13 Hummingbirds in California (Common & Rare)

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There have been reports of as many as 27 different species of hummingbirds seen in the United States. Some of these are common can be found every year, while some are rare or accidental visitors. When it comes to hummingbirds in California, we have found 7 species that are common or semi-common, and 6 that have been spotted in California more than once but are considered rare. That’s a total of 13 species of hummingbirds in California, making California one of the best states to feed and spot hummingbirds in America. 

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13 Hummingbirds in California

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 California. The most common California hummingbirds are Anna’s hummingbird, Allen’s hummingbird, Rufous hummingbird, Black-chinned 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 will list the 7 more common species first, and the 6 less common ones last.

Stay tuned at the end of the article for tips on attracting hummingbirds to your yard.

Enjoy!


1. Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird | image by Bettina Arrigoni via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Archilochus alexandri

Black-chinned hummingbirds migrate north from Mexico and Central America each year and breed in the western United States. Males throat color looks plain black in most light, however they do have a small strip of purple feathers along the bottom that is sometimes visible. Females appear like most hummingbird females green above and pale below with a plain throat. They are widespread among many habitats from deserts to mountain forests and like to perch on bare branches. 

Look for black-chinned hummingbirds throughout California from spring to fall. However in many spots they will be easiest to see during spring or fall migration.


2. Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

Scientific name: Selasphorus calliope

The calliope hummingbird mainly spends its breeding season in the Pacific Northwest and parts of western Canada, but can be in many western states during the spring and fall migration. This is an impressively far migration, especially considering the calliope 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 Hummingbirds only pass through most of southern and coastal California during migration. They will stop and stay for the summer along the northern border and northeastern section of the state. Some of the areas they are most commonly recorded at are the Tahoe National Forest, Yosemite, San Bernardino National Forest and Sequoia National Park. 


3. Rufous Hummingbird

Scientific name: Selasphorus rufus

Rufous hummingbirds are known for being very “feisty” when it comes to sharing feeders and chasing off other hummers. Males are orange all over with a white patch on the upper breast and an orange-red throat. Females are green with rusty patches and a speckled throat. In the spring they migrate up through California, spend their summer in Oregon, Washington and Canada, then zip back down through the Rockies in the fall. 

Rufous hummingbirds can commonly be seen in California in early spring (March or April) on their way up north. On their trip back south in the late summer, they are more commonly spotted along the western edge of the state along the Sierra Nevada range.  They may stick around for the whole season up along the far northern edges of the state.

It's never too late to start feeding hummingbirds. Here's a quick list of things you'll need to get you started!

  1. Hummingbird feeder poles
  2. 12oz hummingbird feeders
  3. Ant moats (optional)
  4. Make your hummingbird nectar at home
Fill your feeders with the nectar, and put them out! Hummingbirds can start showing up anywhere between late February and early May, depending on where you live.

4. Anna’s Hummingbird

anna's hummingbird
photo credit: Becky Matsubara, CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Calypte anna

Anna’s actually stay in the U.S. all year within most of their range, however you’ll only find them in a few of the western states, including California. The green of their feathers tends to be a bit brighter and more iridescent than most others, and even their chest and belly are sprinkled with emerald feathers. Males have rosy-pink throats and those colorful feathers extend up onto their forehead. They are happy in backyards and love gardens and eucalyptus trees. 

Anna’s are found throughout most of California all year, but are much less common around Death Valley and Mojave Preserve. In the northeastern corner of the state, they may tend to stick around for the breeding season but leave in the winter.


5. Costa’s Hummingbird

Costa’s Hummingbird | image by Mike’s Birds via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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.

Some also migrate from Mexico to spend the summer in Death Valley and Mojave Preserve. Although they are mainly hummingbirds of southern California, there certainly do wander up north and there are semi-frequent sightings all the way up to San Francisco and Sacramento, but they become much more sparse further north.


6. Allen’s Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird | image by m.shattock via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Selasphorus sasin

These tiny guys fly all the way from Central America to breed along the Pacific Coast in California each year. They have very similar coloring to the Rufous hummingbird so it can be tricky distinguishing the two. Allen’s males are orange with a green back and orangey-red throat. Females have a speckled throat with dull green back and brownish-orange flanks. They migrate quite early compared to other hummingbirds, heading for California in January. This also means they can start to head south earlier as well, sometimes in May or June.

