There are over two dozen different species of hummingbirds seen in the United States. Some of these are common visitors that enter the country each year, while some are only rare or accidental visitors. When it comes to hummingbirds in Montana, we have found 4 species that are common or semi-common, and 3 that have been spotted in Montana more than once but are considered rare. That’s a total of 7 species of hummingbirds that may be possible to spot in Montana.
7 Hummingbirds in Montana
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 Montana. The most common Montana hummingbirds are Rufous hummingbird, Black-chinned hummingbird, Broad-tailed hummingbird and the Calliope 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 ones 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. 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.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are much more common in the forested western half of Montana. In fact spotting them east of Great Falls and Billings could be considered rather rare. Look for them to arrive in early May, and then move into more mountainous areas in late summer before migrating south again in 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 found in many western states during the spring and fall migration. This is an impressively far migration from its wintering ground in Mexico, 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 mainly stay in the western Rocky Mountain region of Montana, and you won’t be likely to see them any further east than the middle of the state. They will begin to appear in the state during April and be leaving throughout September.
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 general the main population the will migrate north into the U.S. through California in early spring, spend their summer in Oregon, Washington and Canada, then zip back south through the Rockies in the fall.
Rufous hummingbirds will begin to show up in the far northwestern corner of Montana in April. They will increase in numbers along the western mountainous part of the state during May and June. By July and August the Canadian population is starting to head south again so many will be traveling through the Rockies, and the majority will have passed through Montana by September. They will not often be seen in central or eastern parts of the state.
4. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Scientific name: Selasphorus platycerus
Broad-tailed hummingbirds love the mountains and breed at elevations up to 10,500 feet. In order to handle the cold nights at these elevations, they can enter a semi-hibernating state called torpor to conserve energy.
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., generally only staying between late spring and late summer.
In Montana they tend to only be seen along the southwestern border in places like western Yellowstone, Red Rock Lakes NWR, Bozeman and sometimes up around Helena. Look for them between May and July.
5. Anna’s Hummingbird
Scientific name: Calypte anna
Anna’s actually stay in the U.S. all year within most of their range, however that range is mainly limited to the west coast of the U.S. and Canada. 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 have been known to stray into Montana from time to time. Your best chance of spotting one would be in the western part of the state in areas such as Missoula and around Flathead Lake. Most recorded sightings appeared to be between September and December. So while they aren’t a common visitor, they are spotted probably at least once a year.
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. 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 in Montana and are considered rare for the state. However unlike all the other hummingbirds on this list, they are actually more likely to be spotted in the eastern half of the state. Most of the recorded sightings were in August, so keep an eye out in late summer – early fall.
7. 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.
Costa’s hummingbirds are rare outside of the U.S. southwest, but occasionally they wander all the way up to the northern states. I found records of two recorded sightings in Montana during the fall, so while not impossible it does make them quite rare for area. Vagrants tend to stick more to the western coast.
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.