Hummingbirds In Montana

Sharing is caring!

Montana is the fourth largest state by size, situated in the Western United States, Mountain West sub-region. There are numerous ranges of mountain forests in the western half of Montana, and badlands and prairies in the eastern half.

Due to Montana’s wide variety of geography, topography, and elevation, it has an equally varied climate that allows for the perfect conditions for a multitude of native plants and wildlife.

Montana has a rich presence of wildlife, including elks and bears. It also has an abundant bird population with over 442 recorded species on the official bird list of Montana. Included in this list of birds are Montana’s hummingbirds.

The Different Species Of Hummingbirds In Montana

Montana has eight different hummingbird species on record for being seen in the state. Four of these hummingbird species are natives to Montana; the other four are rare or accidental visitors to the state.

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Archilochus alexandri
  • Length: 2.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 3 inches

Description:

Adult Black-chinned Hummingbirds have metallic green plumage above and a buffy breast below. They have straight, long, and slender bills that are relatively small in size.

Males have a black chin strap and face, a dark forked tail, and a glossy purple band around their throat. They are the only hummingbirds to sport this coloration. Females are paler with specks of color on their underbellies or lightly speckled throat feathers.

Additional Information:

These are year-round/native hummingbirds to Montana. The males are usually the first to arrive, sometimes up to two weeks before the females.

You can typically see them around the end of April or the beginning of May. The males migrate back to their wintering habitats around the end of June and usually go by August.

The females and juveniles will typically leave during July, and they will all be gone from the state by the middle of August or the beginning of September.

They feed on fresh nectar, hovering next to flowers to use their long extendable tongues, and happily eat insects while flying.

Rufous Hummingbirds

Rufous Hummingbirds

  • Scientific Name: Selasphorus Rufus
  • Length: 1 inch
  • Weight: 0.18 ounces
  • Wingspan: 3 inches

Description:

Males have a rufous (rust-colored) face, tail, and flanks, a white breast, and an iridescent orange-red gorget (throat feathers), with green feathers on their backs.

Females lack the males’ flashy throat patch and have white, orange, and green speckled feathers in the center of their throats, dark tails with a rufous base, and white tips. The male is typically smaller in size than the female.

Additional Information:

Rufous Hummingbirds are native breeders to Montana. They arrive in the state around mid-May, and between August and September, migrate to their wintering grounds in Central America and Mexico. Their preferred nesting sites are in the mountains among evergreen trees.

They have exceptional flying skills, flying around 2,000 miles during their migrations through the Rocky Mountains from May to September to take advantage of wildflower season.

Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Selasphorus calliope
  • Length: 3.9 inches
  • Weight: .0.1 ounces
  • Wingspan: 3 inches

Description:

Adult Calliope Hummingbirds are glossy green from crown to tail along the back and creamy white underneath, with relatively short tails and beaks. The females are typically slightly larger than the males.

Adult males have a colorful gorget of white and magenta throat feathers, a dark tail, and green flanks. The adult females and juveniles have a more faint color with dark stripes on their white throat, a pinkish wash on their sides, and white tips on their dark tails.

Additional Information:

Calliopes are year-round/native hummingbirds in Montana, typically arriving in mid-May and leaving for their wintering habitats by early September. They prefer to nest in the mountainous regions of the state in coniferous trees.

It is the smallest bird in North America, and when it comes to long-distance travel, it is the smallest migrant bird in the world. Traveling distances over 5000 miles during a single flight.

One way to spot this tiny hummingbird is to try and find its favorite perch among the branches of trees in its breeding territory. Often these little birds will return to the same breeding habitat as the previous season.

Anna’s Hummingbirds

Anna’s Hummingbirds

  • Scientific Name: Calypte anna
  • Length: 4.3 inches
  • Weight: 0.2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 4.7 inches

Description:

Anna’s Hummingbird males are the only hummingbirds in North America with a red crown. Additionally, they have bright throat feathers of reddish-pink, a green backside, and a primarily grey underside.

Females have a dull green crown, smaller red throat feathers, a grey belly and chest, a grey throat with some red, and a rounded tail with white tips. The female hummingbird is also typically smaller than the male.

Additional Information:

Anna’s Hummingbirds, named after Anna Massena, are native breeders in Montana. They may make seasonal movements along elevation rather than latitude, making use of the best food sources such as a hummingbird feeder or flower gardens.

