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!
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!
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 9 species of hummingbirds in Tennessee that have been spotted. Of these, 2 species are recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, 7 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee, the hummingbirds considered as regularly occurring are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Rufous Hummingbirds. In summer, the most common species are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
9 Species of Hummingbirds in Tennessee:
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Rufous Hummingbird
- Black-chinned Hummingbird
- Allen’s Hummingbird
- Calliope Hummingbird
- Anna’s Hummingbird
- Broad-tailed Hummingbird
- Broad-billed Hummingbird
- Mexican Violetear
9 Species of Hummingbirds in Tennessee
1. 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.
2. Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbirds are considered near-threatened species but there are occasional sightings, mostly from August until 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 Hummingbirds are considered accidental species in Tennessee, but there have been sightings in winter between November and March.
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. Allen’s Hummingbird
Allen’s Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in Tennessee, but there have been sightings in winter in November and December and again in February.
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.
5. Calliope Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbirds are considered accidental or rare species in Tennessee. In fact, they were last seen in Davidson 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 Hummingbirds are accidental species in Tennessee. They are extremely rare in the state, and before being recently spotted in Bledsoe in 2020, the last recorded sightings were back in 1995.
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.
7. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are considered accidental species in Tennessee, and they were last seen in Signal Mountain way back in 2005.
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.
8. Broad-billed Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in Tennessee, and according to records, they were spotted in Fayette in 2017.
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.
10. Mexican Violetear
Mexican Violetears are accidental species in Tennessee. Although they are extremely rare to find, they were last spotted in Clarksville in 2020.
Mexican Violetears are medium-sized hummingbirds that are metallic green with violet patches on the sides of their heads and breasts.
- Length: 3.8 – 4.7 in (9.7 – 12 cm)
- Weight: 0.17 – 0.2 oz (4.8 – 5.6 g)
Mexican Violetears breed in forests in Mexico, Central America, and down to Nicaragua, but they sometimes can be found as far south as the mountains of Bolivia and Venezuela.
Also, some non-breeding Mexican Violetears may fly north into the United States to central and southern Texas.
How Frequently Hummingbirds are Spotted in Tennessee 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 Tennessee on ebird in summer and winter.
Hummingbirds in Tennessee in Summer:
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 20.3%
Rufous Hummingbird <0.1%
Broad-billed Hummingbird <0.1%
Mexican Violetear <0.1%
Hummingbirds in Tennessee in Winter:
Rufous Hummingbird 0.1%
Black-chinned Hummingbird <0.1%
Allen’s Hummingbird <0.1%
Calliope Hummingbird <0.1%
Ruby-throated Hummingbird <0.1%
Anna’s Hummingbird <0.1%
Broad-tailed Hummingbird <0.1%
How to Attract the Hummingbirds of Tennessee 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.