10 Species of Hummingbirds in South Carolina – Picture and ID Guide

annas hummingbird female

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 10 species of hummingbirds in South Carolina that have been spotted. Of these, 2 species are recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, 8 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 South Carolina 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 South Carolina, the hummingbirds considered regularly occurring are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Rufous Hummingbirds. 

In summer, the only species spotted here are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. However, in winter, Rufous hummingbirds can also be spotted.

You can print out a free bird identification photo guide for South Carolina to help you identify many of the birds that visit your backyard.

10 Species of Hummingbirds in South Carolina:

  1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  2. Rufous Hummingbird
  3. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  4. Buff-bellied Hummingbird
  5. Calliope Hummingbird
  6. Anna’s Hummingbird
  7. Broad-billed Hummingbird
  8. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
  9. Allen’s Hummingbird
  10. Blue-throated Mountain-gem

10 Species of Hummingbirds in South Carolina

1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby throated hummingbirds

In summer, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the only hummingbirds spotted in South Carolina, and they appear in 16% of checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

They spend the breeding season in the state and are seen from April to November, and then most of them migrate south for winter. However, some do remain in the state all year.

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-hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird Male
Rufous Hummingbird female
Rufous Hummingbird Female

Rufous Hummingbirds are considered near-threatened species in South Carolina, but they have been spotted in the state during the winter from August to early April.

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 hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird male
Black chinned hummingbird female
Black-chinned Hummingbird Female (credit: Gary Leavens)

Black-chinned Hummingbirds are considered accidental species in South Carolina, but they are occasionally spotted in winter.

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:

Thomas G. Graves, XC495007. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/495007.

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. Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Buff bellied Hummingbird
Buff-Bellied Hummingbird (credit: ALAN SCHMIERER)

Buff-bellied Hummingbirds are considered accidental or rare species in South Carolina, but they have been spotted in winter.

The Buff-bellied Hummingbird is medium-sized, and the bill of the male is red with a darker tip, but the females’ bill is darker.

  • Length: 3.9-4.3 in (10-11 cm)
  • Weight: 0.1-0.18 oz (2-5 g)

Buff-bellied Hummingbirds breed in southern Texas and the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico through to Central America. In winter, the Buff-bellied Hummingbird will migrate short distances along the Gulf Coast along to Louisiana and Florida.

Nesting occurs from April to August in large shrubs or small trees, quite low to the ground. They lay two white eggs and may have two broods per year.

Semi-open habitats or woodland edges provide the ideal habitat for Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, and they will also visit backyards for flowers or nectar feeders. Small insects also make up some of their diets.

You can attract more Buff-bellied Hummingbirds with nectar feeders and red tubular flowers such as Turk’s cap and red salvia.

5. Calliope Hummingbird

Calliope hummingbird male
Calliope Hummingbirds male (credit: Rocky Raybell)
Calliope hummingbird female
Calliope Hummingbird female (credit: Rocky Raybell)

Calliope Hummingbirds are considered accidental species in South Carolina, but there were a couple of sightings around Greenville back in 2013.

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. Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird male
Male
annas hummingbird female
Female

Anna’s Hummingbirds are accidental species in South Carolina, and they are extremely rare in the state. They were only seen around Berkeley back in 2010.

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:

Credit: Paul Marvin, XC679336. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/679336.

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.

7. Broad-billed Hummingbird

broad billed hummingbird male
Male
broad billed hummingbird female
Female

Broad-billed Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in South Carolina, and according to records, they were only spotted in Rockville back in 2008.

Broad-billed Hummingbirds are brilliantly colored, even among hummingbirds. The males are rich metallic green all over with a blue throat that extends down the breast. Females have a pale belly, and both males and females have red beaks that are black-tipped and wide near their heads.

  • Length: 3.1 – 3.9 in (8-10 cm)
  • Weight: 0.1-0.1 oz (3-4 g)

Broad-billed Hummingbirds are resident all year in central Mexico and the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Some birds migrate north into mountain canyons in southern Arizona and New Mexico for breeding between March and September, and a few remain all year near the Mexican border.

Canyon streams and mountain meadows provide the ideal foraging areas for Broad-billed Hummingbirds, but they will also visit backyard feeders. Nests are built quite low to the ground, at about 3 feet up, near streams.

8. Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Broad-tailed Hummingbird male (Selasphorus platycercus)
Male
Broad tailed Hummingbird female
Female

Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are accidental species in South Carolina, and they were only spotted once in the state in Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in 2021.

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.

9. Allen’s Hummingbird

Allens hummingbird male

Allen’s Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in South Carolina, and they were last spotted around Lexington back in 2008.

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.

10. Blue-throated Mountain-gem

A Male Blue-throated mountain gem

Blue-throated Mountain-gems are extremely rare birds to see in South Carolina, but they have been accepted by the South Carolina Bird Records Committee, with some recorded sightings in the state.

The Blue-throated Mountain-gem is the largest hummingbird that nests in the United States, and as the name suggests, the males have iridescent blue throats. Both male and female Blue-throated Mountain gems are bronzy-green on the back and grayish below, with white tips on the black tail feathers.

  • Length: 4.3-4.7 in (11-12 cm)
  • Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (8.1-8.6 g)

Mostly resident in Mexico, but some Blue-throated Mountain gems move north short distances into southeastern Arizona and southwestern Texas. Mountain woodlands along streams with lots of flowers or backyards with feeders are the best places to spot Blue-throated Mountain gems. They feed more in the morning and late afternoon, out of midday heat.

Nests of Blue-throated Mountain gems are larger than most to accommodate their larger size and can measure 2 inches wide and 3 – 10 inches high.

How Frequently Hummingbirds are Spotted in South Carolina 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 South Carolina on ebird in summer and winter.

Hummingbirds in South Carolina in Summer:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 16.2%

Hummingbirds in South Carolina in Winter:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 0.9%
Rufous Hummingbird 0.1%
Black-chinned Hummingbird <0.1%
Buff-bellied Hummingbird <0.1%
Calliope Hummingbird <0.1%
Anna’s Hummingbird <0.1%
Broad-billed Hummingbird <0.1%
Allen’s Hummingbird <0.1%

How to Attract the Hummingbirds of South Carolina to Your Backyard

If you would like to attract more hummingbirds to your yard, here are some tips:

  1. Provide more hummingbird feeders to fill with homemade nectar and spread them around your yard to create more territories.
  2. 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.
  3. Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream.  Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
  4.  Grow native plants that will provide food such as salvias, fuschias, trumpet creeper, lupin, columbine, bee balms, and foxgloves
  5. Don’t use pesticides and herbicides as these may be toxic to birds.
  6. Provide small perches of thin branches, bare of leaves, for hummingbirds to rest.