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The 7 Types Of Hummingbirds In Virginia And Where To Find Them

The 7 Types Of Hummingbirds In Virginia And Where To Find Them

The state of Virginia (VA) encompasses a wide range of habitats, such as coastal wetlands, marshlands, mountain habitats, urban preserves, and islands – stretching from the Appalachian Mountains in the west to the Atlantic coastline in the east. The result is a wealth of bird species comprising close to 500 species.

On the official list, you will notice that nine species of hummingbirds are mentioned. Hummingbirds belong to the Trochilidae family and are native to the Americas.

They are some of the smallest bird species in the world, with the highest metabolic rates in the animal kingdom. Hummingbirds are known for their dazzling colours that glimmer in direct sunlight and appear to change in colour with changing angles of light. The reason behind the apparent change in colour is the gorget on the hummingbird’s throat, which is made up of iridescent feathers that create the illusion of colour change.

On the official state list, you will notice that nine hummingbird species are mentioned. That gives a false representation of what is expected because only one Virginia hummingbird species (the Ruby-throated Hummingbird) is likely to be seen in the state on a given visit. The rest are all accidental species that go wayward during migration.

Still, the state of Virginia contains good birding locations if your focus is not solely on hummingbirds because most are not likely to be seen at any of the state’s best sites. The most noteworthy birding spots in the state are Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Kiptopeke State Park, Huntley Meadows Park, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Greensprings Nature Trail, Shenandoah National Park, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Dutch Gap Conservation Area.

The body of this text includes the seven types of hummingbirds in Virginia that have been recorded relatively often in the past. Still, honourable mention must go to the other two species comprising nine in the state.

The two most accidental species are Rivoli’s Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens) which has not been seen in the state since 2003, and the Violet-crowned Hummingbird (Leucolia violiceps), which was last seen in the state in 2009.

Without further ado, these are the seven most likely hummingbirds of Virginia and where they have been seen over the past few years.

7 Hummingbirds That You Can See In Virginia

1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

  • Scientific nameArchilochus colubris
  • Lifespan – 6 years (average), 9 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 2.8 to 3.5 in (7 to 9 cm)
  • Weight – 0.1 to 0.2 oz (2 to 6 g)
  • Wingspan – 3.1 to 4.3 in (8 to 11 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a tiny hummingbird with a slightly downcurved beak. Males have dusky-coloured underparts, green upperparts, a bright ruby-red throat, and a black face mask. The female has whitish underparts and emerald-green upper parts. The most frequently made call is a chee-dit.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Nesting

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird nests in deciduous trees such as oak and birch trees. The nest is built on top of a branch and is made from dandelion or thistle down with spider web or pine resin used to hold the nest together. Lichen and moss are used to camouflage the outside of the nest.

The female lays one to three white eggs in a clutch and incubates them for 12 to 14 days. The hatchlings remain in the nest for an additional 18 to 22 days before they leave the nest.

Food

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed on flower nectar – mainly the nectar from tubular flowers that are red or orange. Some flowering plants include trumpet creeper, honeysuckle, cardinal flower, bee-balm, red morning glory, red buckeye, jewelweed and cardinal flower. They also feed on tree sap, spiders and insects.

Conservation

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a common, widespread species with an increasing population trend since 1966. The breeding population is estimated to comprise over 36 million individuals. This species faces threats near feeders in the form of cats, and if the feeders are close to a house, they may fly into windows.

Where To Find Them

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are medium to long-distance migrants, with most migrating to Central America from the eastern United States for winter.

They live in deciduous woodland and Canadian prairies but often associate with fields, meadows, forest edges, stream edges, orchards, and yards. In winter, they occur in hedgerows, dry forests, and scrub and citrus groves.

In Virginia, these hummingbirds are common during spring, summer and autumn as they breed  in the state. Most leave by the end of autumn, but some remain during winter.

They may be seen throughout the state, but some of the best places to search for them are Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, Kiptopeke State Park and Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.

2. Rufous Hummingbird

  • Scientific nameSelasphorus rufus
  • Lifespan – 5 years (average), 9 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 2.8 to 3.5 in (7 to 9 cm)
  • Weight – 0.1 to 0.2 oz (2 to 5 g)
  • Wingspan – 4.3 to 4.5 in (11 to 11.4 cm)
  • Status – Near-threatened

The Rufous Hummingbird is a small hummingbird with a straight bill. The males have a bright orange back, a bright orange belly, rusty tails and a red throat. In some cases, males may have greenish backs. Females have greenish-coloured backs and tails, faint rusty flanks, and an orange patch on their throats. The typical call produced by this species is a series of loud chirps.

