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3 Kentucky Hummingbirds: From Common to Rare Sightings

 Last Reviewed by Jesse Foutch on 04-17-2024

There have been reports of nearly 30 different species of hummingbirds seen in the United States. Some of these are common and can be found every year, while some are rare or accidental visitors. When it comes to hummingbirds in Kentucky, we have found 3 species recorded to have visited the state. With that said, the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird that’s common to this region of the country… so the other two species listed are rare visitors. 

3 Hummingbirds in Kentucky

The 3 species of hummingbirds that have been spotted in Kentucky are the Ruby-throated hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, and the Black-chinned Hummingbird.

For each of these species in this list you’ll find the species name, pictures of what it looks like, specifications about its appearance, and where and when you may be able to spot them. We will list them in order of most common to least common.

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.

Enjoy!

1. Ruby-throated hummingbird

The Ruby-Throated, common visitor of eastern North America. (Image credit: birdfeederhub)

Scientific name: Archilochus colubris

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the most common hummingbirds in the eastern half of the United States. They are by far the most common hummingbird in Kentucky. 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 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 Kentucky during the spring and summer months. They arrive back in the state during April and May and will stay through late summer, usually heading back down to their wintering grounds in late September or early October.


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 up through California, spend the summer in the Pacific northwest and Canada, then zip back down through the Rockies in the fall. While the rufous is considered a hummingbird of the western U.S., they are probably the second most commonly sighted species on the east coast after the ruby-throated hummingbird.

Recorded sightings in Kentucky are scattered throughout the state, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call them common, they are seen at least a few times each year. It can be any time of year but seems to be most common in late fall and winter.


3. 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. 

While they are a bird of the west coast, they have been spotted in most states along the east coast at least once, including Kentucky where there have been a few sightings over the years. They would still be considered very rare for the state, but you may get lucky. Sightings tend to be November through February.



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