Hummingbirds in Minnesota (With Pictures)

Hummingbirds in Minnesota (With Pictures)

In Minnesota’s natural mosaic, not only does the Ruby-throated Hummingbird play a starring role, but the state also welcomes the occasional appearance of the Rufous Hummingbird, adding depth and variety to its avian population.

This article embarks on an exploration of the spellbinding lives of Minnesota’s hummingbirds, focusing on both the well-established Ruby-throated and the less common, yet equally captivating, Rufous Hummingbirds. We’ll delve into their life cycles, diets, and invaluable contributions as pollinators, which underscore their significance within the ecosystem.

Additionally, I will offer guidance for Minnesotans looking to attract these iridescent creatures to their gardens, thereby supporting their conservation. Highlighting the seasonal dynamics of these hummingbirds, our narrative aims to foster a greater appreciation and proactive conservation efforts, ensuring the preservation of Minnesota’s vibrant natural tapestry for future generations.

1. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

  • Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
  • Life span: 3-5 years
  • Size: 3-3.75 in
  • Weight: 2-6 g
  • Wingspan: 3.1-4.3 in
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, a jewel among avians, graces the eastern half of North America with its presence, from the Gulf of Mexico in the south stretching northward into Canada and west to the Great Plains.

This exquisite bird is a marvel of nature, featuring an emerald green back that gleams under the sun and a white underbelly that provides a stark contrast. Males boast a brilliant ruby-red throat, a feature absent in the more modestly adorned females, who instead display a clean, white throat with slight touches of grayish-green on the sides.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

The bird’s wings, which blur with rapid movement, allow it to hover in mid-air as if suspended by magic. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird’s vibrant plumage and dynamic flight patterns make it a favourite among bird watchers and nature enthusiasts, symbolizing the arrival of spring and the renewal of life.

The nesting behaviour of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is a delicate ballet, a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of this diminutive bird. Females single-handedly undertake the construction of the nest, a painstaking process that involves gathering spider webs, plant down, and bits of leaves to craft a tiny, cup-shaped cradle.

This flexible and sturdy abode is often anchored on the branch of a tree or shrub, camouflaged amidst the foliage to evade predators’ prying eyes. The female’s dedication shines as she meticulously shapes and reshapes the nest, ensuring it provides a safe haven for her precious eggs.

As spring warms into summer, these nests become nurseries, where the next generation of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds is tenderly reared, a cycle of life that continues year after year in the heart of nature’s embrace.

Diving into the diet of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is to explore a world where energy is paramount, and sustenance is sipped from the bounty of flowers. These aerial acrobats are drawn to the vibrant blooms that dot the Minnesota landscape, from the trumpet vine to the wild bergamot, each flower a pit stop in their daily quest for nectar.

A Ruby-Throated hummingbird taking a well-earned rest on a stick

This sugary fluid fuels their high-octane lifestyle, powering the rapid wingbeats that keep them suspended in a hover. But it’s not all sweets for these tiny birds; they are also adept hunters, snatching insects and spiders from the air or plucking them from spider webs. This protein-rich fare is crucial, providing the nutrients needed for muscle repair and growth, a balanced diet for a life lived on the wing.

The tale of conservation for the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is woven with threads of awareness and action. In Minnesota and beyond, the preservation of these birds is linked closely to habitat conservation and the planting of native, nectar-rich flowers. Efforts by local communities and conservation organizations have been instrumental in maintaining gardens and natural spaces where these birds can thrive.

Educational programs and citizen science projects, such as bird banding and monitoring, contribute to a growing body of knowledge about migration patterns and habitat needs. These initiatives not only safeguard the future of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird but also highlight the importance of conserving the interconnected web of life that supports them and countless other species, a testament to the power of collective effort in the face of environmental challenges.

2. Rufous Hummingbird

  • Scientific name: Selasphorus rufus
  • Life span: 3-5 years
  • Size: 2.75-3.75 in
  • Weight: 2.5-4.5 g
  • Wingspan: 3.5-4.3 in
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare

Embarking on an epic migration that challenges the stamina of any creature its size, the Rufous Hummingbird claims the western regions of North America as its domain, ranging from Alaska down through the Pacific Northwest and into California during breeding season, before heading to Mexico for the winter.

