How to Tell what Kind of a Hummingbird is Visiting your Yard

How to Tell what Kind of a Hummingbird is Visiting your Yard

Did you know that there are more than 340 species and 115 genera of hummingbirds? With that many species, it’s difficult to tell which ones visit your garden often. 
A majority of these varied species can be found in the southern half of the United States. And fewer than two dozen species make the trip to North America. 
That said, it is still helpful to know the differences between these species so you can learn to distinguish which ones visit you. 

How Many Varieties of Species Are Hummingbirds?

Naturally, we won’t bore you by listing down all 340+ species in this post. Instead, we’ll give you a list and a description of the 21 different kinds of hummingbirds any avid birdwatcher should know. Here they are:

Green-Breasted Mango

green-beasted mango hummingbird

Photo credit -Flickr Yamil Saenz

The Green-Breasted Mango can be easily recognizable due to its beautiful colors. It is a 43/4-inch hummingbird, with a slightly curved bill and deep magenta to purple-wine outer tail feathers capped in black. 

Females have outer tail feathers that are broad-banded magenta and iridescent dark blue with slender white tips. They also have bronze-green upperparts and white underparts with a dark stripe from black at the chin to blue green on the throat.

On the other hand, males have brilliant bright green upperparts, matte black throat and chest edged in blue-green, and bright green flanks. 

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Photo credit

The black-chinned hummingbird is well known for its throat's iridescent purple band and white collar. Males have a gray-green head, back, and flanks with a white mark behind the eye, while females have white tail edges and green throats.

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

Photo credit Brent Bremer 

The 31/4-inch Calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird in North America, north of the Mexican border, and the only one with a striped throat. 

The male's gorget has V-shaped magenta streaks; the female has red. Both males and females have green "vests" and pink undersides. Short-billed Calliope hummingbirds have short tails.

Cinnamon Hummingbird

Cinnamon Hummingbird

© Andrew Spencer | eBird S26160021 |
Macaulay Library ML 33651091

The Cinnamon hummingbird, with its totally cinnamon-colored underparts, is occasionally confused with the Buff-Bellied or Rufous-Tailed hummers. This 3–4-inch bird has metallic bronze and green upperparts, a lighter rufous-cinnamon chin and upper throat, and a deep cinnamon-rufous-chestnut tail. 

Males have brilliant red bills with black tips, while females have predominantly black bills with red bases. Its buzzy, scratchy ztip cry and variable, high, thin, somewhat squeaky chips song are described.

Allen’s Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

© Dean LaTray | eBird S40314293
Macaulay Library ML 74191951

Allen's hummingbirds have straight bills as long as their heads. 

Males have a bronze-green back, bright red-orange gorget, coppery tail, eye patch, and belly. Females are paler with more dots and a red-orange neck patch. 

Their tails extend past their wings when perched. Males demonstrate by fluttering their wings like bumblebees.

Blue-Throated Hummingbird

blue-throated hummingbird

Photo Credits - Unsplash

Since it's a Lampornis mountaingem, the Blue-Throated hummingbird—the largest North American hummer—was renamed in 2019. 

Gray underparts and double white stripes are distinguishable on both genders' faces. Females have a gray throat, while males have an iridescent sapphire gorget. 

During courting, both sexes sing complicated duets. 

Violet-Crowned Hummingbird

Violet-Crowned Hummingbird

©Matthew Jolley | eBird S76216185

The 4 1/2-inch Violet-Crowned hummingbird is a newcomer to Southeast Arizona and Southwest New Mexico. Instead of identifying by the throat, you can identify this hummer by its iridescent violet head and red-orange bill with a black tip. This beautiful hummingbird has a white throat, greenish tail, iridescent shoulders, and bronze-green back. These hummers sing squeaks around dawn during mating season.

Plain-Capped Starthroat

Plain-capped Starthroat

 © John van Dort | Macaulay Library

Plain-Capped Starthroats, another mountaingem genus member, live in arid forests in Mexico and Central America, infrequently visiting Arizona. 

The medium-sized hummer has a long, straight beak. Both sexes have an iridescent bronze-green back and head, a white face with black eye stripes, pale gray underparts, and a slightly notched tail with a white-tipped black terminal band. They prefer insects to honey.

