Hummingbirds can travel over 4000 miles in a year, fly at 98 km/h, have a wingbeat of an average of 58 beats per second, and lay an egg the size of a jelly bean!
Hummingbirds are the only species of bird that can fly backward and their closest relative are swifts!
Tiny bursts of color and speed coupled with magnificent hovering skills make the hummingbird one of my favorite bird species with good reason.
Many Hummingbirds are migratory and spend the winter in Mexico or further south and the summer in the United States and Canada for breeding.
There are 5 species of hummingbirds in Alaska that have been spotted. Of these, 2 species is recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, 3 species are considered rare or accidental, and one of these is also regarded as near-threatened.
This guide will help you identify the hummingbird species spotted in Alaska according to avibase. The hummingbirds in this list are ordered how frequently they are spotted in the state, from most frequent to least frequent, according to bird watchers’ checklists for the state submitted to ebird.
In Alaska, all hummingbird species migrate. The most common species are Rufous Hummingbirds in summer, but they are now regarded as near-threatened.
5 Species of Hummingbirds in Alaska
1. Rufous Hummingbird
Although considered a near-threatened species, Rufous Hummingbirds are the most frequently spotted hummingbirds in Alaska during summer and appear in 4% of checklists.
They have been spotted in the south of the state around Chugach National Forest from April to August during the breeding season.
Rufous Hummingbirds are bright orange on the back and belly, a white patch below the throat, and an iridescent red throat in the males. The females are greenish-brown on the back, and rusty colored on the sides with a whitish belly.
- Length: 2.8-3.5 in (7-9 cm)
- Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz (2-5 g)
- Wingspan: 4.3 in (11 cm)
Rufous Hummingbirds are one of the longest migrating birds relative to their size, traveling up to 4000 miles each way. In the summer, they breed in northwest Alaska and northwest Canada and migrate down to Mexico and the Gulf Coast for winter.
Migration of Rufous Hummingbirds is north along the Pacific Coast in spring and the Rocky Mountains in late summer and fall. Migration in the spring of Rufous Hummingbirds starts in February, and they usually reach Alaska by mid-April. Migration in the fall is in July and August and ends by October.
A study has shown that Rufous Hummingbirds start their migration earlier and travel north more inland than before.
Rufous Hummingbird numbers have declined by around 60% since the 1970s
Rufous Hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar from colorful tubular flowers and insects such as gnats, midges, and flies. They build a nest high up in trees using soft down from plants and spider webs to hold it together. They lay 2-3 tiny white eggs about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) long. Their habitat is mountain meadows and coniferous forests.
They are very aggressive and chase off any other hummingbirds that may appear, even larger hummingbirds or resident ones during migration. They won’t hang around long during migration but will still chase off most other hummingbirds given a chance.
2. Anna’s Hummingbird
In winter, Anna’s Hummingbirds are the most frequently spotted hummingbirds in Alaska and appear in 1% of checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state. They can be seen around Anchorage and Kenai Peninsula from September to April.
Anna’s Hummingbirds are tiny birds that are primarily green and gray. The male’s head and throat are iridescent reddish-pink. The female’s throat is grayish with bits of red spotting.
- Length: 3.9 in (10 cm)
- Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz (3-6 g)
- Wingspan: 4.7 in (12 cm)
Anna’s Hummingbirds are the most common hummingbird along the Pacific Coast and they do not migrate, which is unusual for hummingbirds.
Their range is from British Columbia to Baja California in both summer and winter. However, some birds may move from the far north of their range for winter.
Habitats of Anna’s hummingbirds are often backyards and parks with large colorful blooms and nectar feeders, but they are also found in scrub and savannah.
The diet of Anna’s Hummingbirds includes nectar, tree sap, and small insects and spiders. Nectar sources are Eucalyptus, Nicotiana, Agave, Castilleja, Diplaucus, Ribes, Silena, Arctostaphylos, and nectar feeders.
Anna’s Hummingbird call sounds:
Anna’s Hummingbirds’ nests are high up in trees at around 6 – 20 ft, and they often have 2-3 broods a year, and female hummingbirds do all of the work!
They make dramatic dive displays during courtship as the males climb up to 130 feet into the air before diving back to the ground with a burst of noise from their tail feathers.
3. Costa’s Hummingbird
Costa’s Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in Alaska, but there were a few sightings around the Kenai Peninsula in 2021.
Costa’s Hummingbirds are predominantly desert hummingbirds with striking iridescent purple throat patches that flare out and a purple crown. Their backs are green, and their bellies are white with green coloring on the sides. Female Costa’s Hummingbirds lack the purple color and are more white on the belly.