Rufous hummingbird

Nesting

Rufous Hummingbirds nest in coniferous and deciduous trees, or rarely vines and ferns. The nest is built out of downy plant material and spider webs that hold the nest together. Lichen, moss and bark are used to create camouflage. The female lays two or three white eggs in a clutch. The eggs are incubated for 15 to 17 days, and the hatchlings grow for a further 15 to 19 days before they leave the nest.

Food

The Rufous Hummingbird diet consists of nectar almost exclusively, mainly from penstemon, scarlet gilia, columbine, lilies, fireweeds, Indian paintbrush, larkspurs, mints, heaths and currants. The protein component of their diet is obtained from insects.

Conservation

The Rufous Hummingbird is a reasonably common species that has dramatically reduced in population size over the past five decades with a 67% decrease. However, the population is still estimated to comprise 22 million breeding individuals.

Therefore, they are at risk of going extinct in the near future if conservation action is not taken. They are threatened mainly by habitat loss and climate change in their breeding grounds.

Where To Find Them

Rufous Hummingbirds are fully migratory, breeding in Alaska and Canada and wintering in Mexico. This species breeds in shrubby and open areas, yards, parks, forest openings, and occasionally in meadows, thickets, forests and swamps. In winter, they are found in juniper, oak and pine woodland, shrubby landscapes and thorn thickets. This species is uncommon in Virginia but can be seen during autumn, winter and spring. They are most frequently seen near Charlottesville, Richmond, Lynchburg, Norfolk, Washington, the Appalachian mountains, and Virginia Beach.

3. Calliope Hummingbird

  • Scientific nameSelasphorus calliope
  • Lifespan – 5 years (average), 8 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 3.1 to 3.5 in (8 to 9 cm)
  • Weight – 0.1 to 0.1 oz (2.3 to 3.4 g)
  • Wingspan – 4.1 to 4.3 in (10.5 to 11 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Calliope Hummingbird is a tiny hummingbird with a straight bill. The males have magenta feathers on the throat, a bronze-green upperside and greenish flanks. Females have a bronze-green back and whitish to peachy-coloured underparts. This species makes a chip sound while foraging.

Nesting

Calliope Hummingbirds nest in evergreen trees on a branch sheltered from above. The nest is designed to look like a pine cone and is placed in the tree where a pine cone once was. The cup nest is made from downy plant material and is camouflaged with bark pieces, lichen and moss. A spider web completes the binding process. The female lays two white eggs in a clutch. The incubation period lasts for 15 or 16 days, and the hatchling develops in the nest for 18 to 21 additional days before leaving.

Food

The Calliope Hummingbird feeds on nectar from tubular or cup-shaped flowers that larger hummingbirds use infrequently. They also feed on insects and sap from sap wells.

Conservation

The Calliope Hummingbird is a relatively common species with a stable global population. However, a slight decline of 0.06% has been observed since 1968. The population is estimated to comprise 4.5 million breeding individuals in their restricted range. The small wintering ground means this species is threatened by future changes in habitat type and diseases that may occur in the area.

Where To Find Them

The Calliope Hummingbird is a fully migratory species that breeds in the mountainous areas of southwestern Canada and the northwestern United States and winters in Mexico. In winter and on migration, they may occur in subalpine and mountain meadows, thorn forests, brushy edges and pine-oak forests. This species is rare in Virginia but has been seen near Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Washington, and Nokesville during winter.

4. Buff-bellied Hummingbird

  • Scientific nameAmazilia yucatanensis
  • Lifespan – 7 years (average), 11 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 3.9 to 4.3 in (10 to 11 cm)
  • Weight – 0.1 to 0.2 oz (4 to 5 g)
  • Wingspan – 5.5 to 5.8 in (14 to 15 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Buff-bellied Hummingbird is a medium-sized hummingbird with metallic bronze-green upperparts and a black-tipped red bill. Males have a green throat, a rusty tail, and as per the name, a buff-coloured belly. The female looks like a muted version of the male with a bronze-green back, a red bill with a black tip, a rusty tail and green feathers on the throat. The most frequently produced sound by this species is a tik note.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Nesting

Buff-bellied Hummingbirds nest in papaya, willow, pecan and ash trees, to name a few. The nest is a cup shape and is often placed in the fork of a small tree or shrub. The nest is made from plant material like flowers, bark, lichen and spiderweb.

