Hummingbirds in North Dakota: Identification and Characteristics

Broad-tailed Hummingbird at feeder in North Dakota
There are six different types of hummingbird species found in North Dakota between April and October. The most common species being the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Hummingbirds are the smallest migrating birds in North America. Hummingbirds are famous for their bright colors and flying ability and are regular visitors to the US and Canada.

Some species overwinter in the southern US and California, while others migrate to Central America. The Ruby-throated is the most commonly reported hummingbird in North Dakota, but five other species migrate through. 

Do Hummingbirds Migrate To North Dakota?

Yes, hummingbirds migrate to North Dakota during spring migration. Hummingbirds are not reported as commonly as in other states, but sightings occur each year throughout the state.

Hummingbirds are widely reported around Devil’s Lake, the Red River, the Sheyenne River, and the Mississippi River. Hummingbirds arrive in North Dakota around the first week of April.

By June, the seasonal residents have all arrived. They are most commonly reported in August as they gear up for fall migration but are present in North Dakota from early spring.

As male hummingbirds arrive, they look for territories to claim. Once the females arrive, usually a week or two after the males, breeding season starts.

Do Hummingbirds Breed in North Dakota?

Yes, and female hummingbirds do all the work of building a nest and raising young. Males are only present for courtship displays and mating. During courtship dives, males entice a female by flying toward her and flashing their tails. Once she accepts him as a mate, the act of mating takes only 3-5 seconds.

After mating, the female finishes her nest. Female hummingbirds usually lay two eggs on consecutive days, one at a time. These eggs are about the typical size of beans. The female sits on the nest until the eggs hatch, usually after about two weeks.

What Kind Of Hummingbirds Are In North Dakota?

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is in fact the only hummingbird in North Dakota reported regularly. Five other species, Anna’s Hummingbird, the Calliope Hummingbird, the Black-chinned Hummingbird, the Broad-tailed Hummingbird, and the Rufous Hummingbird, are seen occasionally.

The Rufous Hummingbird is considered threatened, as populations of Rufous have declined by 60% since the 1970s. Also, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is actually the most common in much of the midwest and eastern United States.

Each year, most Ruby-throated migrate from Panama to North America and back, though some overwinter on the Gulf Coast. The other species of hummingbirds stay mainly in the western US or Mexico.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at feeder in North Dakota
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Hummingbirds In North Dakota

Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

The male Ruby-throated hummingbird, distinguished by his bright red throat (gorget) and iridescent green back feathers, frequents backyards in much of the US. This hummingbird breeds in the midwest, the eastern US, and Canada.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed easily from nectar feeders. Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nest in the forks of trees or shrubs.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds live for an average of 3-5 years, though one banded bird was recorded at 9 years of age. They follow one of two migration routes in the spring and fall. 

One route takes them over the Gulf of Mexico and requires them to fly 500 miles straight. The other takes them along the Gulf Coast, through Texas, and down into Mexico.

Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

The Rufous Hummingbird can tolerate colder temperatures than many other species of hummingbirds. These birds, therefore, breed in southeastern Alaska and British Columbia, Canada.

Some Rufous have even been recorded during winter in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. Because of habitat loss due to fires in the west, Rufous are listed as ‘near threatened.’

Rufous Hummingbirds are orange. Male rufous are a rusty orange, with sparkling red-orange gorgets. Females are a muted orange underneath but green and brown on top.

Rufous Hummingbirds are smaller, ranging between 2 and 3 inches in length. Rufous are known for ruthlessly attacking hawks, squirrels, or other animals that come near nests.

These birds are more aggressive than other hummingbird species and are seen less frequently at feeders. The oldest banded hummingbird was recorded at 8 years and 11 months at a banding station in Canada.

Calliope hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope)

Calliope Hummingbirds migrate through North Dakota in spring and fall. They are the smallest hummingbird in the United States. Male Calliopes have a purple head and magenta gorget.

These bright colors extend down the sides of his throat. Females are gray and green, with spotting on their throats. They have dark-colored tail feathers with white tips.

Female Calliope Hummingbirds are small enough to nest on top of pine cones. Females even steal nesting material from other birds, leaving them prime targets for attacks by Rufous and Allen’s Hummingbirds. 

