You would think that finding out how many species of hummingbirds there are in the world would be a simple one-click Google search. Well, it’s not quite that easy.
Hummingbirds belong to the family Trochilidae, but the proper number of species of hummingbirds is complicated by inconsistent counting of sub-species, common local names vs. scientific names, and how birds that are closely related are categorized.
The American Ornithological Society’s Committee on Classification and Nomenclature (the people in charge of naming North and Middle American birds) will sometimes reclassify birds. In 2019, for example, they changed the name of blue-throated hummingbird to the blue-throated mountain-gem. Consequently, the number of species and sub-species can grow or contract.
If you’re curious, you can see the AOS’ most up-to-date list of bird names here.
Regardless, hummingbirds are found only in the western hemisphere, and the American Bird Conservancy currently puts the number of hummingbird species in the Americas at 365. Nearly half of those live in the equatorial belt—the area between 10 degrees north and south of the equator.
In North America, we have 20 common species of hummingbird:
Allen’s hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin
Range: During the breeding season, Allen’s hummingbird resides along the California coast from Los Angeles to southern Oregon. During the rest of the year, you’ll find them on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a sub-area of Los Angeles.
Habitat: Within their limited range, Allen’s hummingbirds are a common site in gardens and open woods. They migrate in early spring and will easily come to nectar feeders.
Allen’s hummingbirds and rufous hummingbirds are often confused by less experienced birders because they look similar. So similar, in fact, the females are almost identical. However, the male Allen’s hummingbird is greener on its head and back with more orange on its flanks than the male rufous hummingbird.
Anna’s hummingbird, Calypte anna
Range: Year-round, you’ll find Anna’s hummingbirds on the west coast from the southern end of British Columbia to southern California. Large populations also live in southwestern Arizona.
Habitat: Commonly found in backyard gardens with nectar feeders, Anna’s hummingbirds have no trouble building nests in suburban backyards. You’ll also find them in woodland and riparian areas, as well as parks and other areas where flowers that attract hummingbirds are found.
The males sport a hot pink or red head with an impressive iridescent gorget (the patch under the chin), with greenish feathers underneath and distinctly brighter green feathers on its upperparts. The females look similar, but the colors are paler. Where the male has the iridescent gorget, the female might have a few spots of red or pink.
See also: Hummingbirds: The Crown Jewel of Color
Berylline hummingbird, Amazilia beryllina
Range: During the summer months, you may be fortunate to see a berylline hummingbird in southernmost Arizona and western Texas, below interstate 10. Not much is known about their nesting behavior. When nests are found, they are located in coniferous trees and deciduous trees or shrubs.
Habitat: Berylline hummingbird are often found near streams and prefer scrub oak forests. They are loners and will be aggressive toward intruders, chasing others from feeding and perching locations.
The berylline hummingbird is recognized by its bright iridescent green head, throat and chest. Its tail and wings are the reddish-brown color we call rufous. Their belly is greyish-white to buff. Easily noticed is their two-color bill—black above and red below.
Black-chinned hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri
Range: Black-chinned hummingbirds breed during the summer months and you can find them in the mountains from eastern Washington and Oregon through Idaho and as far south as southwestern Texas. Central California and along the southern California coast is the summer home for some isolated populations.
Habitat: Commonly seen at backyard nectar feeders. Also be found in parks, gardens, and riparian areas in the mountain lowlands.
You’ll recognize the male by the distinctive iridescent purple band that rims its black gorget and stands in stark contrast to its white collar. Females are white underneath and green on top with some faint streaking on the throat. Even by hummingbird standards, the black-chinned hummer has an exceptionally long bill—about 3.25 inches.
Blue-throated mountain gem, Lampornis clemenciae
Range: The blue-throated mountain gem is still an uncommon visitor to extreme southeastern Arizona and western Texas. But sightings are become more frequent and as some birds are adjusting to becoming seasonal residents.
Habitat: Blue-throated mountain gems will visit a nectar feeder when other sources are difficult to find. Usually seen near streams in mountain canyons.
