Many people associate hummingbirds with warm weather, and Alaska with cold weather. They would assume that means there are no hummingbirds in Alaska, but that’s not true! Despite a cooler climate and being very far north, there are actually a few species of hummingbird regularly seen in Alaska.
4 Hummingbirds in Alaska
Based on the range maps of authoritative sources like allaboutbirds.org and ebird.org, we’ve put together a list of hummingbirds that can be seen in the state of Alaska. The most common hummingbird in Alaska is the Rufous hummingbird, followed by the Anna’s hummingbird and Costa’s hummingbird. For each species in this list you’ll find the species name, pictures and specifications about appearance, and where and when you may be able to spot them. We listed the more common species first, and the rarest last.
Stay tuned at the end of the article for tips on attracting hummingbirds to your yard.
1. Rufous Hummingbird
Scientific name: Selasphorus rufus
The Rufous hummingbird holds the title of hummingbird with the most northern breeding range of southern Alaska. Males are orange all over with a white patch on the upper breast and an orange-red throat. Females are green with rusty patches along their sides and a speckled throat.
In the spring they migrate up through California, spend their summer in the north from Oregon to southern Alaska, then zip back down through the Rockies in the fall. The Rufous hummingbird actually makes one of the longest journeys of any bird, if measuring by body size.
Those that make the trip from wintering grounds in Mexico all the way up to Alaska travel 3,900 miles! Not too shabby for a bird that is only three inches long. (Check out this fun article about a Rufous that was tracked traveling from Tallahassee, Florida to Chenega Bay, Alaska).
Rufous hummingbirds are known for being very “feisty” when it comes to sharing feeders and chasing off other hummers. They will start to show up in April and most are gone by October. Look for them along the Gulf of Alaska, typically not straying much further north than Anchorage.
2. Anna’s Hummingbird
Scientific name: Calypte anna
The green of Anna’s hummingbirds feathers tends to be a bit brighter and more iridescent than most others, and even their chest and belly are sprinkled with emerald. Males have rosy-pink throats and those colorful feathers extend up onto their forehead.
Anna’s actually stay in the U.S. all year in California, Arizona, Oregon and parts of Washington. Some travel up to Alaska to spend the winter along the southern coast. They are less likely to be seen in the state during spring or summer and are not known to nest in Alaska. According to the U.S. Forest Service, their wintering locations are most often near people’s home with hummingbird feeders where they can count on the supplemental food.
Look for Anna’s in south-central and southeastern Alaska along the Gulf coast.
3. Costa’s Hummingbird
Scientific name: Calypte costae
Male Costa’s are known for their deep purple faces. They have a splash of purple on their foreheads as well as their throat, with purple feathers flaring out on both sides like a mustache. Females are green above with white below. Costa’s are compact and compared to other hummingbirds have slightly shorter wings and tail. They can be found year-round in Baja and southern California.
While Alaska is considered well out of their typical range, they do show up from time to time. Most of the sightings on eBird occurred in the Anchorage area, with a few in Juneau. Sightings tended to occur between September and November.
4. Calliope Hummingbird
Scientific name: Selasphorus calliope
The tiny calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird in the United States. Males have a unique throat pattern of magenta stripes that fork down on the sides. Females are plain with some green spotting on the throat and peachy tinted underparts.
Calliope’s come up from Mexico in the spring to breed in the Pacific Northwest and parts of western Canada. While Alaska is not in their range, there have a few recorded in the southeastern part of the state.
While considered quite rare for Alaska, we included them on this list because the northern part of their range includes the southern half of British Columbia. So there is always a chance that a stray will cross the border into the southern tip of the state (Juneau or south).
Attracting Hummingbirds To Your Yard
1. Hang Hummingbird Feeders
Perhaps the best way to attract hummingbirds is to hang a nectar feeder in your yard. Hummingbirds need to eat constantly and finding a reliable source of nectar is essential. Choose a feeder that has the color red on it, and is easy to take apart and clean. In hot weather, cleaning and refilling need to be done more than just once a week. We recommend a saucer shaped feeder for most people. They are super easy to clean, work great, and don’t hold an excessive amount of nectar.
You can also check out our top 5 favorite hummingbird feeders for a variety of styles.
2. Make Your Own Nectar
Avoid unnecessary (and sometimes dangerous) additives and red dyes by making your own nectar. It’s cheap, super easy and quick. All you need to do is add plain white sugar to water in a 1:4 ratio (1 cup sugar to 4 cups water). We have an easy how-to article on making your own nectar without having to boil the water.
3. Plant Native Flowers
Aside from a feeder, plant some flowers in your yard who’s blooms will attract passing hummingbirds. They are especially attracted to flowers that are red (as well as orange, pink and purple), and flowers with trumpet or tubular shaped blossoms. To maximize your space try some vertical planting. An obelisk trellis or a flat trellis attached to the side of your house can provide a great vertical surface for long cascading vines of flowers. Check out these 20 plants and flowers that attract hummingbirds.
4. Provide Water
Hummingbirds need water for drinking and bathing. Although they may find traditional bird baths too deep, they will use baths with the right “specifications”. Check out these great options for hummingbird baths you can buy, or ideas to DIY something perfect for your yard.
5. Promote Insects
Most hummingbirds can’t live on sugar alone, they also need to eat protein. Up to a third of their diet is small insects. This includes mosquitoes, fruit flies, spiders and gnats. Help out your hummers by staying away from pesticides. For more tips on insect feeders and ways you can help feed insects to hummingbirds check out our 5 easy tips.