Magnificent Hummingbird

Magnificent Hummingbird

©Jason Vassallo | eBird S30580087
Macaulay Library ML 102575531

You may know Magnificent hummingbirds as Rivoli's hummingbird; they were renamed. The superb hummingbird, the second-largest hummer north of Mexico at 4 to 5 inches, is friendly and likes to feed near humans. Males have lustrous bronze-green chests and brilliant blue-green gorgets. And gorgeous black heads with violet crowns.

Females have bronze-green upperparts and dull gray underparts. Their eyes are white-striped. 

Costa’s Hummingbird

 Costa's Hummingbird

© Gordon Karre | Macaulay Library

 Costa's hummingbird measures 3 1/2 inches. Males have vivid, iridescent, deep violet-purple heads and gorgets that extend down their necks. You can also recognize them by their black legs and feet, pale gray underparts, and green backs. Females have white necks and underparts. Men whistle thinly.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

© Kyle Blaney | eBird S13347123

Anna's hummingbird has the northernmost year-round range and the only red crown. Green and gray are their main colors. Males have pink heads, throats, and necks, while females have green crowns and crimson throat flecks.

Anna's hummingbirds meet their tails while perched. They buzz and "chip" when poised. They are territorial and carnivorous.

Amethyst-Throated Mountaingem

Amethyst-Throated Mountaingem

©Marc FASOL| ML204976311

The Amethyst-Throated Mountaingem's vivid rosy-pink gorget makes it visible and recognizable from afar. Both sexes have a straight, medium-length black bill, a white stripe below the eye, dark cheek feathers, and a broad, slightly forked tail with gray tips. 

Berylline Hummingbird

Berylline Hummingbird

Flickr | Alex Navarro

The Berylline Hummingbird is scarce north of the Mexican border, but its metallic olive-green head and rufous wings and rump make it easy to recognize in the U.S. Its rufous tail and wings are somewhat forked. They have gray underparts. Berylline hummingbirds usually measure around 4 1/4 inches.

White-Eared Hummingbird


This stocky, medium-sized (3 to 3/4 inches) hummingbird frequents Southwest mountains. It is the only hummingbird with a long white stripe behind the eye, red-orange bill with black tip, and violet crown. 

They have a broad white ear stripe and a black bask. Violet and green on black cover the male's head and throat. On the other hand, females have green-spotted breasts and pale throats. 

Green Violet-Ear

Green Violet-Ear

Flickr | Rolf Riethof 

The Mexican Violet-Ear hummingbird has deep green iridescent plumage with vivid violet cheeks and breast patches. Dark blue tail bands are broad and notched. 

The Costa Rican and southern subspecies lack the big violet central breast patch and violet-blue band down the chin. Females have a narrower violet chin band and duller plumage than males. They sing jerky chipping.

Lucifer Hummingbird

Lucifer Hummingbird


Lucifer hummingbirds have a decurved, downward-arching bill. They have strongly forked, slender tails, like the vivid purple-throated hummer. Males are green-crowned and long-tailed. Females have white bellies and rounder tails. They favor desert-like regions with dry slopes and sparse flora.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

© Matthew Pendleton | Macaulay Library

The Rufous hummingbird—also known as the Yellow hummingbird—is the only North American hummingbird with a rufous back. This medium-sized hummer is the most territorial and belligerent. 

Both sexes have rufous bodies, straight, medium-length black bills, and folded tails that taper. Males have orange-red gorgets. Females have rufous flanks, green tails, and red-orange throats.

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird

© Rolando Tomas Pasos Pérez | Macaulay Library

The Buff-Bellied hummingbird is partially migratory and winters in the Gulf Coast. Its metallic olive-green upper side, buff belly, and rufous, somewhat forked tail make it a bigger hummer at 4 and 1/4 inches. They have white underwings. Males have straight, slender red bills with black tips. Their gorget is metallic green. Females have a darker upper bill and are less brightly colored.

Bumblebee Hummingbird

Bumblebee Hummingbird

© Ian Davies | Macaulay Library

The bumblebee hummingbird is one of North America's tiniest birds at 3 inches. Its name comes from a similar-sized bug that buzzes like a hummingbird and flies erratically to evade predators. Both genders have white chests and metallic bronze-green upperparts.