- Length: 3.5 in ( 7.6 – 8.8 cm)
- Weight: 0.1-0.1 oz (2-3 g)
Costa’s Hummingbirds are residents of Baja California, Southern California, and southwestern Arizona. They also migrate between the Pacific Coast of Mexico in winter and up into Arizona, the southern edges of Nevada and Utah, and California for breeding.
Desert scrub, chaparral, and deciduous forest provide the habitat of Costa’s Hummingbirds, and they visit many different species of plants. Nests are built quite low at three to seven feet above the ground in shrubs, and they may have up to two broods in a year.
4. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in Alaska and were last been spotted in Kenai Peninsula in 2019.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are bright green on the back and crown, with a gray-white underside and the males have an iridescent red throat.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are green on the back and white underneath with brownish crowns and sides.
- Length: 2.8-3.5 in (7-9 cm)
- Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz (2-6 g)
- Wingspan: 3.1-4.3 in (8-11 cm)
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only breeding hummingbird in eastern North America. They then migrate further south to Central America for winter. Some migrate over the Gulf of Mexico, or some migrate through Texas around the coast.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds start arriving in the United States in February and may not arrive in northern states and Canada until May for breeding. In spring, males usually arrive first up to one or two weeks before the females.
In the fall, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrate south in August and September and gather in September along the Gulf Coast of Texas before making the final push south for winter.
These tiny birds zip from one nectar source to the next or catch insects in midair or from spider webs. They occasionally stop on a small twig, but their legs are so short they cannot walk, only shuffle along a perch.
In summer, flowering gardens or woodland edges are the best places to find them. They are also common in towns, especially at nectar feeders.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird calls and wingbeat:
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can be aggressive in their defense of flowers and feeders. Males do not stick around long after mating and may migrate by early August.
Ruby-throated females build nests on thin branches and make them out of thistle or dandelion down held together with spider silk. They lay 1-3 tiny eggs measuring only 0.6 in (1.3 cm)
5. Calliope Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbirds are regarded as accidental species in Alaska, and they have only been spotted in Juneau. The last recorded sighting was in 2016.
The tiny ping ball-sized Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the United States but still manages to fly more than 5000 miles each year all the way from Mexico up as far as Canada and back.
They also punch above their weight when it comes to defending their territory and even chase Red-tailed Hawks.
Male Calliope Hummingbirds have bright magenta throats (known as the gorget), glossy green backs and flanks, and a dark tail. Females lack the iridescent throats and are more pinkish-white underneath rather than white in the males.
- Length: 3.1-3.5 in (8-9 cm)3
- Weight: 0.1-0.1 oz (2.3-3.4 g)
- Wingspan: 4.1-4.3 in (10.5-11 cm)
Calliope Hummingbirds’ spring migration is to the Rocky Mountains along the Pacific Coast to breeding areas in California, Colorado, and up to northwestern states, Alberta, British Columbia, and Vancouver Island. They start migration relatively early in February to arrive from Mid-April to early May as far north as Canada.
Fall migration is by the Rocky Mountains to wintering grounds in southwestern Mexico, but also more recently to the Gulf Coast in late August and September.
Nests are usually on evergreen trees, and they may reuse them or build on top of an old nest.
How Frequently Hummingbirds are Spotted in Alaska in Summer and Winter
Checklists for the state are a great resource to find out which birds are commonly spotted. These lists show which hummingbirds are most commonly recorded on checklists for Alaska on ebird in summer and winter.
Hummingbirds in Alaska in Summer:
Rufous Hummingbird 4.5%
Anna’s Hummingbird 0.1%
Ruby-throated Hummingbird <0.1%
Calliope Hummingbird <0.1%
Costa’s Hummingbird <0.1%
Hummingbirds in Alaska in Winter:
Anna’s Hummingbird 1.3%
Costa’s Hummingbird <0.1%
Rufous Hummingbird <0.1%
How to Attract the Hummingbirds of Alaska to Your Backyard
If you would like to attract more hummingbirds to your yard, here are some tips:
- Provide more hummingbird feeders to fill with homemade nectar and spread them around your yard to create more territories.
- Ensure you clean and change the hummingbird nectar regularly to stop diseases spreading. You can either buy nectar or make your own, but don’t use any with red dye.
- Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream. Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
- Grow native plants that will provide food such as salvias, fuschias, trumpet creeper, lupin, columbine, bee balms, and foxgloves
- Don’t use pesticides and herbicides as these may be toxic to birds.
- Provide small perches of thin branches, bare of leaves, for hummingbirds to rest.