Hummingbirds You’ll Find in North Carolina: Identification And Characteristics

hummingbirds in nc
A total of 9 hummingbirds have been spotted in the North Carolina area. There are two common hummingbirds in NC, which are the ruby-throated and rufous hummingbirds. The other seven are considered vagrants, but you still might be lucky to catch buff-bellied or broad-billed Hummingbird.

North Carolina is home to thousands of Ruby-throated hummingbirds starting mid-March. What’s more, this state is the wintering grounds for Ruby-throated hummingbirds. While they aren’t classified as regular residents, there are noted to be present throughout the winter season. The rufous hummingbirds are the second-most common seasonal visitor.

Moreover, you can expect to see Ruby-throated hummers during winter, so don’t take your feeders down. Check out what to do below.

What Hummingbirds Are Common to North Carolina?

North Carolina is home to many migrants, with the most commonly sighted being the ruby-throated hummingbirds and rufous hummingbirds. The black-chinned hummingbirds, buff-bellied hummingbirds, broad-tailed hummingbirds, and a few other kinds are considered vagrants or accidental visitors. Other rare and accidental species include:

  • The Black-chinned Hummingbirds
  • Buff-bellied Hummingbirds
  • Broad-tailed Hummingbirds
  • Anna’s Hummingbirds
  • Calliope Hummingbirds
  • Allen’s Hummingbirds
  • Broad-billed Hummingbird

Additionally, some have reported sightings of Mexican Violetear and Green-breasted Mangos in North Carolina, but no new info has been around in the past ten years.

hummingbirds in nc

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is one of the most common hummingbirds in North Carolina during the summer, arriving around April and May. Males arrive first to prepare for mating. This type of hummingbird breeds in eastern North America. After their breeding season is done (August/September), they will migrate to Central America. Ruby-throated will also breed around the eastern US and go as far as eastern Texas, Oklahoma, and Minnesota. Their wintering grounds include parts of South Florida or the Gulf of Mexico.

The adult male ruby-throated hummingbird has a red gorget that looks black in the dark and shines with a bright red under the light. Males also have gray-white underparts, bright green back, and grayish-green sides. Its size is around 3.5 inches. The female Ruby-throated hummingbird has a metallic green back. However, females don’t have the iridescent red gorget. Instead, they come with a white throat/belly and gray-brown sides. Their favorite foods include insects from spider webs, various flowers, and sugar water.


Rufous Hummingbird

This hummingbird (Selasphorus Rufus) is sometimes spotted in NC as it can accidentally wander in the state during winter. This is why you should keep the feeders out during winter. Rufous hummingbirds breed around northwest Alaska and migrate to Mexico and the Gulf Coast for winter. In the late summer/fall, they’ll migrate southbound along the Rocky Mountains. Their breeding range includes southern Alaska, Washington, Oregon, western Montana, and northern Idaho.

This hummingbird is around 2.8 to 3.5 inches. Adult males have reddish-brown back, darker wings, orange-red gorget, and bellies. Adult females lack color. They have green backs with brownish sides and red dots on their throats. Females also have somewhat darker tail feathers.

black chinned

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri) is a rare sight in North Carolina. However, there were few sightings reported. During winter, they’ll migrate to western Mexico and the Gulf Coast. Their breeding grounds include southwestern British Columbia, western Mexico, and Texas.

With a length of about 3.5 inches, they’re a bit larger than Ruby-throated hummingbirds. Adult males have metallic green backs and iridescent purple gorget, while females lack the throat color and have white tips on their tails.


Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope hummingbirds are the smallest in the US — they’re only about 3.5 inches long with a maximum of 4.3 inches wingspan. They’re accidental species in NC. While migrating, Calliope hummingbirds visit a wide range from Mexico to Canada, passing about 5,000 miles annually. These hummingbirds are often seen in fall migration between mid-July and mid-September.

Adult male Calliope hummers have magenta gorgets and green crowns that spread to their sides. They also have whitish bellies. Females have metallic bronze-green backs and neutral throats with a bit of orange on their breasts.


Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia yucatanensis) is another accidental species in North Carolina. Their size is around 3.9 to 4.3 inches. Adult males have green backs, reddish bills, and overall buffy shades. Adult females have darker bills. They nest around Texas from April to August. They’ll migrate to Gulf Coast, Louisiana, and Florida during winter.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

The broad-billed hummingbird has only a few reported sightings around North Carolina, making it an accidental species of hummingbird in the state. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds typically breed in high meadows and open woodlands at high elevations — up to 10,000 feet. They’ll usually spend winters in southern Mexico. They’re up to 3.5 inches long. Males have iridescent rose throats and greenbacks. Adult females and juveniles have green spots.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s hummingbirds (calypte anna) are another accidental species in North Carolina. Anna’s hummingbirds often don’t migrate and stay around the Pacific coast. Their breeding grounds include Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona. They’re around 4 inches long. Adult males have greenish bodies with magenta gorgets, while females have green backs, some yellow spotting on their wings, and grayish-white bellies.

Allen’s Hummingbird

Allen’s hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) is also an accidental species in NC. They’re around 3.5 inches long. Allen’s hummers have a similar appearance to Rufous hummingbirds — orange is their dominant color. They’re hard to distinguish, so pay attention to specific marks, such as banding. Adult males have a bit of green on their backs and brown sides. Females come with a reddish-brown tail and flanks. They spend winter in Mexico and migrate to the Pacific Coast in January.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Cynanthus latirostris, or the broad-billed hummingbird, is another accidental species in NC. These hummers are constant residents in central Mexico and the Pacific Coast. Some may migrate to canyons in southern Arizona and New Mexico for breeding.

Adult males have rich metallic green all around and a blue gorget that expands on their breasts. Adult females have pale bellies and lack blue throats. Both the males and females have reddish beaks that get wide near their heads. They’re up to 3.9 inches long and packed with color.

When Should I Take My Hummingbird Feeder Down in North Carolina?

If you shared additional food sources with the hummers in NC, know that many Ruby-throated hummingbirds tend to stay all winter. Consider leaving the feeders out with heating sources so the hummingbirds have something to eat during winter.

What Type of Food Should I Use in My Hummingbird Feeder?

Hummingbird feeders are an additional nectar source for the birds, and they only require a simple recipe of sugar and water. They’re great to use since you can keep them up all year. However, you should pay attention to what you pour inside.

To create the best sugar water for your friends, follow this recipe:

  • Mix 1 part sugar with four parts water
  • Stir until sugar is dissolved
  • Do not add red food dye
  • Pour it into the clean feeder
  • Store the rest in the fridge for later

Also, keep in mind that you should clean the feeders daily. This will prevent the water from stale and developing mold, hurting the birds. During winter, use feeder warmers to stop the water from freezing.

Final Word

Two of North Carolina’s most common hummingbirds are Ruby-throated and Rufous. The other seven types are accidental, with Mexican Violetear and Green-breasted Mangos seen only once in the last ten years. Since some hummingbirds stay during winter when tubular flowers pass, consider leaving the nectar feeders to help them get extra food resources and stay satisfied.


Mileva has a passion for writing and she loves to share her thoughts in all forms. Observing wildlife — birds and other untamed animals soothes her soul. This is why you’ll often find her staring at the closest forest, looking for inspiration for her next article.

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