The female lays two white eggs per clutch and incubates them for 14 days. Once hatched, the chicks grow for an additional seven to ten days before they leave the nest.

Food

Buff-bellied Hummingbirds feed on flower nectar and small insects. Native flowers that they favour are tropical sage, coral bean, Aloe vera, Texas ebony, Mexican olive, shrimp plant, mesquite, anacua and turkscap, to name a few.

Conservation

The Buff-bellied Hummingbird is an understudied species, but the population appears stable. The total breeding population is estimated to comprise 610,000 individuals. It is predicted that there have been declines over the past fifty years because of habitat destruction.

Where To Find Them

The Buff-bellied Hummingbird is a partially migratory species that is mostly residential, with birds migrating south from Texas into Mexico for winter while others move north onto the gulf coast as far north as Louisiana during winter. This species occurs in woodland and shrubby habitats, including wooded edges, parks, fields, gardens and urban and suburban areas containing flowering plants. This species is scarce in Virginia but has been seen in winter near Norfolk.

5. Allen’s Hummingbird

  • Scientific nameSelasphorus sasin
  • Lifespan – 3 years (average), 6 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 3 to 3.5 in (7.5 to 9 cm)
  • Weight – 0.1 to 0.1 oz (2 to 4 g)
  • Wingspan – 4 to 4.3 in (10 to 11 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Allen’s Hummingbird is a tiny, rather stocky hummingbird with a straight bill. The male has a reddish-orange throat, a metallic bronzy-green back and a copper-coloured belly and tail. The female is dull all over, with a metallic bronzy-green back, copper-coloured flanks and a reddish-orange patch on the throat. The most frequently heard call this species produces is a sharp tick made while feeding.

Allen’s Hummingbird

Nesting

Allen’s Hummingbirds create nests in shrubs and trees – often near shady streams. The cup-shaped nest is made from spiderwebs and soft material from willows and sunflowers. The outer layer is lined with grass and leaves, while moss and lichen are added to camouflage the nest. The female lays one to two white eggs in a clutch and incubates them for 17 to 22 days. Once hatched, the hatchlings develop for an additional 22 to 25 days before they leave the nest.

Food

The Allen’s Hummingbird drinks nectar from flowers, including Indian paintbrush, gooseberry, eucalyptus, manzanita, sage, penstemon, ceanothus, twinflower, columbine, bush monkeyflower and currant. Their protein requirement is fulfilled by eating small insects.

Conservation

Allen’s Hummingbird is a relatively common species, but the global population has decreased dramatically by around 80% since 1968. The total breeding population is estimated to comprise 1.5 million individuals. It is, therefore, at risk of going extinct if declines persist and no conservation measures are put into place.

At this rate, the current population is expected to halve within 17 years from now. The reasons behind their decline are that their coastal breeding habitats are being destroyed for development, and they do not adapt well to urbanisation. Planting invasive species like eucalyptus and the presence of hummingbird feeders providing nectar may help a bit.

Where To Find Them

Allen’s Hummingbird breeds in coastal scrub, forest and chaparral on the west coast of the southern United States, from southern Oregon to southern California. Most of the population migrates to Mexico for winter, while some move further east and enter the state of Virginia. In winter, they occur in oak-pine forests, along their edges, and in clearings containing scrub and a wealth of flowers.

Yards containing feeders and parks with abundant flowers are good places to look for this species. This species is rare within the borders of Virginia, having only been seen in winter close to Richmond, Williamsburg, Sperryville, Blacksburg, and Sharpsburg.

6. Black-chinned Hummingbird

  • Scientific nameArchilochus alexandri
  • Lifespan – 8 years (average), 11 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 3.2 to 3.5 in (8 to 9 cm)
  • Weight – 0.1 to 0.2 oz (2.3 to 4.9 g)
  • Wingspan – 4 to 4.3 in (10 to 11 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

The Black-chinned Hummingbird is a rather slender, straight-billed, non-descript species. Males have a purple throat that usually appears black, a white spot behind the eye and whitish-grey underparts with dull metallic green on the flanks. Females have a whitish throat, a pale, metallic green on the upper side and whitish underparts. The flanks have a light green wash. This species makes chip and tick calls.