The blue-throated mountain gem is larger than most hummingbirds. At about five inches, the males have a rich, bold blue throat, white brow line, and a white throat border. Feathers up top are greyish-green while the underbelly is grey. Their tail feathers have noticeably wide white tips. Females are similar in size and markings, but they lack the blue throat.
Broad-billed hummingbird, Cynanthus latirostris
Range: Breeds during the summer months in extreme southwestern New Mexico and southeastern and south-central Arizona. A few birds do remain year-round.
Habitat: Broad-billed hummingbirds prefer the barren, hot, lowlands. Solitary birds, they are fiercely territorial, and will claim and defend hummingbird feeders. While feeding, they do a little dance, wagging and fanning their tails.
The broad-billed hummingbird is frequently confused with the magnificent hummingbird because they both have the same blue and dark green coloring. What’s different, of course, is the bill. Broad at its base, it’s red color and black tip are what make the broad-billed hummer distinctive. Broad-billed hummingbirds are also considerably smaller than magnificent hummingbirds.
Broad-tailed hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus
Range: Sometimes called “The Mountain Hummingbird,” the broad-billed hummingbird spends its summers in the southern and central Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Mountains, and the higher elevations (4,000 to 12,000 feet) of California and Mexico. It’s also a causal visitor to the Gulf Coast during the fall and winter.
Habitat: You might see the broad-tailed hummingbird bathing or drinking in shallow mountain streams, either in meadows or open forests, including pine-oak and pinyon-juniper woods, along with spruce, Douglas-fir, and aspen trees.
The broad-tailed hummingbird has marking like the ruby-throated hummingbird, and is another hummer easily confused with its cousin. The male has red-rose throat, with white underparts, and green sides. A primary differentiator is their range. The broad-tail is in the west, while the ruby-throated is in the east. Additionally, the broad-tailed has a rounded tail, the ruby-throated a forked tail.
Buff-bellied hummingbird, Amazilia yucatanensis
Range: From January to December, you can find the buff-bellied hummingbird living at the very tip of southern Texas. During the winter, some populations may head east along the Gulf Coast and can be seen as far as Louisiana.
Habitat: Buff-bellied hummingbirds enjoy orchards, citrus groves, and along the edges of wooded lands. They regularly visit nectar feeders.
Buff-bellied hummingbirds have plumage similar to the berylline hummingbird, but without the deep rufous wing color. Rather than ty to identify this bird by its buff coloring, check for a long, rounded, rufous tail. Both male and female have a bicolored bill, with the male having more red.
See also: All About Hummingbird Nests
Calliope hummingbird, Selasphorus calliope
Range: Breeding season means you’ll find the Calliope hummingbird in southern British Columbia, south to Idaho and northern Nevada, Utah, and California. Their summer meanderings extend east into western Montana and west into eastern and central Washington and Oregon.
Habitat: You’ll find the Calliope hummingbird in mountain meadows feeding on low-growing flowers. To defend their territory, males will perch higher and watch for intruders. When compared to other male hummers, the Calliope is more easily intimidated and less aggressive.
It’s easy to understand why the Calliope is careful in picking its battles. It is the smallest North American hummingbird, coming in at about 3.25 inches in length. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in the its beautiful gorget with streaked pink or magenta coloring that extends into points on the sides. The females lack the gorget, which is usual among hummingbirds of all species. However, both genders of the Calliope have bright green upperparts and a slight rufous coloring on the flanks of white underparts. The males are greener on their flanks.
Costa’s hummingbird, Calypte costae
Range: Costa’s hummingbird is a year-round resident of southeastern California and southwestern Arizona. They will inhabit territory as far north as the southern tip of Nevada. The summer breeding range extends more to the north and east.
Habitat: These birds are not usually found in urban areas, although they may check out backyards at the edge of a suburb. These little guys prefer arid, desert climates and open regions.
The males sport a bright purple or pinkish crown with a gorget that extends into long sharp points at the sides of the throat that flare out when courting a female. Females share the green upperparts and whitish underparts. Both genders possess light green along the flanks.
