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 North Carolina, we have found 2 species that are common or semi-common and 6 that are rare. That’s a total of 8 species of hummingbirds that have visited North Carolina.
8 Hummingbirds in North Carolina
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 North Carolina. 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 2 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, 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 North Carolina during the spring and summer months. They will arrive in April and May and leave in September.
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, then 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 second most commonly sighted species on the east coast after the ruby-throated hummingbird. Recorded sightings tend to be clustered in the western half of North Carolina in elevated and forested regions, or right along the eastern coast. Most sightings are during the winter or early spring.
3. 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.
While they are a bird of the west coast, they have been spotted in most states along the east coast at least once, including North Carolina where there have been a handful of sightings over the years. They would still be considered rare for the state, but you may get lucky.
4. Calliope Hummingbird
Scientific name: Selasphorus calliope
The calliope hummingbird winters in Central American, then mainly spends its breeding season in the Pacific Northwest and parts of western Canada. That’s 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 are considered rare on the east coast, however they have been spotted in North Carolina a dozen or so times. Interestingly, most sightings seem to be in the winter or early spring.
5. Broad-tailed hummingbird
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. They are mainly found in the western U.S. with a small population along the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to the Florida panhandle. Occasionally some hummingbirds will be spotted in the southeastern states like Georgia, however it is very rare that they make the trip up to North Carolina.
6. 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 in a few of the western states, such as California, Arizona and Oregon. 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 spotted in North Carolina a few times, but are considered extremely rare on the east coast.
7. Broad-billed Hummingbird
Scientific name: Cynanthus latirostris
Broad-billed hummingbirds live in Mexico, and the only two states in the U.S. where the they are known to breed are Arizona and New Mexico. Males are hard to mistake with their purplish-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.
Occasional sightings have been made in other southern states, but only one or two have been in North Carolina.
8. Allen’s Hummingbird
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.
Allen’s is very rare for North Carolina and they have only been spotted there a few times.
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.