This tiny traveler is cloaked in a striking suit of feathers, with males displaying a fiery orange on their backs and bellies, complemented by a white breast. Their throats shimmer with an iridescent red, a beacon of color that catches the eye. Females and juveniles wear a more subdued palette, with greenish backs and speckled throats, yet they share the rufous tail that gives this species its name.

Rufous Hummingbird

The Rufous Hummingbird, with its bold coloration and audacious spirit, captivates those who witness its flight, embodying the wild heart of the regions it visits. 

The Rufous Hummingbird, a fiery traveler of the western skies, brings a touch of warmth to Minnesota during its breeding season. Females of this species exhibit remarkable nesting instincts, constructing their homes with an artist’s touch. Utilizing moss, bark, and the silk of spider webs, they create a cozy, compact nest that is as sturdy as it is inconspicuous, often placed on a tree branch or in a shrub.

The exterior is adorned with lichens and small bits of bark, blending seamlessly into the surrounding environment, a natural masterpiece of camouflage. Inside this snug nest, the future of the Rufous Hummingbird takes shape, as eggs are laid and diligently incubated by the female, who ensures the next generation will take to the skies, continuing the legacy of these vibrant voyagers.

The Rufous Hummingbird’s diet is a whirlwind tour of Minnesota’s floral bounty, a quest for nectar that fuels its fiery flight. These birds are drawn to the bright flowers that dot the landscape, from the tubular blossoms of penstemons to the inviting petals of lupines, each sip of nectar a burst of energy.

But the Rufous Hummingbird is not solely a nectar feeder; it is also a skilled predator, capturing insects and spiders in midair or plucking them from leaves and webs. This mix of sugar and protein is crucial, powering the bird’s intense migratory journeys and daily aerial displays. The Rufous Hummingbird’s diet reflects the adaptability and resilience of this species, a testament to the intricate dance of nature’s ecosystems.

Rufous Hummingbird

Conservation efforts for the Rufous Hummingbird are a mosaic of initiatives aimed at understanding and mitigating the challenges faced by this migratory marvel. With habitats ranging from the cool climes of Alaska to the warmth of Mexico, the Rufous Hummingbird’s journey is fraught with obstacles, from habitat loss to climate change.

In Minnesota, where they are rare but celebrated visitors, conservationists focus on preserving natural habitats and promoting the planting of native plants that provide essential nectar sources. Research and monitoring efforts, including banding and tracking migration routes, are vital in crafting strategies to protect these birds.

Community engagement and education play crucial roles, fostering a connection between people and the natural world, inspiring actions that contribute to the conservation of the Rufous Hummingbird and the rich tapestry of life it represents.

Where to look for Hummingbirds in Minnesota

In Minnesota, the quest to spot hummingbirds, particularly the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the occasional Rufous Hummingbird, can be both exhilarating and rewarding. To increase your chances of hummingbird sightings, focus on habitats rich in flowering plants, especially those that provide nectar, which is a primary food source for these birds.

Gardens, both public and private, that cultivate hummingbird-friendly flowers such as bee balm, columbine, trumpet vine, and jewelweed are excellent places to start. These areas not only attract hummingbirds but also offer the serene beauty of nature’s palette.

Moreover, incorporating hummingbird feeders filled with a sugar-water mixture can turn your backyard into a hummingbird hotspot, especially during the migration periods in spring and fall.

Here are four notable areas in Minnesota where your chances of encountering hummingbirds are high:

  • Minnesota Landscape Arboretum: This extensive garden showcases a variety of flowering plants that attract hummingbirds throughout the breeding season.
  • Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge: This refuge offers a mix of forested and open habitats, providing an ideal setting for hummingbird watching.
  • Whitewater State Park: The park’s diverse ecosystems, including its floral richness, make it a haven for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
  • Itasca State Park: As Minnesota’s oldest state park, located near Park Rapids, its varied habitats support a broad range of wildlife, including hummingbirds during their breeding season.

For a successful hummingbird watching experience, patience is key. Early morning or late afternoon, when hummingbirds are most active in feeding, are the best times to observe these enchanting birds. Bring along a pair of binoculars and enjoy the quiet moments of nature’s display.


Through conservation efforts and community engagement, the future for both the Ruby-throated and Rufous Hummingbirds looks promising. As we nurture and protect their habitats, we not only ensure the survival of these aerial jewels but also enrich our own connection to the natural world.

Let us remain committed to preserving the delicate balance that allows these magnificent birds to thrive in Minnesota’s landscapes.

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