Green-breasted mango hummingbird, Anthracothorax prevostii
Range: The green-breasted mango hummingbird is such a rare visitor to southern Texas along the Gulf Coast that I feel a bit uneasy including it in this list of 20 North American hummingbirds.
Habitat: One of the larger hummingbirds, it will visit nectar feeders along forest edges, parks, gardens, and backyards, preferring open areas. They also eat many insects, often catching them on the wing.
The males and females have long bills that curve downward. The males are dark green with a dark blue to black chest and abdomen. The male’s tail is rufous or reddish-purple. The female has white underparts with a black streak in the center and white tips on a dark tail.
Mexican violetear hummingbird, Colibri thalassinus
Range: This bird is more common to central Mexico and northern South America, but it likes to wander. Like the green-breasted mango, the Mexican violetear is a rare visitor to southern Texas. But being able to fly like they do and having minds of their own, vagrants have been seen at feeders across the eastern and central United States and as far north as Ontario.
Habitat: Typically be found in mountain forests, forest clearings, and forest edges. They can be aggressive and will chase other hummingbirds away from feeders.
The Mexican violetear is a medium-sized hummingbird. The males have dark, metallic green feathers that appear black in low light, and a blue to violet patch on their checks and breast. The primary feathers of its wings are black, and its tail is squared-off with a black band at the end that may be difficult to see. The females have similar markings but overall, their color is duller.
Lucifer hummingbird, Calothorax lucifer
Range: The Lucifer hummingbird is mainly a species of central and northern Mexico. However, it is avidly searched for in extreme southern Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas.
Habitat: If you want to see a Lucifer hummingbird, you’re going to need to make a trek into the desert where agave and ocotillo plants are plentiful. You may find them along the fringes of mountain canyons, but don’t expect them to visit your backyard.
The Lucifer hummingbird is a tiny, rare, and beautiful hummingbird in North America. Males have a vividly iridescent purple gorget, green upperparts and flanks, and a darkly colored, forked tail. Females have green upperparts and buff underparts with a grey streaked cheek. Both genders have hefty, long bills that curve downward.
Plain-capped starthroat hummingbird, Heliomaster constantii
Range: The plain-capped starthroat hummingbird is another bird I wasn’t sure should make this list. They are very rarely seen in extreme southern Arizona and are not known to breed here.
Habitat: When they are seen, they’re seen at feeders. They prefer lower elevations, are solitary, and aggressive in defending their territory.
A sleek-looking hummingbird, its plumage is brownish-green with grey on its underside. The face is striped with a white whisker and line behind the eyes. The plain-capped starthroat also has a white patch on its rump. The base of the throat has a small patch of red, although just how red can vary and it may be difficult to see.
See also: Where to Hang Your Hummingbird Feeders
Rivoli’s hummingbird, Eugenes fulgens
Range: Rivoli’s hummingbird, although rare, will breed during the summer months in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. It’s occasionally been reported seen in western Texas.
Habitat: Aggressive little birds that enjoy nectar feeders, Rivoli’s hummingbirds are usually found in arid pine forests and open woodlands.
Comparable in size to the blue-throated mountain gem, Rivoli’s hummingbird measures about 5 inches in length. The male’s dark plumage and long, straight bill, and white spot behind the eyes (a marking it shares with the female) are clearly recognizable. The male’s gorget is bright blue, its head violet, and its body dark green. As usual, the females is much plainer, with bright green upperparts and grayish-white underparts.
Ruby-throated hummingbird, Archilochus colubris
Range: During the summer breeding season, this little fella breeds in the eastern and central United States and the southern edge of eastern and central Canada. The ruby-throated hummingbird has the largest range of any North American hummingbird and, with the exception of the occasional vagrant, is the only one regularly seen in the east.
Habitat: You’ll find the ruby-throated hummingbird in backyards perching or hovering at feeders, and in suburban and urban parks and gardens where they’ll feed on nectar-rich flowers.
The males red gorget, offset by a contrasting white throat, is the inspiration for this hummers name. They have metallic green upperparts with white underneath. The females share the same coloring but are plainer and do not have the red gorget.
