Discover When Hummingbirds Leave South Carolina (and Where They Go)

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© yhelfman/Shutterstock.com

Written by Katarina Betterton

Published: August 14, 2023

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Hummingbirds are beautiful, delicate creatures with a fragile constitution that demands migrations (for the most part) in the fall months. South Carolina is home to several species of hummingbird, many of which fly even further south for the winter.

Discover which hummingbirds live in South Carolina, when they fly south for the winter, and how to observe the different species when they are in the Palmetto State.

Native Hummingbirds in South Carolina

Black-Chinned Hummingbird Searching for Nectar Among the Blue Flowers

Birdwatchers have seen the black-chinned

hummingbird

recently in the South Carolina winters.

©rck_953/Shutterstock.com

Did you know you can find 10 different species of hummingbirds in South Carolina? That sounds like a lot — but only two are regulars. The other eight are rare hummingbirds to see or only arrive in the state accidentally during migration season.

  • Ruby-throated hummingbird. This is one of the two regular species in South Carolina. They have a red throat, which is their namesake.
  • Rufous hummingbird. While near-threatened, this is the other regular hummingbird species in South Carolina. Rufous hummingbirds have an orange back and chest with a white patch below their throat. Males have a red throat.
  • Allen’s hummingbird. The last instance of Allen’s hummingbird was in 2008 in Lexington, South Carolina. These look very similar to rufous hummingbirds.
  • Anna’s hummingbird. These hummingbirds are an accidental species that was last seen near Berkeley in 2010. Primarily green and gray, male Anna’s hummingbirds have a vibrant pink throat.
  • Black-chinned hummingbird. While considered accidental, birdwatchers have had recent, rare sightings of this species in winter. Males have black throats with a purple line; females have a pale throat and white-tipped tail feathers.
  • Blue-throated mountain-gem. This is the largest species of hummingbird to nest in the United States and has been spotted a few times in South Carolina. The names of this species have shiny blue-green throats.
  • Broad-billed hummingbird. This accidental species only had a few recorded sightings, all in 2008 near Rockville, South Carolina. 
  • Broad-tailed hummingbird. Another accidental species, the broad-tailed hummingbird has several recent sightings in Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in 2021.
  • Buff-bellied hummingbird. Like the black-chinned hummingbird, this species is considered accidental. However, birdwatchers have seen them in winter.
  • Calliope hummingbird. This accidental species has sightings reported in 2013 around Greenville, South Carolina. It is the smallest hummingbird in the United States.

Both the ruby-throated hummingbird and the rufous hummingbird migrate in the fall. While most of the accidental species have been seen in South Carolina in the winter, ornithologists believe this is due in part to their migration not completing. 

When Do Hummingbirds Leave South Carolina?

Image of tooth-billed hummingbird

Hummingbirds usually migrate south for the winter. Some migrate to South Carolina and Florida, others migrate to Central America and Mexico.

©Donald T. Devine/Shutterstock.com

As a rule, ruby-throated hummingbirds and rufous hummingbirds migrate south starting in late summer and early autumn. Ruby-throated hummingbirds start their southern migration in August and September while the rufous hummingbird has a more cyclical migration. You can see this hummingbird pass through South Carolina for a few weeks in both the spring and fall as they make their way to warmer weather.

The rarer types of hummingbirds in South Carolina follow the ruby-throated hummingbird’s migration pattern of August and September for the most part. The only time hummingbirds don’t migrate is if South Carolina has an unseasonably-warm fall and winter season. However, this poses a massive risk to the health of the hummingbirds. If and when the temperatures do turn cold, the hummingbirds’ bodies aren’t equipped to handle significantly cold weather. Unless they’re able to enter torpor, they may become injured or die from cold temperatures.

Where Do Hummingbirds from South Carolina Migrate to?

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird Shaking off the Water

The

ruby-throated hummingbird

needs the warm weather of Panama to survive the winter.

©Cavan-Images/Shutterstock.com

When hummingbirds go south, they travel to Mexico, the Bahamas, and other tropical climates. Some go to Central American countries as well.

The ruby-throated hummingbird migrates specifically to Florida and Panama. The rufous hummingbirds choose to weather the winter in Mexico. 

Best Places to Observe South Carolina’s Hummingbirds

Potted geraniums

Red-colored flowers with nectar, like geraniums, attract hummingbirds to backyards.

©Lapa Smile/Shutterstock.com

The most common hummingbird — the ruby-throated hummingbird — frequents the Atlantic Coast. As such, your best bet for seeing this bird is along the coast at state parks and beaches. Hunting Island State Park and Caeser’s Head State Park may offer the most accessible public viewing. However, you can work to create your own hummingbird sanctuary in your backyard to see hummingbirds in your own yard. Create a place for them to stop off and you might attract them twice a year; when they leave South Carolina and when they come back!

Creating a hummingbird sanctuary in your backyard doesn’t require much: some flowers and water are the main factors that will bring these tiny birds to your yard. The flowers you pick to plant should produce plenty of nectar — a hummingbird’s food source. Hummingbirds also tend to like red-colored flowers, so consider geraniums or petunias in your question to create a hummingbird-friendly flower scape.

Furthermore, a bird bath with fresh water to drink, as well as a feeder with sugar water, will give hummingbirds an extra reason to keep coming back. 

Warmer Weather Awaits Hummingbirds

It’s sad to see them go, but the species of hummingbirds that live in South Carolina do return! Keep a close eye during the winter months to spot some of the rarest types of hummingbirds, including Allen’s hummingbird and the black-chinned hummingbird. Make sure to have your phone handy to snap a picture!


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About the Author

Katarina is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on dogs, travel, and unique aspects about towns, cities, and countries in the world. Katarina has been writing professionally for eight years. She secured two Bachelors degrees — in PR and Advertising — in 2017 from Rowan University and is currently working toward a Master's degree in creative writing. Katarina also volunteers for her local animal shelter and plans vacations across the globe for her friend group. A resident of Ohio, Katarina enjoys writing fiction novels, gardening, and working to train her three dogs to speak using "talk" buttons.

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