There have been reports of as many as 27 different species of hummingbirds seen in the United States. Some of these are common and can be found each year, while some are rare or accidental visitors. When it comes to hummingbirds in Idaho, we have found 4 species that are common or semi-common, and 2 that have been spotted in Idaho more than once but are considered rare. That’s a total of 6 species of hummingbirds in Idaho, making it a good state for feeding and spotting hummingbirds.
6 Hummingbirds in Idaho
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 Idaho. The 4 most common species seen in Idaho are the black-chinned hummingbird, calliope hummingbird, rufous hummingbird and broad-tailed 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 more common species first, and the less common one last.
Stay tuned at the end of the article for tips on attracting hummingbirds to your yard.
1. Black-chinned Hummingbird
Scientific name: Archilochus alexandri
Black-chinned hummingbirds migrate north from Mexico and Central America each year and breed in the western United States. They are widespread among many habitats from deserts to mountain forests and like to perch on bare branches. Black-chinned hummingbirds are thought to be one of the most adaptable hummer species, found both in urban areas and wilderness.
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.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are more common in northern and western areas of Idaho. Look for them to start arriving in April, then migrating south again during September.
2. 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 seen 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 come to Idaho in the spring and summer to breed. Reported sightings usually start in April and are over by October.
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 to get to their summer breeding grounds. This species breeds the furthest north of any North American hummingbird species, all the way up in southern Alaska. Their summer breeding grounds are in Oregon, Washington, western Canada, the upper two-thirds of Idaho and western Montana. Instead of traveling back south through California, they tend to head south following the path of the Rocky Mountains in the fall.
Sightings in Idaho begin to increase in late spring around May, especially in the northern half of the state. They are seen throughout the state during summer, then are migrating south by September.
4. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Scientific name: Selasphorus platycerus
Broad-tailed hummingbirds love the mountains and breed at elevations up to 10,500 feet. These elevations are often quite cool, especially overnight. The broad-billed hummingbird enters an energy-saving state called torpor. This slows down their metabolism and is similar to a hibernation, allowing them to deal with cold nighttime temps. Their summer breeding range is scattered throughout states such as Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Males have a rosey-magenta colored throat. Females have some green spotting on their throat and cheeks, and buffy colored sides. They get their name from their tail feathers, which are broader than most other hummingbirds. However you’ll only notice that with very close observation and if you are used to what other hummer tails look like!
Broad-tailed hummingbirds are short term visitors in the U.S. so look for them in Idaho between May and August in meadows and forest clearings. They are typically only seen in the southern half of the state.
5. Anna’s Hummingbird
Scientific name: Calypte anna
Anna’s actually stay in the U.S. all year within most of their range, unlike most hummingbirds that winter south of the border. However you’ll only find them regularly in a few of the western states, such as Oregon, California and Washington.
The green of their feathers tends to be a bit brighter and more iridescent than most other hummers in the U.S., 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 aren’t common in Idaho, but the have been spotted along the western border of the state several times over the years. Areas such as Moscow, Lewiston, Boise and Nampa have the most recorded sightings. These sightings tend to be between October and January. So while note common, there is a definite possibility of spotting a stray Anna’s in Idaho, especially in the far west.
6. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are extremely common in the eastern half of the United States, but not in the west. In the western states they occasionally show up as accidental visitors. Both sexes 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 in Idaho and are considered rare for the state. Ebird.org only has a few recorded sightings over the years, and all occurred in the southern half of the state in August or September. So while spotting a ruby-throated hummingbird in Idaho is unlikely, there is always a chance that one will wander this far west.
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.