Everyone loves hummingbirds. The tiny creatures put a smile on every face as they quickly buzz past. But most of the time, those sightings are fleeting and leave us wanting more. The good news is that if you live in California, there are places you can go to try and spot one of these magnificent creatures. And you can also encourage some species to visit you rather than you seeking out them! Below, we’ll explore 13 hummingbird species that hang out in California and some plants you can add to your garden.
1. Black-Chinned Hummingbird
This magnificent species is native to Central America and Mexico. The black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) migrates to the United States annually since their breeding grounds are here. They typically arrive in the spring and remain until the fall.
Males have dark purple feathers under their chin that are not typically visible to the naked eye. And females are green above but pale below.
These tiny animals like deserts and forests, enjoy diving, prefer nectar but will eat insects, and only weigh .08 to .17 ounces (2.3 to 4.9 grams).
2. Violet-Crowned Hummingbird
Violet-crowned hummingbirds (Leucolia violiceps) are relatively rare in California. But they are a sight to behold if you get a chance to see one up close. They hang out south of San Jose when in the area. This species has a dark gray back, white chest and belly, purple head, and orange beak.
They feed on nectar and insects, weighing up to 0.18 ounces (5 grams).
3. Calliope Hummingbird
The calliope hummingbirds (Selasphorus calliope) cross California during the spring and fall migrations on the way to their breeding grounds in Canada and the Pacific Northwest. You can often spot them in Southern and coastal California. A few popular areas include San Bernardino National Forest, Tahoe National Forest, Sequoia National Park, and Yosemite.
Males of the species have magenta stripes on their throats. But females have green spotting on their throats and are peach-colored underneath. They weigh .08 to .12 ounces (2.4 to 3.3 grams) and only eat nectar.
4. Mexican Violetear Hummingbird
The Mexican violetear hummingbird (Colibri thalassinus) is a rare but welcome sight in California. This large hummingbird weighs .17 to .20 ounces (4.8 to 5.6 grams). It is truly lovely with emerald green feathers and purple cheeks.
5. Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) migrate to the United States in the early spring for breeding. You can spot them in California this time of year. But the best bet is to wait for their return trip in the fall when this lovely bird is abundant in the Sierra Nevadas.
Males are orange with a white breast patch, and females are green with a speckled throat. These feisty birds act far bigger than their size of .07 to .18 ounces (2 to 5 grams). And they feed primarily on nectar.
6. Allen’s Hummingbird
Get a winter treat when Allen’s hummingbirds (Selasphorus sasin) arrive in California earlier in the year. They start their migratory pattern sooner than their cousins, arriving in the state around January before leaving early to mid-summer.
The males are orange with a green back and red throat. The females have a speckled throat. These tiny feathered friends mostly eat nectar but will also occasionally feast on insects. They weigh .07 to .14 ounces (2 to 4 grams).
7. Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbirds (Calypte anna) are primarily found in the West, including California. They are common throughout most of the state except the Mojave area and Death Valley. This species also loves to visit feeders and doesn’t shy from urban areas.
The males have pink throats and green feathers. They also love diving. Anna’s hummingbirds like nectar but also feed on insects and are medium-sized at .13 ounces (3.6 grams).
8. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
The ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) gets its name from the males in the species. They have a green back, are white underneath, and have distinctive red throats. While they are not common out west, they do occasionally visit California coastal areas. They weigh .11 ounces (3.1 grams).
9. Costa’s Hummingbird
If you frequent Baja and Southern California, you have likely encountered the tiny Costa’s hummingbird (Calypte costae). They are smaller than most hummingbirds, at .07 to .10 ounces (2 to 3 grams), and have shorter wings and tails. They have noticeably purple faces. Females are green above and white underneath. This species eats nectar and insects.
10. Blue-Throated Mountain Gem Hummingbird
The blue-throated mountain gem (Lampornis clemenciae) is the largest hummingbird in the U.S. It weighs .27 ounces (7.65 grams). Males and females have gray chests, white stripes on their faces, and a green back. But males also have a blue throat. While this true gem is rare in California, it is occasionally spotted in southern regions.
11. Broad-Tailed Hummingbird
Broad-tailed hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycerus) prefer breeding in the mountains above 10,500 feet. However, depending on the time of year, you may spot them in Yosemite, Death Valley, or the Sierra National Forest.
Males have striking magenta throats, while females have green spotting on their throats. They feed on nectar and insects and weigh .09 to .15 ounces (2.8 to 4.5 grams).
12. Broad-Billed Hummingbird
The broad-billed hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris) is relatively rare in California and exclusively seen along the coast. They feed mostly on nectar but also eat insects sometimes.
The males have a purple/blue throat and blue/green belly, but the females are not nearly as colorful. They showcase a muted green upper body and gray chest and belly. These lovely birds weigh .10 to .14 ounces (3 to 4 grams).
13. Rivoli’s Hummingbird
Another rare hummingbird spotted only along the California coast is Rivoli’s hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens). The males have a dark purple head and teal throat, while the females are the more common green above and white below. They weigh .21 to.35 ounces (6 to 10 grams).
What Plants Attract Hummingbirds?
While you can attract some of these tiny birds to your yard or garden with a sugar-water feeder, you can also plant a garden they love! Some plants to consider include:
- Black sage (Salvia mellifera)
- Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa)
- Coyote mint (Monardella villosa)
- California fuchsia (Epilobium canum)
- Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)
- Red Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
- Bee Balm (Monarda)
- Lupine (Lupinas)
- Beard Tongues (Penstemon)
- Petunia (Petunia)
If possible, try to find a red flower variety since hummingbirds get attracted to brightly colored flowers. And don’t forget to add a water bath to the yard. These tiny birds need plenty of fluid, so adding a spot for them to drink will ensure they stick around!
Summary of Hummingbirds in California
|1||Black-Chinned Hummingbird||Deserts and forests|
|2||Violet-crowned Hummingbird||South of San Jose|
|3||Calliope Hummingbird||Southern and coastal areas|
|4||Mexican Violetear Hummingbird||Rare spottings|
|5||Rufous Hummingbird||Sierra Nevadas|
|6||Allen’s Hummingbird||Coastal areas|
|7||Anna’s Hummingbird||Most of the state|
|8||Ruby-throated Hummingbird||Coastal areas|
|9||Costa’s Hummingbird||Baja and Southern California|
|10||Blue-throated Mountain Gem Hummingbird||Southern areas|
|11||Broad-tailed Hummingbird||Yosemite, Sierra National Forest|
|12||Broad-billed Hummingbird||Coastal areas|
|13||Rivoli’s Hummingbird||Coastal areas|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jeff Huth/ via Getty Images
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