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 Iowa, we have found 1 common species, and 3 species that have visited but are rare. That’s a total of 4 species of hummingbirds you may be able to see in Iowa.
4 Hummingbirds in Iowa
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 Iowa. For each species in this list you’ll find the species name, pictures of what it looks like, specifications about appearance, and where and when you may be able to spot them. We will list the most common species first, and the 3 rare ones last.
Stay tuned at the end of the article for tips on attracting hummingbirds to your yard, and visit this article to find out when hummingbirds will be returning to your state.
1. Ruby-throated hummingbird
Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most common hummingbirds in the eastern half of the United States. 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 them fly over the Gulf of Mexico in one non-stop flight! Ruby-throated hummingbirds are fairly easy to attract to backyards with nectar feeders and flowers.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are seen throughout Iowa during the spring and summer months. They are by far the most common hummingbird in the state, and will arrive around May and leave in September. If you see a hummingbird in your yard, it will almost surely be the ruby-throated.
2. 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 back into the U.S. through California, spend the summer in the Pacific northwest and Canada, then zip back south through the Rockies in the fall. While the rufous is considered a hummingbird of the west, they are probably the second most commonly sighted species in the eastern U.S. after the ruby-throated hummingbird.
Recorded sightings of the rufous in Iowa are not frequent enough to be considered “common”, but they have been spotted several times over the years. They have been seen throughout the state during pretty much any month so there’s always a chance.
3. Anna’s Hummingbird
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 regularly in a few of the western states. 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.
Anna’s very uncommon on the east coast, but they do stray from time to time. EBird only has two recorded sightings in Iowa, both around Des Moines. I decided to include them on this list because sightings have also happened in surrounding areas such as Omaha, Nebraska and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So while rare, it’s not impossible for an Anna’s to wander into Iowa. Sightings in this area tend to occur between October and December.
4. Broad-billed Hummingbird
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 are considered very rare outside of the southwestern U.S. they occasionally pop up in other states. Iowa has had just two recorded sightings in the northern half of the state. These hummingbirds have also been spotted in neighboring southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, so while rare they do come up to this part of the country on occasion. One of the most recent sightings was in Humboldt during October 2021.
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.