Hummingbirds typically found in California
The following 14 hummingbird species have been reported in California.
Migrating hummingbirds might arrive as early as January or February and usually leave in October.
Most MALE hummingbirds found in California have gorgets (flashy throat patches). Females and young birds don't have any throat patches and have a duller, greenish-grey plumage - except for the female Allen's and Rufous Hummingbirds - which have some coppery-orange color.
Anna's Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) - Natives - the most common of all California hummingbirds - Year-round residents
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.
Allen's Hummingbirds (Selasphorus sasin) - Native Breeders / Year-round residents - Historically, these birds nested in coastal California and wintered in Mexico; but more and more of them are remaining in California year-round or are traveling to the eastern United States for the winter.
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.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) - Native - Year-round residents
The smallest hummingbird in that region.
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.
Rufous Hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) - Seasonal / breeders - Arrive in their breeding territory in California around April and migrate south to Mexico and Central America for the winter.
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.
Calliope Hummingbirds (Stellula calliope) - Natives / Seasonal Migrants - California Breeders - migrate south or east for the winter.
Costa's Hummingbirds (Calypte costae) - Natives - Some are year-round residents and others are seasonal migrants - Common to abundant in Southern California; from San Diegan district northwest through Ventura County, and Colorado and Mohave deserts. Vagrants reported as far north as Oakland. (Grinnell and Miller, 1944). Commonly breed along the western edge of San Joaquin Valley, along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada north to Inyo County (southern and western California). Those that remain in California year-round, winter in the southern coastal areas and deserts. In Orange County, they are common summer residents of parks and natural areas. Rare in winters. Most common in the foothills of Los Angeles County (Garrett 1994). Rare and local summer residents of dry coastal sage scrub and xeric chaparral in Monterey County.
Males can easily be identified by the glossy purple crown and long, conspicuous throat feathers that project markedly down the side of the throats, giving it an elongated "moustache" appearance. The back is metallic green.
Females have greyish-green crowns (fop of the head) and backs. The chin and the plumage below are whitish, except for some black spotting on her throat. Her flanks are buffy-colored. She has a dark tail with white tips on the outer tail feathers.
Green Violetears (Colibri thalassinus) - Rare - 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.
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.
Xantus's Hummingbirds (Basilinna xantusii) - Rare vagrants / breeders. This Mexican hummingbird has been venturing into southern California on a regular basis and some nesting activities having been reported. Some travel up the Pacific coast of North America to British Columbia in Canada.
ID: Both genders are identified by their white and black eyestripes. The upper plumage is mostly green. The tail is dark and straight. Below they are cinnamon brown. The throat is green in the male and brownish in the female. The bill is red, black-tipped in the male and blackish in the female.
Violet-crowned Hummingbirds (Amazilia violiceps ssp. ellioti) - Rare vagrants - Occur primarily in Mexico and southwestern to south central United States. Outside the breeding season, they may wander to southernmost California and southwest Texas.
ID: This hummingbird is most easily identified by its white under plumage and iridescent bluish-violet crown (from where it gets its name). The back is emerald green. The tail is dark brown / olive green. The straight and very slender bill is reddish / orangey with a black tip.
Females and juvenile birds look similar to the males, but their plumage is generally less colorful than that of the male and they have a lighter and greener crown.
Blue-throated Hummingbirds (Lampornis clemenciae) - Natives
The upper plumage is dull green, fading to a medium grey on the underside. It has white stripes behind the eyes and a narrower stripe extending backward from the corner of its relatively short bill, next to a blackish cheek patch.
The male can be identified by the iridescent blue throat patch (gorget), which may appear black or grey color in poor light.
The female and young have grey throats.
Magnificent or Refulgent Hummingbirds (Eugenes fulgens) - Rare visitors
They are nearly twice as large as any other hummingbird species found in this State, and can often be identified by their size alone.
The male has a metallic green throat and a black chest. His forehead and crown are purple and the back is dark green.
The female plumage is less bright. Her chest is solid grey. Her back and crown are olive green. Her tail feathers are pearl-grey tipped.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) - Rare vagrants
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.
Rufous Hummingbird versus the similar Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Identification)
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus) - Natives - Migratory hummingbirds. They migrate through eastern California and nest in central California in mountain forests and meadows. Move south to winter in Mexico, Guatemala and, occasionally, El Salvador.
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.
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.
If you see a hummingbird that doesn't appear to be any of the above, please e-mail comments / images to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
The favorite feeding plants for California Hummingbirds are:
Many hummingbirds favor red blossoms with a tubular shape (but some species prefer other colors). Hummingbirds feed readily on pink, blue, orange, peach and purple flowers.
- Western Columbine: Small shrub with yellow and red flowers during the spring
- California Fuchsia: Produces reddish / orangy flowers (can also be grown in hanging baskets) - Blooms well into December and is, therefore, an important feeding plant for those hummingbirds that winter in California.
- Red Larkspur: Shrub with bold red flowers that flourish from May through June.
- Coral Honeysuckle: A vine that can climb up 20 feet with red tubular flowers
- Hanging baskets with Hummingbird-feeding plants:
- Begonia: Available in a wide range of colors, including pink, red, yellow, orange or white.
- Nasturtium: Prefers full sun, but will also grow in partial shade.
- Salvia Celestial Blue or Purple Sage: Produces purplish-blue flowers. Tolerates extreme heat.
- California Indian Pink: Likes shady locations. Produces bright red flowers that bloom in the spring.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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