Hummingbirds in California: 8 Species To Look For

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Hummingbirds are undoubtedly part of the beauty of California and the state is home to several species of them. They are colorful, diverse, and range from some of the largest to some of the smallest in the world!

The challenge with Californian hummingbirds is identifying and distinguishing the birds native to the state from visiting hummingbirds passing through.

So, let’s identify the species of hummingbirds that are native to the state of California.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Calypte anna
  • Length: 9 – 4.3 inches
  • Weight: 1 – 0.2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 7 inches

Description:

First on our list is the male Anna’s Hummingbird, the only species in North America with a red crown. This is beautifully iridescent and becomes more pronounced if the bird has a higher protein intake.

Female and juvenile Anna’s Hummingbirds have a green crown, which easily distinguishes them from the male of the species.

Additional Information:

Anna’s Hummingbirds are some of the most commonly seen hummingbirds in California. These beautiful little birds have varied colorations depending on gender and age.

Anna’s Hummingbirds have a diet consisting predominantly of nectar, making them prolific pollinators, but they are also known to eat small insects, arthropods, and sometimes tree sap.

These birds are native to California and most of the West Coast of North America. However, these birds are very hardy and can breed and thrive in very diverse climates and habitats.

This has allowed them to spread further inland and further north in recent years. Anna’s Hummingbirds have the most northern year-round habitat of any North American hummingbirds.

These birds are among the eight most common hummingbirds in North America and have a stable population estimate of around 1.5 million birds.

This species is territorial and is known to show dramatic dive displays to warn other birds of their presence.

Allen’s Hummingbird

Allen's Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Selasphorus sasin
  • Length: 3 – 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 7 inches

Description:

These relatively small hummingbirds are also some of the most interesting. The male Allen’s Hummingbird has a green back and rust-colored wings and flanks, rump, and tail and sports a very iridescent patch of bright red-orange feathers on its throat. 

The females and juveniles of the species share similar colors as the adult male birds, but they have no iridescent feathers.

Additional Information:

These birds are native to California and Mexico and are known to migrate between the two areas. In more recent years, Allen’s Hummingbirds in California have been known to remain in California year-round.

While the Allen’s Hummingbird is not the largest hummingbird species, the male Allen’s Hummingbird is incredibly territorial. These birds are so protective over their territory that they are known to attack and rout all other hummingbirds that enter.

This strong little bird has even been seen attacking and driving away large birds and birds of prey!

Allan’s Hummingbirds eat nectar primarily from flowers, but a large portion of their diet also consists of insects, mainly as a source of protein.

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Black-chinned Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Archilochus alexandri
  • Length: 25 inches
  • Weight: 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 5 inches

Description:

These birds are generally metallic green on their backs and flanks, with white chests and bellies. The adult male Black-Chinned Hummingbird has a black face and chin that stands out against its white chest and belly.

The female and juveniles of the species generally have the same coloration but lack the black face and chin of adult males. Females and juveniles Black-Chinned Hummingbirds have white faces with black specs on their chins.

Additional Information:

Black-Chinned Hummingbirds are commonly seen in California and Mexico. These birds are known to be found in California year-round, but some will migrate south to Mexico annually.

These birds are not particularly territorial but can be slightly aggressive towards other birds of the same species if food is scarce. 

Black-Chinned Hummingbirds purposefully build their nests near active nests of predatory birds. The predators are not particularly interested in the hummingbirds because of their advanced speed, but they do help deter the predators that do hunt hummingbirds and their chicks.

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Selasphorus rufous
  • Length: 1 inch
  • Weight: 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 4 inches

Description:

The adult male Rufous Hummingbird has a white chest, reddish-brown flanks, tail, and face. This reddish-brown color is what gives the Rufous Hummingbird its name. The males of the species also have a bright orange-red patch of feathers on their throats.

The female Rufous Hummingbird is similar in coloration to the male, only duller, but is typically larger than the male, with a little orange on the throat.

Additional Information:

The Rufous Hummingbird is one of the most impressive fliers of all hummingbird species. These smaller birds migrate over 2000 miles every year from their northern habitats to warmer southern habitats for the winter months.

It’s in these winter months when the Rufous Hummingbird can be found in California and northern Mexico.

These birds are very territorial and aggressive toward other hummingbirds. They will even fight others of the same species for better territory, and the more aggressive males often drive females into areas with less food.

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Selasphorus calliope
  • Length: 8 – 3.9 inches
  • Weight: 071 – 0.1 ounces
  • Wingspan: 3 inches

Description:

The Calliope Hummingbird is small but beautiful. The adult male of the species has glossy green crowns and backs and white bellies. They are identified by the wine-red streaks on the throat and a very dark-colored tail.

