There have been reports of nearly 30 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 Virginia, we have found 2 species that are common or semi-common and 5 that are rare. That’s a total of 7 species of hummingbirds that have visited Virginia.
7 Hummingbirds in Virginia
The 7 species of hummingbirds in Virginia are the Ruby-throated hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Allen’s Hummingbird, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, and the Rivoli’s Hummingbird.
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 Virginia. 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 5 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 Virginia 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, 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 Virginia tend to be either in the Appalachian/Blue Ridge range along the western part of the state, or in far east coast areas like Washington D.C., Norfolk and Virginia Beach. 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 Virginia 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 America, 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 Virginia a few times.
5. 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 Virginia and they have only been spotted there a few times. Even then, some of those sightings were of the same hummingbird. Many excited birders traveled around the town of Chester in the winter of 2010 – spring 2011 to find the stray Allen’s that hung around for a few months.
6. Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Scientific name: Amazilia yucatanensis
The little buff-bellied hummingbird is a Mexican native that spends some time in the U.S., but just barely. Their more defining features are their red bill, bluish-green throat feathers and a light buffy colored belly. They also have rusty brown on their tail feathers, which is hard to see unless they fan them out.
Buff-bellied hummingbirds live along the eastern coast of Mexico, and the only place to reliably see them year-round in the U.S. is just over the border in the lower Rio Grande valley of Texas. They come up further north during the winter where they can be found along the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to the Florida panhandle. Occasionally one will stray further north and end up in the southeastern states, but it is rare.
The only recorded sighting in Virginia I could find was in January of 2021 when one spent some time in Norfolk. So sighting a buff-bellied in Virginia is quite rare, but not impossible.
7. Rivoli’s Hummingbird
Scientific name: Eugenes fulgens
The Rivoli’s hummingbird was formerly known as the “magnificent hummingbird”. Males have a dark purple head with a brighter teal colored throat. Their body is green and brown. Often they can appear overall dark in certain light. Females do not share this coloration and are green above and white below. They are slightly larger than most hummingbirds seen in the U.S., with a longer bill. They are mainly found in Mexico and like shady canyons and mountainous forests.
Rivoli’s are only regular visitors to Arizona and New Mexico, but every now and then one will stray into another state. There is a recorded sighting of one in Virginia in 2003, but that’s about it. So a very rare hummingbird to spot indeed!
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.
Melanie is an environmental scientist, birdwatcher, and amateur photographer. She’s been a birding hobbyist for years and loves feeding and learning about birds of all types. Over the years, Melanie has identified more than 250 bird species, with sightings of the Atlantic Puffin, Hawaiian Goose, and Arctic Tern among her most cherished.