South Carolina is home to a total of ten hummingbird species. Two are regular visitors, while others are accidental or rare. Keep your nectar feeders out from March to November to keep your local visitors supplemented with extra food supply.
There are 10 total kinds of SC hummingbirds, two of which are the state’s regulars — the Ruby-throated and Rufous hummingbirds. They’re also the reason to keep your feeders out during winter. The other eight types are rare or accidental visitors, including Anna’s, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, and others. Keep reading to learn how to distinguish the hummingbirds you see around your backyard.
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What Months Are Hummingbirds in South Carolina?
Hummingbirds usually start arriving in SC in mid-March to early April. However, variations occur each year, so sometimes, you might notice them as early as February or as late as May. Depending on their current migration path and climate conditions, you might also see different hummingbirds around your garden.
Regular hummingbirds in South Carolina include:
- Ruby-throated is a state’s regular, being spotted from April to November.
- Rufous is considered near-threatened, yet it’s on this list since it’s seen in the state during winter.
The least common kinds of hummingbirds in South Carolina are:
- Black-chinned Hummingbird
- Buff-bellied Hummingbird
- Calliope Hummingbird
- Anna’s Hummingbird
- Broad-billed Hummingbird
- Broad-tailed Hummingbird
- Allen’s Hummingbird
- Blue-throated Mountain-gem
Ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) are often spotted in South Carolina during summer. They account for 16% of the bird population seen by birdwatchers and recorded on checklists for this state. They spend the breeding season in SC from April to November. Some will remain in the state for winter, while others will migrate south.
This kind of hummingbird has a bright green back and crown with whitish underparts. Adult males have iridescent red throats. Females have brownish crowns and sides. The Ruby-throated species is the only hummingbird that breeds in eastern North America and then spends winters in Central America. The migration path includes the Gulf of Mexico and Texas. The Ruby-throated male hummers arrive about two weeks before the females arrive to prepare their territory for the mating season.
The Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus Rufus) is considered near-threatened species, but there were some sightings in the state during winter. This kind is predominantly orange on the back and belly, with white patches on the throats and reddish gorgets in males. Females are more greenish on the back with rusty-colored sides and white bellies.
Rufous hummingbirds breed in some areas of Alaska and Canada. They migrate to Mexico and the Gulf Coast to spend winters. Their migration route involves the Pacific Coast during spring and the Rocky Mountains in late summer/fall. Spring migration starts in February, and fall migration begins in July/August.
Rufous hummingbirds should all be gone by the end of October. This kind is known for its aggressive behavior. Rufous will defend a territory around their sugar water feeder and tubular flowers. They’ll also eat gnats, flies, and other small insects.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are an accidental species in South Carolina. Still, some see them even during the winter season. They’re mostly dull metallic green on their backs and have whitish underparts. Adult males come with an iridescent purple base on their black throats. Adult females have pale throats with white tips on their tail feathers.
Black-chinned hummingbirds breeding grounds include British Columbia and Baja California. After breeding, they’ll move to higher mountains and then migrate to western Mexico and the Gulf Coast. Their migration happens in March and September.
The buff-bellied hummingbird is another accidental species in South Carolina, but some report seeing it around during winter. They’re medium-sized hummers. Adult males have a reddish bill with a darker tip.
Buff-bellied hummers breed around southern Texas and some parts of Mexico and Central America. They’ll migrate to spend the winter in Louisiana and Florida.They’ll gladly visit your nectar feeders and eat some small insects.
There have been a few sightings in Greenville in 2013, but Calliope is considered accidental in the state of South Carolina. With a size of only 3.5 inches, this is the smallest bird in the US. Adult males have magenta gorgets and glossy greenbacks. Adult females don’t have such colorful throats and are more pinkish-white underneath. Calliope’s spring migration path includes the Rocky Mountains. Their breeding grounds involve:
- British Columbia
- Vancouver Island
Their wintering grounds are around Mexico.
Anna’s hummingbirds are extremely rare in South Carolina. The last time they were sighted was in 2010 around Berkeley. Adult males have iridescent red throats, while females are grayish with some red spotting. These tiny birds are the most common kind around the Pacific Coast and don’t migrate. You can spot them around British Columbia and Baja California in summer and winter. They like the following plants as nectar sources:
Broad-billed Hummingbirds were last spotted in Rockville, south of Charleston, in 2008 when Bill Hilton Jr banded one. Adult males are rich in metallic green color all over their bodies. Adult females come with pale bellies. Both have red beaks with black tips. They’re regular residents of central Mexico and the Pacific Coast. Hummingbird migration route for Broad-billed hummers includes canyons in southern Arizona and New Mexico.
The broad-tailed hummingbird was only spotted in Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, South Carolina in 2021. Broad-tailed hummers live in high elevations. Adult males have iridescent green backs, brown wings, rose throats, and white chests and bellies. Adult females are duller in color, with green spots on their throats and cheeks.
They’ll breed in high meadows and open woodlands up to 10,000 feet elevation. The breeding grounds include Idaho and parts of Montana, Wyoming, and California. They spend winters in Mexico, but some might stay around the Gulf Coast.
Allen’s hummingbirds were last seen in Lexington in 2008 and are considered an accidental species in SC. Allen’s Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in South Carolina. Adult males resemble Rufous hummers, with reddish gorgets and orange bellies. Both males and females have coppery-green backs, but females lack the color on their throats.
This kind will spend the winter in Mexico and start migrating in January toward Pacific Coast in California and Oregon.
This is a super rare kind of hummingbird sighting, but there have been some blue-throated mountain-gem sightings in SC. Blue-throated Mountain-gem is the largest of all hummingbirds that nest in the US, with a length of 4.7 inches. Adult males have iridescent blue throats.
Both males and females have greenish backs and gray underparts, with white tips on their black tail feathers. This kind is usually seen in Mexico, but some may move north into southeastern Arizona and southwestern Texas.
When Should You Stop Feeding Hummingbirds in South Carolina?
If you want to take down your hummingbird feeders, know that most hummers will depart around November. Some will stay around for winter. Check for hummingbirds around early December. If you see none in two weeks, taking the feeders down is safe.
What Are Some Things You Can Do to Help Hummingbirds in South Carolina?
If you want to help the wintering hummingbirds in SC, consider adding another food source. However, ensure that you don’t use red dye while making the sugar water mix, as it can hurt the birds. Plant some additional native flowers so those hummingbirds that arrive in the spring have something more to eat.
Add a water feature for the hummingbirds, such as a bird bath to your garden, so they can also freshen up during summer. Maintain the feeders and bird baths regularly — remove stagnant water, clean the feeders and replace the sugar water daily. This will keep the hummingbirds healthy and happy. Avoid pesticides and herbicides, as they’re toxic to hummers.
Even though Rufous is considered endangered species, you might still be surprised to see it around South Carolina. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are also the state’s regulars, so you’ll enjoy their company year-round. You may also see Allen’s, Calliope, Blue-throated Mountain-gem hummingbirds, and a few other kinds roaming around your garden. Remember to clean the feeders and provide enough sugar water for all of your guests to enjoy.