Hummingbirds are the only species of bird that can fly backward, and their closest relative are swifts!
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.
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 8 species of hummingbirds in Montana that have been spotted. Of these, 4 species are recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, 4 additional 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 Montana 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 Montana, the hummingbirds which are considered as regularly occurring are Calliope Hummingbirds, Rufous Hummingbirds, Black-chinned Hummingbirds, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. In summer, the most common species are Calliope Hummingbirds.
8 Species of Hummingbirds in Montana
1. Calliope Hummingbird
In summer, Calliope Hummingbirds are the most frequently spotted hummingbirds in Montana and appear in 7% of checklists. They are mostly seen in the west of the state from April to September.
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.
2. Rufous Hummingbird
Although considered near-threatened species, Rufous Hummingbirds are the second most frequently spotted hummingbirds in Montana during summer and appear in 4% of checklists.
They have been spotted in the state during the breeding season and can be seen from April to September.
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. Black-chinned Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbirds are not very common in Montana, but they are recognized as regularly occurring in summer and appear in 1% of checklists. They can be seen in the west of the state from May to September.
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.
4. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are very rare in Montana, but they are recognized as regularly occurring in summer. They can be spotted in the southwest of the state from late May to September.
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 again in 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.
5. Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbirds are accidental species in Montana, but there were a couple of sightings in the state in 2021.
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!
During courtship, they make dramatic dive displays 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.
6. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
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.
7. Rivoli’s Hummingbird
Rivoli’s Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in Montana. They are extremely rare in the state and have only been spotted in East Glacier Park Village in 2019.
Rivoli’s Hummingbirds are large hummingbirds with more striking coloring than most hummingbirds as they have an iridescent purple crown as well as the more usual iridescent throat in the males, which is emerald green. Males are dark green, and the females are green on the back and grayish underneath.
- Length: 4.3-5.5 in (11-14 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (7-8 g)
Rivoli’s Hummingbirds are resident in Mexico and Central America, but some do migrate north into southern Arizona and New Mexico, and southwestern Texas. They can be found in pine-oak forests in mountainous regions but will visit feeders in their range. They build nests relatively high up.
8. Costa’s Hummingbird
Costa’s Hummingbirds are accidental species in Montana, and according to records, they were last spotted in Saco back in 2010.
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.
How Frequently Hummingbirds are Spotted in Montana 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 Montana on ebird in summer and winter.
Hummingbirds in Montana in Summer:
Calliope Hummingbird 7.8%
Rufous Hummingbird 4.9%
Black-chinned Hummingbird 1.7%
Broad-tailed Hummingbird 0.3%
Ruby-throated Hummingbird <0.1%
Rivoli’s Hummingbird <0.1%
Anna’s Hummingbird <0.1%
Hummingbirds in Montana in Winter:
Anna’s Hummingbird <0.1%
How to Attract the Hummingbirds of Montana 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.