Hummingbirds in Tennessee (With Pictures)

Hummingbirds in Tennessee (With Pictures)

Tennessee, a state renowned for its rich biodiversity, serves as a vibrant hub for a variety of hummingbird species. These tiny, iridescent birds, known for their remarkable agility and rapid wingbeats, bring a unique charm to the state’s natural landscapes. In this article, we delve into the enchanting world of Tennessee’s hummingbirds, exploring their habits, migration patterns, and the best practices for attracting them to our gardens.

The most common species, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, graces the state from spring through fall, showcasing its dazzling ruby-red throat and swift flight​​. Other species like the Rufous Hummingbird, known for its territorial nature and stunning reddish-brown plumage, add to the state’s ornithological diversity, though their numbers have seen a significant decline since the 1970s​​.

This article provides an insightful glimpse into the lives of these extraordinary creatures, their role in the ecosystem, and how we can help conserve their populations for future generations to enjoy.

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 prevalent species across the eastern United States extending into Canada, migrates to Central America in the winter. It’s by far the most common of the species in this list.

Recognizable by its emerald-green back and white underparts, the male’s distinctive feature is its ruby-red throat, from which it gets its name. They are commonly found in gardens and woodlands, where their agility in flight is a remarkable sight. This species is particularly notable for being the only breeding hummingbird in the eastern part of North America, making their presence a significant aspect of the region’s avifauna.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird crafts a delicate, cup-shaped nest, often choosing a forked branch in a deciduous or pine tree. Females meticulously weave the nest using spider silk and plant down, skillfully camouflaging it with bits of lichen and moss.

This tiny, yet sturdy abode, barely larger than a walnut shell, cradles two pea-sized eggs, tended with gentle care by the devoted mother.

In the energetic world of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a high-energy diet is crucial. They primarily feed on nectar from flowers, employing their long, slender beaks and rapid-fire tongues to access this sweet sustenance. Additionally, they consume small insects and spiders, which provide essential proteins and nutrients, crucial for their high metabolic needs and during the breeding season for the growth of their young.

Conservation efforts for the Ruby-throated Hummingbird involve protecting their habitats and food sources. Organizations and individuals partake in planting nectar-rich flowers and maintaining bird feeders. Despite facing threats like habitat loss and climate change, their wide range and adaptability have helped them maintain a stable population. Ongoing research and citizen science projects, like hummingbird banding, continue to provide valuable insights into their migration patterns and overall health.

2. Black-Chinned Hummingbird

  • Scientific name: Archilochus alexandri
  • Life span: 3-6 years
  • Size: 3-4 in
  • Weight: 2.5-4.5 g
  • Wingspan: 4.3-5.1 in
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare       

The Black-chinned Hummingbird, predominantly found in the western United States and Mexico, displays a more subtle coloration compared to other hummingbirds. They do come to Tennessee from time to time.

The males are characterized by a black chin with a band of iridescent purple below it, set against green upperparts. Females and juveniles share this green back but lack the distinctive throat coloring. These birds are adaptable to various habitats, including urban areas and along rivers, making them a familiar sight in their range.

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbirds exhibit a flair for architectural design in their nest-building, selecting sheltered sites often in trees or shrubs. The female selects the site, after which she constructs a nest using plant fibers, spider silk, and other fine materials.

The exterior is artfully camouflaged with bits of bark and leaves, creating a secure haven for her two tiny eggs, which she attentively incubates.

The diet of the Black-chinned Hummingbird mirrors the high-energy lifestyle of its kin. Preferring nectar from a variety of flowering plants, they play a vital role in pollination. Their diet is supplemented by insects and spiders, providing the necessary protein. This mix of nectar and insects ensures they have the energy needed for their vigorous flight and the demands of raising their young.

Conservation of Black-chinned Hummingbirds primarily focuses on habitat preservation. Urbanization and deforestation pose significant threats, but efforts are being made to maintain and restore their natural habitats.

Conservationists emphasize the importance of native plant landscaping in urban areas to provide essential nectar sources. Their population currently remains stable, but continued conservation efforts are essential for their long-term survival.

3. 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 common           

Known for its extensive migratory path, the Rufous Hummingbird breeds in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska and winters in Mexico, sometimes making their way through Tennessee. The male is distinguishable by its bright rufous body and an iridescent red throat, while females and juveniles are more subtly coloured but still have the characteristic rufous tones.

Their migration takes them through varied landscapes, including the Rocky Mountains and the California coast, making them one of the more widely-travelled hummingbird species.

Rufous Hummingbird

The Rufous Hummingbird’s nesting habits reveal a meticulous and solitary approach, with the female alone constructing a compact cup-shaped nest, often at a considerable height. She uses plant down and spider silk, and adorns the exterior with moss and lichen for camouflage. The nest, small yet robust, holds two white eggs, incubated solely by the female in a display of avian dedication.