Anna’s Hummingbirds are one of the larger species of hummingbirds in the United States, and they are also the most vocal, filling the air with their beautiful voice and hummingbird song. They are also one of the feistiest hummingbird species, exhibiting highly territorial behaviors where the males make elaborate dives at other birds and sometimes passing humans.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Selasphorus platycercus
  • Length: 4 inches
  • Weight: 0.13 ounces
  • Wingspan: 5 inches

Description:

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird has a long body and a rounded black tail that projects beyond its wingtip. This tail is the inspiration for its name. This species shows sexual dimorphism, and typically the male is smaller than the female.

Both male and female adults have a green backside and white eye-ring. The males have an iridescent magenta gorget, white breast, and buffy green flanks. The female broad-tailed hummingbird is paler in comparison to the male, with spotted cheeks and cinnamon flanks.

Additional Information:

The broad-tail is an accidental hummingbird in Montana, sometimes crossing into the state during their migrations or breeding season.

Their typical breeding grounds stretch everywhere in America from deserts to mountain forests — from northern Wyoming (where the cross-over happens) to the eastern areas of California, south through the Rocky Mountains and Great Basin, to western Texas and southern Arizona.

This medium-sized hummingbird breeds at an elevation up to 10,500 feet. To make it through the cold nights at such height, the breeding bird drops its body temperature and slows its heart rate, entering a state of torpor.

Costa’s Hummingbird

Costa’s Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Calypte costae
  • Length: 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.11 ounces
  • Wingspan: 3 inches

Description:

Both males and females have iridescent green backs, dull black, thin, straight bills, whitish belly plumage, and greenish flanks. They also have relatively short wings, with wingtips that barely extend past the tail.

The most distinguishing feature of these hummingbirds is the males’ brilliant colors, with a dark purple crown and gorget. This purple gorget tends to flare out at the sides of his neck, making it look like an overgrown mustache. Females have a white eyebrow stripe and a greyish cheek patch.

Additional Information:

Costa’s Hummingbirds are a rare accidental visitor to Montana. They typically occur in Mexico and the western United States. Still, they are known to wander eastwards as far north as Canada and Alaska.

These hummingbirds are often the first to arrive in their breeding grounds and are known to vacate an area if their favorite nectar depletes. They will also move to higher ground when the temperatures become too hot for their comfort.

Rivoli’s Hummingbird

Rivoli’s Hummingbird

  • Scientific Name: Eugenes fulgens
  • Length:  5.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • Wingspan: 1 inch

Description:

The adult male has a green-bronze chest and flash of color with his metallic green throat. He has a greyish underbelly. His crown and forehead are purple with a white form behind the eye, and his back is dark green/bronze, becoming bronzer on his black-tipped tail.

The female is duller overall, with a pale grey belly, a bronze-green back, and a rounded tail with white-greyish tips. She has a white stripe behind her eyes like the male and faint streaking on her grey throat.

Additional Information:

Rivoli’s Hummingbird is an accidental vagrant to Montana, breeding in the mountainous conifer tree regions of the southwestern United States. They winter in western Panama through Mexico.

Rivoli’s Hummingbird had a few name changes, changing from Rivoli’s to Magnificent in the 1980s and then changing back to Rivoli’s in 2017 when the species split in two, the other species being Talamanca or Admirable Hummingbird.

Rivoli’s Hummingbird is one of the two largest hummingbirds north of Mexico, and size alone is an identifier.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

  • Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
  • Length: 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 4.3 inches

Description:

The typical physical traits between adult males and females are their iridescent green-bronze crowns, napes, backs, and the middle two tail feathers. Their abdomens are whitish-grey, and dark outer tails with a hint of purple. They also have slender, long, and straight beaks.

The adult males are named for their ruby-red gorget, which the females and juveniles lack, sporting less conspicuous throat feathers. Their outer tail tips are rounded and white in the females and young, and sharply pointed and black-tipped in the adult males.

Additional Information:

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a rare accidental visitor to Montana. They occupy the most extensive breeding range of any other North American hummingbird, from southern Canada to eastern and central USA, to south Texas. Sometimes vagrants can travel as far west as California.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds prefer orange or red tubular flowers; they use their long extendable tongues to get to the flowers’ sweet nectar, licking up to 13 times per second.

Conclusion

Montana has rich birdlife and serves as the summer breeding grounds for four different species of hummers and as an accidental visiting area for another four.

There are many other species of birds that live or visit Montana. If you would like to learn more about Montana’s special bird populations, read this list to find out about 26 colorful birds you might come across while in the state.

Sharing is caring!