Allen’s are common in California, but are exclusively seen along the coast with very few exceptions. Pretty much anywhere from north to south along the coast you can find them. Slightly further inland you may be able to spot them during spring and fall migration.


7. Broad-tailed hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird | image by Juan Zamora via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Selasphorus platycerus

Broad-tailed hummingbirds love the mountains and breed at elevations up to 10,500 feet. Males have a rosey-magenta colored throat. Females have some green spotting on their throat and cheeks, and buffy colored sides. 

Broad-tailed hummingbirds are short term visitors in the U.S. so look for them between May and August in meadows and forest clearings. In California they are only common along the far eastern border of the state in places like Death Valley, Yosemite and Sierra National Forest. However, there is a chance they can be spotted in other areas, especially in the southern part of the state. 


8. Rivoli’s Hummingbird

Rivoli’s Hummingbird | image by Nate Steiner via Flickr

Scientific name: Eugenes fulgens

The Rivoli’s hummingbird was formerly known as the “magnificent hummingbird”.  Males have a dark purple head with a brighter teal colored throat. Their body is green and brown. Often they can appear overall dark in certain light. Females do not share this coloration and are green above and white below. They are slightly larger than most hummingbirds seen in the U.S., with a longer bill. They are mainly found in Mexico and like shady canyons and mountainous forests. 

Rivoli’s hummingbird has been spotted only a few times in California (along the coast) making it very rare for the state. 


9. Blue-throated Mountain Gem

Blue-throated Mountain Gem | image by Alan Schmierer via Flickr

Scientific name: Lampornis clemenciae

The blue-throated mountain gem is the largest hummingbird species to nest in the United States. They are only commonly spotted in states like Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Both sexes have two white stripes on the face, a green back and a gray breast. Males have a bright blue throat. In the wild, look for them along flower-lined streams. They mainly only come to the U.S. during the breeding season however may stay into the winter if they find a particularly good feeding station. 

The blue-throated mountain gem is a rare visitor to California and has only been spotted a few times in the southern tip of the state (Los Angeles and south). 


10. Ruby-throated hummingbird

Image credit: birdfeederhub

Scientific name: Archilochus colubris

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are extremely common in the eastern half of the United States, but not in the west. They have a green back and white underparts. Males have a ruby red throat that can look black in certain lighting. Each spring they enter the country in droves from their wintering grounds in Central America. Many of those bound for the eastern states cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight. 

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are seen only sporadically throughout California and are considered rare for the state. Most sightings are along the coast. 


11. Broad-billed Hummingbird

Broad-billed Hummingbird| image by Shawn Taylor via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Cynanthus latirostris

The only two states in the U.S. where the broad-billed hummingbird is known to breed are Arizona and New Mexico. Males are hard to mistake with their purpleish-blue throat and blueish-green belly. They also have an orange beak with a black tip. Females are a washed out green above and grayish below with the typical black beak. 

While broad-billed hummingbirds aren’t considered common for California, they have been spotted a dozen or so times in certain areas. Your best chance may be along the coast between San Francisco and Monterey, the outskirts of Los Angeles or San Diego. 


12. Mexican Violetear (aka Green Violetear)

Mexican Violetear | image by Cephas via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific name: Colibri thalassinus

The larger Mexican violetear is only common in Mexico and Central America, however their have been sightings in several states in the U.S., especially in Texas. They are larger hummingbirds with an emerald green body, dark wings, and a patch of iridescent purple across their cheek. The Mexican violetear is considered quite rare in California, but it is not impossible that one may stray there from time to time. 


13. Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Violet-crowned Hummingbird | image by Shawn Taylor via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Leucolia violiceps

Common in Mexico, this little beauty has been known to occasionally cross the border into the southwestern U.S. They have a dark gray back, pure white front, purple cap on their head and an orange beak with black tip. The violet-crowned hummingbird has occasionally been sighted in California, typically south of San Jose. They are considered quite rare visitors to the state. 



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

About Melanie

Melanie has been a birding hobbyist for years and loves feeding and photographing birds of all types.