The Rufous Hummingbird’s diet is a balanced mix of nectar and insects, with the birds agilely darting from flower to flower, sipping nectar with their long beaks. They also skillfully catch small insects and spiders in mid-air, which are crucial for their protein intake. This combination diet supports their high metabolism and energy needs, especially during the demanding breeding and migration periods.

Conservation of the Rufous Hummingbird is increasingly important due to its declining population, attributed to habitat loss and climate change. Efforts include habitat restoration and promoting the planting of native flowering plants.

Bird enthusiasts and citizen scientists play a vital role in monitoring their migration and breeding patterns, contributing to conservation strategies. Awareness and education about their plight are essential for their future protection.

4. Allen’s Hummingbird

  • Scientific name: Selasphorus sasin
  • Life span: 5-8 years
  • Size: 3-3.75 in
  • Weight: 2-4 g
  • Wingspan: 3.5-4 in
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare       

Primarily located in the coastal regions of California and Oregon, Allen’s Hummingbird is a species with a restricted breeding range and is only very rarely seen in Tennessee. The males are known for their striking orange-red throats and green backs. Females and juveniles have more subdued colors, typically lacking the bright throat patch.

Their migration is mainly along the coast, with some populations wintering in Mexico. These hummingbirds favor coastal scrub and chaparral habitats, making them a unique component of the coastal avian ecosystem.

Allen’s Hummingbird

When it comes to nesting, these tiny jewels of the avian world are nothing short of impressive. They prefer to build their nests in trees, shrubs, or even the eaves of houses, selecting sheltered spots to protect their delicate homes from the elements.

Female Allen’s Hummingbirds are the architects, weaving their nests with soft materials like moss and spider silk, creating cozy cups for their precious eggs.

Let’s talk about the gourmet preferences of the Allen’s Hummingbird.These exquisite creatures have a refined palate, primarily sipping nectar from brightly colored flowers that dot the Tennessee landscape. They’re not just sugar enthusiasts; they also include small insects in their diet to meet their protein needs.

With lightning-fast reflexes and agile flight, they hover around flowers, extending their slender bills to extract every drop of nectar, making them true connoisseurs of the floral buffet.

The conservation tale of Allen’s Hummingbird echoes across Tennessee. While not currently listed as threatened, these avian gems face habitat loss due to urban development and climate change. Local efforts have been made to preserve their favored habitats, including planting native flowering plants to provide a sustainable nectar source.

Observing and documenting these dazzling birds helps in tracking their populations and understanding their ever-evolving relationship with the changing environment, ensuring that their history remains a thriving one in the state.

Where to look for Hummingbirds in Tennessee

Finding hummingbirds in Tennessee is an enchanting experience for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers. These vibrant creatures, known for their dazzling colors and rapid wingbeats, can be spotted in various habitats across the state. The key to seeing hummingbirds is to visit areas rich in native flowering plants and where feeders are commonly placed.

  • Warner Parks, Nashville: A haven for birdwatchers, Warner Parks provides an ideal environment for hummingbirds, especially the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The park’s diverse flora offers ample feeding opportunities for these birds.
  • Radnor Lake State Park, Nashville: This park, a natural oasis in the midst of urban surroundings, attracts a variety of hummingbird species during their migration periods.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: This renowned park, straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, offers a wide range of habitats that are perfect for hummingbirds, especially during migration seasons.
  • Reelfoot Lake State Park: Situated in the northwest corner of Tennessee, this park is known for its unique flooded forest landscape, which attracts a myriad of bird species, including hummingbirds.

To enhance your chances of spotting hummingbirds, visit these areas during peak migration times – spring and fall. Bring binoculars for a closer look and a camera to capture their beauty.

Additionally, participating in local birdwatching tours or events can provide expert insights and increase your likelihood of seeing these fascinating birds. Remember to respect their habitat and maintain a safe distance to observe them without causing any disturbance.


Tennessee’s hummingbird population is a true natural treasure, offering a glimpse into the fascinating world of these dynamic creatures. From the common Ruby-throated Hummingbird to the rarer Rufous, each species brings its unique beauty to the state’s landscapes.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or a casual nature lover, observing these agile birds is a rewarding experience. By creating bird-friendly environments and staying informed about their migration patterns, we can continue to enjoy and protect these vibrant jewels of Tennessee’s wildlife​​​​.

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1 comment
  • Hummingbirds are not arriving in N.E.Tennessee this year. We are seeing very little to no sightings by many bird watches. We are concerned about the air quality affecting their lives given the areas they travel.