See also: Hummingbird Migration Patterns Explained
Rufous hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus
Range: Will breed in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia. Some will travel in the summer months to as far north as Alaska. Some will winter in the southeastern United States and along the Gulf Coast.
Habitat: The rufous hummingbird is attracted to open areas, yards, gardens, parks, and forests up to the tree line. As they migrate, they pass through mountain meadows that can be as high as 12,600 feet where they feed on nectar-rich, tubular flowers in bloom. In Mexico where they spend the winter, this hummer’s habitat includes shrubby openings and oak-pine forests at middle to high elevations.
The orange/brown plumage and flaming orange-red throat put the male rufous hummingbird in a class by itself. The females have a rufous wash over their green upperparts and along their flanks bordering a white chest and abdomen. The female’s throat is whitish with lines of bronzy-green flecks and typically a central splotch of red.
Less than four inches long, the rufous hummingbird is fiercely territorial. They regularly dive at and chase intruders who wander anywhere near their nests or favorite feeding spot. They regularly come to nectar feeders but to keep the aggression at a minimum, fans should consider hanging multiple feeders and spacing them far apart.
See also: Rufous Hummingbird Identification Tips
Violet-crowned hummingbird, Amazilia violiceps
Range: In extreme southeastern Arizona and southwestern corner of New Mexico you may find the violet-crowned hummingbird residing in its summer home.
Habitat: While their range in the United States is small, violet-crowned hummingbirds are most likely seen at low elevations near water in canyon habitats. And they prefer sycamore trees.
These are very distinctive birds. They are white on their undersides with a plain white throat, gray-green upperparts, and capped by blue-purple crown. The contrast between the body and head make them instantly recognizable. The bill is red with a black tip. As is usually the case, the female color is slightly duller.
White-eared hummingbird, Hylocharis leucotis
Range: The white-eared hummingbird is yet another rare summer visitor to west Texas. It lives year-round in southeastern Arizona.
Habitat: In the U.S., the white-eared hummingbird is most often seen coming to feeders (where a lone bird may spend weeks) in mountain canyons; specifically, in areas rich in oak, pine, or Douglas-fir trees.
The broad white ear stripe on both males and females gives this hummingbird its name. Males have a blue throat and are darker than females with the green plumage we see in many species. Both genders have a deeply red bill with a black tip, although the female’s is a less red. An interesting difference between the genders is found in their mutually dark tails—the male’s is forked while the female’s is straight.
Like the rufous hummingbird, the white-eared hummingbird is bold and aggressive at feeders where they will also dive and chase intruders. To warn others, they will spread their tails as an intimidating display while hovering at feeders.
See also: 12 Fantastic Hummingbird Facts
Xantus’s Hummingbird Hylocharis xantusii
Range: Vagrants have been found as far north as British Columbia, but typically Xantus’s hummingbirds are rare visitors who make their appearance in southern California.
Habitat: These hummingbirds live year-round in the mountainous areas of Baja California. They have a fondness for dry scrubland and open forests. Fortunate for us, they also visit backyard gardens and nectar feeders.
Xantus’s hummingbird shares the broad red bill of the broad-billed hummingbird, the white stripe of the white-eared hummingbird, the green plumage we see in the majority of North American hummingbirds, and a rufous tail. Females also have the white stripe over the eye that runs across the ear, as well as the red bill, but their faces differ from the males as its color is more buff in contrast to the males’ darker faces.
A Few Key Points
- The males are always more brilliantly colored than the females. It’s a trait they share with most birds.
- There are variations of color and markings within a species, and it can be difficult to distinguish some species from others. This can be especially problematic when looking a juvenile birds. I recommend a good field guide as an essential tool.
- If you want to see the greatest variety of hummingbirds, head toward southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and western Texas. Even so, it’s not all that unusual to find a stray one or two representatives of a species showing up in some very unexpected places.
- These little birds have hutzpah, and sometimes behave like much larger birds defending their territories and feeding locations.
- When they’re available, most hummingbirds will visit nectar feeders.
I owe a debt to Melissa Mayntz for her excellent interpretation of hummingbird colors and markings, and while I’ve tried to be careful in describing these 20 birds, any error is solely mine.