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Nesting

The Black-chinned Hummingbird nests in trees below the canopy – usually on a horizontal branch. The nest is shaped like a cup made of soft plant material, spider web, and cocoon fibres. The nest is generally camouflaged using lichen and moss. The female lays two white eggs in a clutch and the incubation period is 12 to 16 days. The hatchlings leave the nest after an additional 21 days of development.

Food

Black-chinned Hummingbirds feed on nectar from brightly coloured flowers. They also feed on insects and spiders for protein.

Conservation

Black-chinned Hummingbirds are doing well, with a total breeding population estimated to comprise 8.8 million breeding birds and an increasing trend of 0.3% population growth per year since 1966.

The increase may be due to the hummingbirds’ growing popularity in flower gardens and feeders. They are, however, threatened by habitat loss – particularly the loss of stream habitats in dry areas.

Where To Find Them

Black-chinned Hummingbirds are migratory. They breed in western North America and winter in western Mexico and along the Gulf coast. They usually occur along rivers – particularly in canyons. They are typically seen near willow, sycamore, salt-cedar, sugarberry, cottonwood and oak trees in arid environments. This species is rare in Virginia, but they have been seen around Williamsburg, Northampton, Newbern, Lynchburg, Chesapeake, Kiptopeke and Cape Charles.

7. Anna’s Hummingbird

  • Scientific nameCalypte anna
  • Lifespan – 5 years (average), 8 years (maximum recorded)
  • Size – 3.9 to 4.3 in (10 to 11 cm)
  • Weight – 0.1 to 0.2 oz (3 to 6 g)
  • Wingspan – 3.9 to 4.7 in (10 to 12 cm)
  • Status – Least concern

Anna’s Hummingbird is a medium-sized hummingbird species with a dark straight bill. The male has a rose-pink throat and crest and a metallic green back. The female is metallic green above with pinkish-red colour on the throat. This species makes a buzzing series of notes followed by a whistle and chip notes.

Anna's hummingbird

Nesting

Anna’s Hummingbird nests in trees and shrubs on horizontal branches where nectar isn’t too far away. Common nesting trees include oak and eucalyptus, but they may use vines and shrubs occasionally. The cup-shaped nest is created using downy plant material from willow, cattail, feathers and spider webs. The outside of the nest is camouflaged using moss and lichen. The female lays two white eggs in a clutch and the incubation period is 16 days. The development period between the chicks hatching and leaving the nest is 20 days.

Food

Anna’s Hummingbird feeds on flowering plant nectar. Plant species include currant, manzanita, gooseberry, and invasive species like eucalyptus. Insects are also preyed upon by this species, occasionally feeding on sap.

Conservation

Anna’s Hummingbird is a common species with a 2% per year increase over the past five decades. The total number of breeding individuals is estimated at 9.6 million. This species has adapted well to human development and has increased its range. That is mainly due to the introduction of feeders and invasive trees such as eucalyptus. That does, however, open this species up to be preyed upon by domestic cats.

Where To Find Them

Anna’s Hummingbird is found frequently in urban and suburban environments, coastal scrub, chaparral, open woodland, and oak savannahs. This species is primarily resident within its range or may be a short-distance altitudinal migrant on the west coast of North America. This species is rare within Virginia and has only been seen during winter. They were last seen near Lake Frederick.

Conclusion

Overall, hummingbirds are a delight to see in Virginia because of their delightful colours and their rarity in the state when speaking about most species. In saying that, each year, rare species are seen along with the regular Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which adds a ray of delight to birding adventures.

Hummingbirds are named after the humming sound produced by their wings while hovering. They also make a range of chirps and tweets while foraging and chasing other hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds are easily attracted to yards containing nectar-full colourful flowering plants and feeders with sugar water. Many considerations should be remembered when feeding hummingbirds, including not leaving sugar water out during cold nights in winter because the hummingbirds will drink the freezing solution, and they can go into cold shock, which may be fatal for the little birds.

If you are lucky, then hummingbirds may even nest in your yard. They make some of the tiniest nests that are often hidden from view and well camouflaged – making them very difficult to find.

Hummingbirds are almost all migratory and mainly occur on the west coast of North America. They often go on complicated migrations, which is a marvel considering their size. These dazzling birds are threatened by habitat loss in breeding and wintering ranges and human disturbance in many areas.

Some species have significantly declined in population sizes over the years and are threatened. For that reason, further studies should be done on many hummingbird species, and conservation measures must be implemented to prevent further declines.