colored vest. They usually feed on nectar that they scoop out from flowering plants and catch small flying insects midair.

These birds are known to forage towards the ground but perch on alder branches and high willows while guarding their breeding territory. You can find the Calliope Hummingbird in mountain meadows, open forests, or aspen thickets beside streams.

Although this bird prefers country lands and is less likely to pay a visit to your backyard, you can watch it up close by putting up sugar-water feeders if you’re lucky enough.


Broad-billed Hummingbird

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Scientific name: Cynanthus latirostris
Average weight: 0.1 oz
Wingspan: 5.1 inches
Lifespan: 6.8 – 8.8 years
Appearance: Long bill, fuller tail, green body, sapphire throat, reddish bill
Diet: Insects, nectar, and sugar water
Conservation status: Least Concern
Best time to see them in North Carolina: Not known

The Broad-billed Hummingbird is a beautiful specialty of the hummingbird family. This small creature bears an elongated, straightened bill with a notched tail towards the center. While males possess fuller, rounder tails, the ones affixed to females are mostly squared at the corners.

Also, males are colored with a rich-green profile and a shimmery sapphire throat that sets them apart from other species. Their reddish bill is tipped in black tones. Females possess golden-green upper bodies and greyish underparts with a white mark behind the eyes.

As it migrates to the southwestern region of the States during the breeding months, it kindles the shady, flower-abundant gardens and ravines. Also, this bird is a regular visitor to hummingbird feeders. With a distinct way of drinking nectar, this bird inserts its bill into the flowers. often, it repeatedly feeds in a single area to procure as much as it can. Sometimes, it catches insects midair as well.

The male Broad-billed Hummingbird tends to endeavor a pendulum-like courtship display. Multiple birds may also congregate in small groups, known as “Leks.” They mostly dwell within stream canyons in mountain regions stationed at an elevation of around 6,500 feet. You can also find them nesting in cottonwoods, sycamores, and willows. After breeding, they head to high elevated areas (up to 10,000 feet) to forage.

Within their range, these species may stop by native flowers in residential gardens. Chances are, you might spot one even in your backyard if stocked with sugar water. However, note that there haven’t been many recorded sightings of Broad-billed Hummingbirds across North Carolina.


Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Scientific name: Amazilia yucatanensis
Average weight: 0.14–0.18 oz
Wingspan: 5.75 inches
Lifespan: 11 years
Appearance: Long red bill, green body, orange tail
Diet: Insects and nectar
Conservation status: Least Concern
Best time to see them in North Carolina: March-April

Not much is known about the Buff-bellied Hummingbird, but this species is identifiable by its red long bills, deep green plumage, and orange tail. Its namesake belly patch is often difficult to see. This bird is a common visitor in Mexico but has a limited range in the United States.

These hummingbird species mostly inhabit shrubby and wooded regions surrounded by flowers and occasionally visit feeders. However, it’s extremely rare for them to arrive at your garden since there are not many tips on how to draw their attention. Your best bet is to install a sugar-water feeder and plant some vibrantly-colored flowers in the garden.

Buff-bellied Hummingbirds are known for their rather aggressive nature whenever they are around food sources. Much like different species, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds also mate with several partners and barely form breeding pairs.

Speaking of North Carolina land, a few of these birds have been documented in the south-eastern region of the state at a variety of times throughout the year.



North Carolina is one of the greatest hubs where species of hummingbirds fly to every year. As long as it’s daylight in the state, it’s almost guaranteed for you to spot at least one of the hummingbird species that we’ve mentioned. If you’re luckier, one might even arrive at your backyard. Therefore, ensure that you are armed with your feeders so that you greet these creatures the way they deserve!


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