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!
Tiny bursts of color and speed coupled with magnificent hovering skills make the hummingbird one of my favorite bird species with good reason.
Hummingbirds are the only species of bird that can fly backward, and their closest relative are swifts!
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 6 species of hummingbirds in Delaware that have been spotted. Of these, 2 species are recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, 3 additional species are considered rare or accidental, and an additional one regarded as near-threatened.
This guide will help you identify the hummingbird species spotted in Delaware 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 summer, the only species found in Delaware are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. However, in winter, Black-chinned Hummingbirds are spotted, plus some accidental species.
6 Species of Hummingbirds in Delaware
1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
In summer, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the only hummingbirds spotted in Delaware and appear in 15% of checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.
They spend the breeding season in the state and are most commonly seen from April to October, and then they fly south for the winter.
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)
2. Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbirds are considered near-threatened species but have been spotted in Delaware during winter from October to January.
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.
3. Allen’s Hummingbird
Allen’s Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in Delaware, but there have been a couple of sightings in Newark in 2022.
Allen’s Hummingbirds look very similar to Rufous Hummingbirds, so it’s hard to tell them apart in the narrow band of coastal forest and scrub they inhabit between California and Oregon.
Male Allen’s Hummingbirds have iridescent reddish-orange throats and orange bellies, tails, and eye patches. Both males and females have long straight bills and coppery-green backs, but the females lack the bright throat coloring.
- Length: 3.5 in (9 cm)
- Weight: 0.1-0.1 oz (2-4 g)
- Wingspan: 4.3 in (11 cm)
The difference between Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbirds is the narrow outer tail feathers in Allen’s Hummingbird.
Allen’s Hummingbirds build nests near shady streams and have up to 3 broods a year. They spend winter in Mexico and migrate as early as January up to the Pacific Coast in California and Oregon, but they are most common between March and July. Some remain residents all year in central Mexico and around Los Angeles.
4. Black-chinned Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbirds are the only other hummingbird considered as regularly occurring in Delaware. However, they are rarely seen, but there have been a couple of sightings in Sussex in 2020.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds are dull metallic green on the back and grayish-white underneath. The males have a black throat with a thin iridescent purple base, and the females have a pale throat and white tips on the tail feathers.
- Length: 3.5 in (9 cm)
- Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz (2.3-4.9 g)
- Wingspan: 4.3 in (11 cm)
In summer, black-chinned Hummingbirds breed predominantly inland in western states from British Columbia to Baja California.
After breeding, they may move to higher mountain areas with abundant flowers before migrating to western Mexico, southern California, and the Gulf Coast in the winter. Migration of Black-chinned Hummingbirds usually occurs in March and September.
Black-chinned Hummingbird calls and wingbeat:
They eat nectar, small insects, and spiders, and their tongues can lick 13-17 times per second when feeding on nectar. Nests of Black-chinned Hummingbirds are made of plant down and spider silk to hold them together, and they lay two tiny white eggs that are only 0.6 in (1.3 cm)
Black-chinned Hummingbirds can often be seen sitting at the top of dead trees on tiny bare branches and often return to a favorite perch. They can be found along canyons and rivers or by shady oaks.
5. Calliope Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbirds are regarded as accidental species in Delaware, but there have been recorded sightings in New Castle in 2021.
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.
6. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are considered an accidental or rare species in Delaware, and they were only spotted in the state in 1998.
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds live in higher elevations and are iridescent green on the back, brownish in the wings, and white on the chest and into the belly. Males have an iridescent rose throat, females and juveniles have green spots on their throats and cheeks.
- Length: 3.1-3.5 in (8-9 cm)
- Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz (2.8-4.5 g)
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds breed in high meadows and open woodlands between 5,000 – 10,000 feet elevation in the mountainous west, between late May and August between central Idaho, southern Montana, northern Wyoming, and south to California.
Migration south is to southern Mexico for winter, but some Broad-tailed Hummingbirds may stay on the Gulf Coast. Migration of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds occurs in April and late August, and September.
Due to the cold at higher elevations, the Broad-tailed Hummingbird can slow their heart rate and drop their body temperature to enter a state of torpor.
Nectar from flowers is the usual food of hummingbirds, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds drink from larkspur, red columbine, sage, scarlet gilia, and they will also come to hummingbird nectar feeders. They supplement their diet with small insects and feed their young on insects.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird nests are usually on evergreen or aspen branches and are made with spider webs and gossamer under overhanging branches for added insulation during cold nights.
How Frequently Hummingbirds are Spotted in Delaware 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 Delaware on ebird in summer and winter.
Hummingbirds in Delaware in Summer:
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 15.9%
Hummingbirds in Delaware in Winter:
Rufous Hummingbird 0.1%
Allen’s Hummingbird 0.1%
Ruby-throated Hummingbird <0.1%
Calliope Hummingbird <0.1%
How to Attract the Hummingbirds of Delaware 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.