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The 6 Types of Hummingbirds in Michigan: Common and Rare
Hummingbirds in Michigan

The 6 Types of Hummingbirds in Michigan: Common and Rare

Located at the heart of the Great Lakes and with more than half of the state forested, Michigan is a hotspot for a wide variety of bird species.

The Wolverine State also falls within the wintering grounds of many northern species. Some of the best birding sites in the state can be found in the Upper Peninsula, such as the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory and Seney Wildlife refuge.

In this article, we take a look at the hummingbirds of Michigan. Hummingbirds are tiny, fascinating birds of the Trochilidae family. They are specialized for feeding on nectar, but they also eat insects and spiders.

Hummingbirds in Michigan

Hummingbirds range in size from the bee hummingbird – the smallest bird in the world at a mere two inches long – and the giant hummingbird at nine inches.

Hummingbirds are associated with hovering above flowers. They are named for the humming sound of their wingbeats as they hover while feeding. They have an exceptionally high metabolism and specially adapted vision to enable dynamic visual processing while hovering.

Their thin, long bills are specialized for their nectarivorous diet and are longer in females than in males. The bills of some species co-evolved with ornithophilous flowers. They lap up nectar with their long, tubular tongues.

Other adaptations include a specialized mechanism for thermoregulation and dynamic range in kidney function to make up for the high rate of nectar and water consumption per day. They also go into a state of torpor at night, which is a state of deep similar to hibernation to conserve energy.

Although they are known for their whirring wingbeats, hummingbirds exhibit impressive vocal-learning ability. They produce a range of sounds including chirping, chattering, and whistling.

Like butterflies and bees, hummingbirds are important pollinators of many flowering plants. Since insects make up a large portion of their diet, many populations are threatened by the use of pesticides that impact this important winter food source.

Five species of hummingbirds have been recorded in Michigan, of which only one is common.

Let’s take a look at the hummingbirds to look out for in Michigan:

1. Ruby-throated hummingbird

  • Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
  • Lifespan: 5-7 years (average), 9 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size: 2.8 to 3.5 in
  • Weight: 0.07 to 0.2 oz
  • Wingspan: 3.1 to 4.3 in
  • Conservation status: Least concern

Named for the iridescent orange-red throat patch of the male, the ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common species you are likely to spot in Michigan. Females are white-throated. Both sexes exhibit a metallic-green hue on the upperparts and pale-gray, faintly scalloped underparts. Males are slightly smaller than females and have forked black tales.

While ruby-throated hummingbirds are not known for their singing, they do have a complex call made up of several chirpy and twittery notes.

The ruby-throated hummingbird’s breeding range spans much of eastern North America as far north as southern Canada. They migrate south for the winter, with their wintering grounds stretching from Florida to Central America. They occur all across the state of Michigan.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbirds feed on nectar with a preference for orange, red, and pink flowers such as honeysuckle and jewelweed. They also eat small arthropods such as insects and spiders. They are known to visit garden nectar feeders.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are solitary and highly territorial. You can spot them during spring and summer in deciduous woodlands, forest edges, meadows, orchards, and gardens. They build their tiny nests on slanting branches of deciduous or pine trees. The cup-shaped nest is made of plant down, bound together with spider silk, and camouflaged with moss and lichen.

Until recently, the ruby-throated hummingbird appeared to be a thriving species, with a steady increase in numbers over the last 50 years. However, populations appear to be in decline since 2004 over most of their breeding range.

Possible threats include pesticide use, predation by domestic and feral cats, unsanitary bird feeders, collision with windows, habitat loss, and climate change.

2. Rufous hummingbird

  • Scientific name: Selasphorus rufus
  • Lifespan: 8 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size: 2.8 – 3.5 in
  • Weight: 0.071 – 0.176 oz
  • Wingspan: 4.3 in
  • Conservation status: Near-threatened

Known for their extraordinary flight skills, these long-distance migrants have the longest migration than any other hummingbird species. Rufous hummingbirds breed in western North America and migrate south for the winter, crossing over the Rocky Mountains. Northern populations cover nearly 4000 miles to reach their Mexican wintering grounds.

Despite their western range, rufous hummingbirds are occasionally spotted in Michigan during winter but are often confused with Allen’s hummingbirds.

They typically inhabit open forests, woods, thickets, and shrubby meadows. Their nests are high up in coniferous or deciduous trees concealed by drooping branches.

Rufous hummingbird

The male has a rufous plumage, an iridescent orange throat patch, and a white breast. Females are greenish above and white below with a rufous wash on their flanks and tail and a hint of the orange throat patch. Some males share the female’s greenish coloration on their upperparts.

They are not particularly vocal birds but vocalizations include repetitive warning chirps given by the male, as well as a chu-chu-chu courtship call given during display.

