Native to North America, many species of hummingbirds frequently visit Tennessee. Whether you live in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, or anywhere in-between, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to observe hummingbirds. The most common are the Ruby-throated hummingbird and the Rufous hummingbird.
Two hummingbird species typically spend the winter in Tennessee, but several others visit the state at different times of the year. Read on to learn more about hummingbirds and which species make their home in Tennessee.
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Hummingbirds Commonly Found in Tennessee
During the summer months, the most common type of hummingbird in Tennessee is the Ruby-throated hummingbird and the Rufous hummingbird as well. Other species of hummingbirds are occasional visitors, classified as only occurring rarely.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
The Ruby-throated hummingbird nests east of the Mississippi River, which is uncommon amongst most species. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate north to Canada and south to Mexico, though some stay year-round in Tennessee. They make a non-stop journey of 500 miles to cross the Gulf of Mexico to get to their winter breeding grounds.
- Males are known for their ruby-red throat and iridescent green back. They have white underbellies.
- Females are duller green and lack the red throat.
- Where to find them: Ruby-throated hummingbirds are frequently found feeding at suburban home backyard feeders. They are also found in woodlands with mature deciduous trees and lots of shrubby cover. They can be found in most of the counties of Tennessee during spring and summer.
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus Rufus)
The Rufous Hummingbird has also been spotted in Tennessee year-round. This hummingbird species is most commonly found in the winter. Rufous Hummingbirds migrate up to 4,000 miles one way—from Mexico and the Gulf Coast to southeastern Alaska and Canada.
- Males are bright orange on the belly and back with an iridescent red throat.
- Females are dusty-orange on the sides, with a greenish back and whitish underbelly.
- Where to find them: Rufous Hummingbirds feed on native plants and small insects. They have also been spotted at feeding at backyard feeders. Females prefer to nest high in trees, either in meadows or forests.
Rarely Spotted in Tennessee
Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin)
Allen’s Hummingbirds have been sighted in November and December, with additional sightings in February. These birds are more common in California and Oregon.
- Males look similar to the Rufous Hummingbird and have shiny orange throats, underbellies, tails, and eye patches.
- Females don’t have bright throat colors but have the same copper-green backs as the males.
- Where to find them: Allen’s Hummingbirds prefer to nest beside small streams and desert scrubs.
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
Anna’s Hummingbirds are rare migrants to the state of Tennessee. More recently sighted in 2020, the last sighting before dated back to 1995. Anna’s Hummingbirds typically stay along the Pacific Coast. Anna’s hummingbird is the only species that produces a long string of sounds for most hummingbirds, at least 10 seconds in duration or more.
- Males have a magenta pinkish throat with a gray and green body.
- Females have a spotted pink throat with the same color body as the male.
- Where to find them: Anna’s Hummingbirds frequent backyard nectar feeders and local tubular flowers. They also inhabit scrub bushes.
Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)
Though sightings of the Black-chinned are less common, this hummingbird species was spotted between November and March. After breeding, Black-chinned Hummingbirds head into the mountains to feed on native plants before their fall migration.
- Males have a black throat with a purple patch.
- Females have a white throat and white tips on their tail feathers.
- Both males and females are dull metallic green with white underbellies.
- Where to find them: Black-chinned Hummingbirds prefer to sit at the tops of dead trees. They also frequent canyons and rivers.
Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris)
The Broad-billed Hummingbird was spotted in 2017. They live year-round in central Mexico and migrate to Arizona and New Mexico for breeding.
- Males have a blue throat that descends their chest. His body is bright metallic green.
- Females have a pale belly, but both males and females have a red bill that is colored black near their heads.
- Where to find them: Broad-billed Hummingbirds prefer mountain meadows or canyon streams. They will also visit backyard feeders. They build their nests relatively low to the ground beside streams.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris)
Last documented in 2005, the Broad-tailed Hummingbird is a rare sight in Tennessee. They typically migrate to southern Mexico for the winter, but some may stay on the Gulf Coast.
- Males have a rose-colored throat, with a green back and brown wings.
- Females have similar coloring but have green spots on their throats.
- Where to find them: Broad-tailed Hummingbirds prefer to live at higher elevations between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. They feed on backyard nectar feeders as well as small insects.
Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope)
The Calliope Hummingbird is the lightest and smallest bird in the US. This species is very rare, with the most recent sighting in 2013. They fly around 5,000 miles for migration from central Mexico to Canada.
- Males have bright magenta throats, green backs, and dark tails.
- Females have a pinkish-white underbelly and whitish throat.
- Where to find them: Calliope Hummingbirds are more common in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Coast but move into California and southern Canada to breed. Adult females prefer to nest in evergreen trees.
Mexican Violetear (Colibri thalassinus)
The Mexican Violetear Hummingbird is extremely rare but was spotted in 2020 in Clarksville. This species is larger, measuring a larger wingspan than other hummers.
- Both males and females are metallic green all over with violet patches on their heads and breasts.
- Where to find them: The Mexican Violetear is typically found in the mountains of Mexico and Central America. They have been found in the southern hemisphere of the americas including in Bolivia and Venezuela.
According to bird watchers’ checklists, these are the species of hummingbirds spotted in the state of Tennessee. If you’d like to attract these hummers to your area, hang bird feeders filled with a hummingbird sugar-water solution. Plant some native plants with tubular flowers such as phlox, fuchsias, or bee balm.
When Do Hummingbirds Arrive In Tennessee?
Hummingbirds arrive in Tennessee beginning in late March when the chances of a cold frost are over. Male hummingbirds leave wintering grounds earlier than females to establish a breeding territory and scout food sources. Females arrive a week or two later and start building their nests. Breeding season begins shortly after the females arrive.
Do Any Hummingbirds Stay In Tennessee Year-Round?
The Ruby-throated and the Rufous Hummingbird stay year-round. The Ruby-throated migrates north and west to breed during the summer months and then migrates back south for the winter. The Rufous Hummingbird has been spotted at feeders between November and March. So if you live in Tennessee, keep your feeders out all year!
Quick Facts About Hummingbirds
- Hummingbirds eat a variety of small insects, as well as nectar from backyard hummingbird feeders
- Hummingbirds migrate twice a year—north for spring migration and south for fall migration
- Some hummingbirds fly over 4,000 miles during migration
- Hummingbirds are native only to the Americas
- Hummingbirds are the smallest birds
- Female hummingbirds hold their nests together with spider webs
Differences Between A Male And A Female Hummingbird
Male hummingbirds are brighter in color, often having brightly colored gorgets (throats) in pink, red, or vibrant blue. They commonly have green feathers, though orange or black feathers are also found.
Female hummingbirds are usually duller in color. They need to blend into the landscape when nesting. Females often have grayish-white underbellies and typically lack males’ bright throat and head colors.