They breed in the Rocky Mountains, migrating to midwestern and western states after breeding. The oldest Calliope Hummingbird was recorded at a banding station in Idaho at 8 years and 11 months.

Calliope Hummingbirds in North Dakota  flying near thistle
Calliope Hummingbird near Thistle

Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)

The Black-chinned Hummingbird has been spotted once in Stanley, North Dakota in 2019. Male Black-chinned have dull green feathers on top and white underbellies. They are distinguished by their black heads and gorgets, with a purple section underneath.

Females have a white gorget and white tips on their tails. Black-chinned Hummingbirds breed in the western US, usually moving to higher mountain elevations after breeding.

This species winters along the Gulf Coast, Mexico, and southern California. Black-chinned Hummingbirds prefer canyons and rivers and can be seen perched at the tops of dead trees.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird usually ranges in the southwestern US and Mexico. Some Broad-tailed migrate to Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, or Arizona during the breeding season. Even so, this species is rarely spotted in North Dakota.

Male Black-chinned Hummingbirds have a ruby-red gorget. Both females and males have a white ring around their eyes, with green top feathers and white underbellies.

Females nest in forests. Despite destruction to their habitat, Broad-tailed have adapted to other environments and are not threatened.

Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte Anna)

Anna’s Hummingbirds typically inhabit the Pacific Coast and are a rare vagrant to North Dakota. Male Anna’s have a magenta or red crown and gorget, with iridescent green feathers on top.

Females are a duller green, and only some have a small magenta gorget. Females have a white line above their eyes, which helps to tell them apart from other species of hummingbirds.

Anna’s breed in Baja California, California, and Oregon. They have a year-round range farther north than any other hummingbird and have extended even farther north because of habitat loss. Anna’s Hummingbirds are between 3.5 and 4.3 inches.

How Long Do Hummingbirds Stay in North Dakota?

Hummingbirds stay in North Dakota until August. Between late August and early October, hummingbirds begin fall migration. The Ruby-throated migrates back to southern states near the Gulf of Mexico.

Some migrate to Costa Rica and Panama. Other species, like the Black-chinned and Broad-tailed, migrate back to the southwestern US.

Hummingbirds gain body fat as late summer arrives. Instincts tell each hummingbird when he should start migrating, and each follows his own path to wintering grounds. 

Keeping hummingbird feeders out until well into the fall will not stop hummingbird migration. Instead, leaving feeders out helps migrating hummingbirds find food during their long migrations.

Calliope Hummingbirds in North Dakota  flying near thistle
Female Calliope Hummingbird feeding on Lavender

What Do Hummingbirds Eat?

Hummingbirds eat small insects, flower nectar, and sugar water. Hummingbirds appreciate a variety of food sources and have a memory of where each food source is.

Having native plants, multiple hummingbird feeders, and a shallow bird bath will attract hummingbirds to your space. They even remember where feeders or flowers are from year to year.

Hummingbirds can grab insects out of the air. They can also hover in front of flowers or feeder ports while feeding. They can perch and feed just as easily.

What Is The Best Way To Attract Hummingbirds To A Feeder?

Attract hummingbirds to your feeder by making your own sugar water solution:

  • Dissolve 1 cup of white sugar into 4 cups of boiling water
  • Let simmer for 2 minutes
  • After it cools, fill hummingbird feeders
  • Store any extra in the refrigerator

Change the hummingbird nectar a few times a week to ensure fresh solution free of bacteria and viruses. Also, keep the feeders clean to ensure the hummingbirds don’t get sick from the feeder.

Creating an area with native plants will also help attract hummingbirdsIn North Dakota, consider columbine, salvia, native honeysuckles, or petunias.

Planting bright colored flowers, especially in shades of red, will help feed hummingbirds. If you attract hummingbirds to your yard or balcony, they’ll find your feeders and remember when they are for future years.

Sarah Pearce

Sarah enjoys feeding hummingbirds in the warmer months, and a range of finches, woodpeckers, and cardinals in the cooler months. She enjoys researching and learning more about birds, gardening, and preserving food. She is learning how to maximize her small city backyard and is amazed at all the possibilities. She lives in southwestern Indiana with her family.

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