Rufous hummingbirds feed on the nectar of flowering plants, especially colorful tubular flowers such as lilies and fireweeds. Their relentless and implacable nature earned this species the title of “feistiest hummingbird in North America”. They are aggressive feeders, that won’t shy away from a fight, often attacking larger birds around food sources.

Rufous hummingbirds are impacted by pesticides and climate change. The use of harmful pesticides impacts the winter food supply of insects. And changes in weather patterns affect the blooming season of flowering plant species they rely on. As of 2018, they are classified as “near-threatened” by the IUCN.

3. Anna’s hummingbird

  • Scientific name: Calypte anna
  • Lifespan: 3 – 12 years
  • Size: 3.9 to 4.3 in
  • Weight: 0.1 – 0.2 oz
  • Wingspan: 4.7 inches
  • Conservation status: Least concern

A beautiful, stocky little hummingbird with green and gray-brown plumage. The male has a bright-pink iridescent head and throat. Its call is scratchy and metallic-sounding.

Anna’s hummingbirds feed on nectar, insects, and tree sap. They are important pollinators, known to generate exceptionally high electro-static charges when foraging, enabling them to pick up large amounts of pollen. They are also known to pollinate invasive eucalyptus.

Anna's hummingbird

These hummingbirds are resident along the coastal regions of Western North America, with a small degree of migration of some populations over short distances. They inhabit open woodlands, savannah, and shrublands.

Anna’s hummingbirds are the most common west coast species. They are well-adapted to living around human habitations and are common in urban and suburban areas in their native range.

This species is an “accidental vagrant” in Michigan with only a few recorded sightings.

4. White-eared hummingbird

  • Scientific name: Basilinna leucotis
  • Lifespan: 3 – 12 years
  • Size: 3.5 – 3.9 in
  • Weight: 0.1 oz
  • Wingspan: 4 – 5 in
  • Conservation status: Least concern

An attractive hummingbird with the sweetest face, the white-eared hummingbird is named for the white stripe that extends over the ears towards the neck on either side.

Its plumage is mostly brown with iridescent shades of metallic green, turquoise, and violet on its upperparts, breast, throat, and face respectively. It has a bright red, curved bill with a black tip. Females are less colorful than males.

White-eared hummingbird

White-eared hummingbirds are native to Mexico and Central America. They are uncommon visitors to the southwestern United States, where they favor canyons and mountainous regions. There has only been one confirmed sighting of an accidental vagrant in Michigan.

In their native range, white-eared hummingbirds inhabit mountain forests where they are responsible for the pollination of many native species. They feed on the high-sugar nectar of brightly colored flowering plants, including shrubs, trees, herbs, and epiphytes.

They also eat small insects and spiders and occasionally visit garden nectar feeders. White-eared hummingbirds are known to form feeding territories which they aggressively defend.

5. Broad-billed hummingbird

  • Scientific name: Cynanthus latirostris
  • Lifespan: 9 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size: 3.1 – 3.9 in
  • Weight: 0.1 oz
  • Wingspan: 5.1 in
  • Conservation status: Least concern

A small hummingbird with a colorful plumage, named for its broad bill. It is similar in appearance to the white-eared hummingbird. Males are bright green, with a blue throat patch and a black-tipped red bill. Females are lime-green above and gray-brown below with a white eyestripe.

Broad-billed hummingbird

The broad-billed hummingbird’s call is a rapid chatter. They are native to Mexico and the Southern United States, where they inhabit deciduous woodlands and forests near streams or canyons. Broad-billed hummingbirds build their nests within three feet of the ground, typically on a drooping branch near water or rocky outcrops.

They feed on nectar and insects. Broad-billed hummingbirds are known to favor red and yellow flowers such as desert honeysuckle and the flowers of the agave plant.

There are four subspecies of the broad-billed hummingbird, with migratory and resident populations. Rare sightings of the broad-billed hummingbird have occurred across the continent, including in the south of Michigan.

6. Mexican violetear

  • Scientific name: Colibri thalassinus
  • Lifespan: 12 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size: 3.8 to 4.7 in
  • Weight: 0.2 oz
  • Wingspan: 4.7 in
  • Conservation status: Least concern

This tropical species is native to Mexico and Central America. They inhabit forest edges, overgrown clearings, woodlands, scrublands, and gardens where they nest on low, well-concealed branches.

The violetear is a brightly-colored species. Its plumage is metallic green with a violet breast and violet ear patches for which it is named. The male has a distinctive metallic, jerky song.

Mexican violetear

Like other species, they feed on nectar and insects – usually solitary, but they tend to gather around flowering trees and shrubs.

Mexican violetears are uncommon visitors to the Southern United States. Vagrants make rare appearances across the continent, as far north as Canada, and have been occasionally spotted in Michigan.