The females and juveniles do not have the wine-red coloring on their throats but rather have black streaks and more muted colors.

Additional Information:

Calliope Hummingbirds are the smallest breeding birds found in the United States. These birds are small, even for hummingbirds; the Calliope is the smallest-bodied migrant bird in the world!

These birds are native to California, but they migrate further south for the winter months. They breed and nest in California, but they have also been found as far north as Canada during the summer months.

These birds feed primarily on nectar and tree sap but will eat the occasional insect and spider.

Costa’s Hummingbird

Costa's Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Calypte costa
  • Length: 5 inches
  • Weight: 3 – 3.2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 3 inches

Description:

These little birds have one of the most striking appearances of all hummingbirds. The male of the species has a green back and flanks, patches of white on the underbelly, black wings and tail, a black face, and a striking purple crown and throat.

The female Costa’s Hummingbird is larger than the male and has similar, albeit much more muted, coloring. The females are mostly gray rather than green.

Additional Information:

These birds have a very small native region and are only found in the very southwest United States and Mexico. 

Costa’s Hummingbirds are very commonly seen in southern California and are very noticeable among other birds there.

These birds eat mostly nectar and the occasional small insect. They are not endangered and have a very stable population in the small area where they are found.

Blue-Throated Mountain Gem

Blue-throated Mountain-gem

  • Scientific Name: Lampornis clemenciae
  • Length: 5 – 5 inches
  • Weight: 35 ounces
  • Wingspan: 1 inch

Description:

These are quite large compared to other species of Hummingbird. They have a dull green back and a grey body and belly.

They have a distinctive white streak behind their eyes and leading away from their beak.

Additional Information:

The Blue-throated Mountaingem is also known as the Blue-throated Hummingbird. The males have a bright blue throat that gives this species its name.

A characteristic of the Blue-throated Mountaingem is that the females of the species use silk from spiders’ webs to construct their nests, using the silk to bind together soft plant material and attach the nest to a support such as a tree branch.

These birds feed primarily on nectar, tree sap, and insects found on flowers or caught while flying.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Selasphorus platycercus
  • Length: 4 inches
  • Weight: 13 ounces
  • Wingspan: 25 inches

Description:

These birds show very bright colors, with both males and females of the species having bright, iridescent green feathers, a white ring around their eyes, and a prominent rounded tail that gives this species its name.

The male of this hummingbird species has a bright red-purple throat that distinguishes it from the female.

Additional Information:

Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are very distinctive and can be clearly distinguished from other hummingbirds.

These birds are native to Mexico, Guatemala, and the southwest United States, including California. They do not migrate unless they happen to be living in the very northern range of their habitat, in which case, they will migrate further south in the winter months.

The females of the species build elaborate nests that are well camouflaged with moss and leaves, and interestingly they return to the same nest every year unless it has been damaged.

Non-Native Hummingbirds Found in California

The location of California within the continent of North America makes it a prime location for many species of hummingbird, even if they are not native to or active dwellers in California. The diverse plant life, habitats, and climates make this state a perfect home for many hummingbirds, so it is not uncommon to spot species that are visiting while migrating or venturing out of their native regions. 

Some of the non-native hummingbirds spotted in California recently include:

  • The Broad-billed Hummingbird(Cyanthus latirostris) – Mexico
  • Xantu’s Hummingbird(Hylocharis xantusii) – Baja
  • Rivoli’s Hummingbird(Eugenes fulgens) – central United States 
  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbird(Archilochus colubris) – eastern North America
  • The Mexican Violetear (Colibri thalassinus) – Mexico
  • The Violet-Crowned Hummingbird(Leucolia violiceps) – Arizona

With this in mind, California is also home to, or visited by, several species of hybrid hummingbirds. These are hummingbirds that are the offspring of two separate individual species.

These birds are not given a name or classification of their own, as they are unlikely to continue reproducing into a valid, stand-alone species.

There have even been recent sightings of several albino hummingbirds in California! While these are not technically a species, but rather a morph of an existing kind, they are a real treat for birders in California!

Conclusion

Hummingbirds in California are a sight to behold. There are many diverse species found in this state, several of which are year-round residents. 

There are around eight separate species of hummingbird native to California and at least 14 total species that can be seen in California throughout the year.

Several rare species of hummingbirds can be spotted in the state, and there are even some genetic morphs that are often seen, due to the extensive range of genetic diversity!

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