Females have a speckled white neck, and males have a magenta gorget with flared feathers. Both have short black bills and rounded tails. Their "chip" is high. Hovering horizontally with tails cocked when they feed.

Xantus’s Hummingbird

Xantus’s Hummingbird

© Nigel Voaden | Macaulay Library

Xantus's hummingbird is native to southern Baja California and measures 3 to 3 and 1/2 inches. Their tails are dark red brown with slight black ends and two green inner rectrices, whereas their backs and top sections are green.

Both genders have white eye stripes and black lower stripes, like the white-eared hummingbird. Male throats glow green. They have green crowns and slightly curved crimson bills with black tips.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird 

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

© Ted Floyd | Macaulay Library

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird's body length is about (3.5 inches), and its wingspan is about (5.25 inches). In general, the female is larger than the male. The female's throat is white with different degrees of speckling of subtle bronze, glossy green, or the rose-magenta feather color typical of the male's gorget, whereas the male has a rose-magenta throat patch, or gorget. The backs of both sexes are luminous green and have a long, broad tail that extends past the wingtips.

Broad-Billed Hummingbird

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

© Evan Rasmussen | Macaulay Library

The 3 and 3/4-inch broad-billed hummingbird has a long, straight red-orange beak and a blue-green chin and throat. Males are dark green with white undertail coverts and sparkling blue gorgets. While females are gold-green with a white line behind their eyes. Males have rounder tails than females.

Also Read: Can You Pass the 5 Amazing Traits of A Hummingbird Test?

What Are the Most Common Species of Hummingbird?

The most common species of hummingbirds are:

  • Allen's Hummingbirds, 
  • Anna's Hummingbirds, 
  • Berylline Hummingbirds, 
  • Black-Chinned Hummingbirds, 
  • Blue-Throated Hummingbirds, 
  • Broad-Billed Hummingbirds, 
  • Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds, 
  • Buff-Bellied Hummingbirds, 
  • Costa's Hummingbirds, 
  • Lucifer Hummingbirds, 
  • Magnificent Hummingbirds,
  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, 
  • Rufous Hummingbirds, 
  • Violet-Crowned Hummingbirds, 
  • White-Eared Hummingbirds, 
  • and Xantus' Hummingbirds.

What is the Rarest Hummingbird?

The Albino or White Hummingbird is a very rare mutation that can happen to any kind of hummingbird. This type of hummingbird is basically born without any color on its feathers, and it can come from a combination or mutation of any species.

How To Tell Hummingbirds Apart

There are three main ways to tell what kind of a hummingbird is visiting your backyard. You can usually tell by how it looks, what it does, and where it lives.

By Appearance

  • throat color and any patterns, like stripes or splotches 
  • color of the plumage, especially on the back, wings, head, and sides
  • bands or tailmarks
  • eye brows, eye rings, or stripes close to the eyes
  • position and form of the tail when in flight
  • size and general form of the bird

Hummingbirds can be identified by their looks. Black-Chinned and Calliope hummingbirds are the only common North American hummingbirds with throat bands. However, there are times when birders must go beyond the bird's looks to identify several additional hummingbird species.

By Behavior

All hummingbirds eat nectar from flowers and feeders, and they all fly quickly and straight. But there are other things about how they act that can help us figure out who they are.

Identifying hummingbirds is easier if you can answer these questions about how birds act. 

  • Do they like hovering while feeding? Or do they prefer to perch?
  • Are they aggressive to other birds?
  • How do their tails and their heads move while they rehydrate?
  • Do they sing or make a noise while they’re flying or hovering?

Rufous hummingbirds, for example, are very mean and aggressive. If they think their territory is in danger, they will bother other birds and even fight other hummingbirds.

Naturally, it takes a lot of time and bird-watching to properly identify each hummingbird by its species. But using the questions above as your guideline can make it easier. 

By Territory

Numerous hummingbird species have similar appearances and behaviors, therefore the easiest method to identify a hummingbird is frequently to look in its habitat. Even if a bird appears odd or behaves in an unusual way, birders who are familiar with the range and habitats of several hummingbird species can easily identify the species.

Also Read: The Ultimate Guide on How to Build Magical Hummingbird Habitat in your Yard

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