Hummingbirds Virginia: Everything You Need to Know

rufous-hummingbird

There are two main species of Hummingbird in Virginia but a total of 7 species are recognized in state bird records.

Species of hummingbirds are classed as resident, seasonal or rare in each state and according to avibase and accepted by the Virginia Society of Ornithology these are the types of hummingbird in Virginia in each group:

Resident Species of Hummingbirds of Virginia:

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There are no species of hummingbird classed as residents in Virginia. 

Seasonal Species of Hummingbirds of Virginia:

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Rufous Hummingbirds are seasonal species of Humminbird in Virginia.

Rare/Accidental Species of Hummingbirds of Virginia:

Rivoli’s Hummingbirds, Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Calliope Hummingbirds, Allen’s Hummingbirds and Anna’s Hummingbirds,  are all considered to be accidental visitors to Virginia.

Most of these accidental species have only been seen a few times in Virginia.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about hummingbirds in Virginia.

Rushed for time then check out this quick photo guide of male vs female hummingbirds.

Find out how to attract hummingbirds with plants and flowers. Also how to make your own sugar water.

7 Species of Hummingbirds in Virginia:

  1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  2. Rufous Hummingbird
  3. Rivoli’s Hummingbird
  4. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  5. Calliope Hummingbird
  6. Allen’s Hummingbird
  7. Anna’s Hummingbird

7 Species of Hummingbirds Virginia

1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby throated hummingbirds

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds of Virginia are a common sight in summer and they usually start to arrive in spring in April but mostly in May. Males usually arrive first up to one or two weeks before the females.

In the fall migration usually occurs between September to Mid-October but some hang along longer and have been seen through 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. Some migrate over the Gulf of Mexico or some migrate through Texas around the coast.

They start arriving in the far south in February and may not arrive in northern states and Canada until May for breeding. They start to migrate south in August and September.

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.

Flowering gardens or woodland edges in summer are the best places to find them when out.  They are also common in towns, especially at nectar feeders.

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can be aggressive in their defense of flowers and feeders.  They 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 male
Rufous Hummingbird Male
Rufous Hummingbird female
Rufous Hummingbird female

Rufous Hummingbirds are not very common in Virginia but a few each year do wander this far north in winter. They are mostly seen around towns such as Richmond, Charlottesville, Norfolk and Lynchburg and Washington. A good reason to keep your hummingbird feeders out in winter.

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. They breed in northwest Alaska and migrate down to Mexico and the Gulf Coast for winter. 

They migrate north along the Pacific Coast in spring and by the Rocky Mountains in late summer and fall.

Rufous Hummingbirds feed mostly on nectar from colorful tubular flowers and from insects such as gnats, midges, and flies. They build a nest high up in trees using soft plant down and spider webs to hold it together.  They lay 2-3 tiny white eggs that are about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) long.

They are very aggressive and chase off any other hummingbirds that may appear, even larger hummingbirds or resident ones during migration.  During migration, they won’t hang around long and will chase off most other hummingbirds even a chance. They can be found in mountain meadows and in winter they live in woods and forests.

3. Rivoli’s Hummingbird

Rivolis hummingbird male
Rivoli’s Hummingbird male (credit: Nate Steiner)
Rivolis hummingbird female cc
Rivoli’s Hummingbird female (credit: Nate Steiner)

Rivoli’s Hummingbirds are an accidental species of hummingbird in Virginia and are very rarely seen. They have not been recorded since 2003 in Virginia so not one to get hopeful about.

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.

Find out how to attract hummingbirds with plants and flowers. Also how to make your own sugar water.

4. 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 an accidental species in Virginia and have only be seen a few times in the last 10 years in Northampton and Williamsburg.

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)

Black-chinned Hummingbirds breed predominantly inland in western states from British Columbia to Baja California in summer. 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

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

Calliope Hummingbirds are accidental hummingbirds in Virginia and have only been spotted a few times in the last 10 years around Nokesville and near Charlottesville.

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. Allen’s Hummingbird

Allens hummingbird male

Allen’s Hummingbirds are accidental hummingbirds in Virginia and they have only been spotted a few times in winter, around Richmond and Williamsburg.

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. They build nests at no fixed height near shady streams and have up to 3 broods a year.

Allen’s Hummingbirds 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 resident in central Mexico and around Los Angeles.

7. Anna’s Hummingbird

annas hummingbird male
Male
annas hummingbird female
Female

An accidental species of hummingbird in Virginia, Anna’s Hummingbirds have been spotted only a few times in the state in winter. The last time was in 2020 at Lake Frederick.

Anna’s Hummingbirds are tiny birds that are mostly 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)

Unusually Anna’s Hummingbirds do not migrate but some may move short distances in winter. They are the most common hummingbird along the Pacific Coast. They make a dramatic dive display 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.

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.

Anna’s Hummingbirds’ nests are high in trees around 6 – 20 ft and they often have 2-3 broods a year.

Also, check out these great articles about birds in Virginia:

Best Nectar Feeders to Attract Hummingbirds in Virginia

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The more the merrier with Hummingbirds is what I think and they can be territorial so getting a few hummingbird feeders around your backyard is best.  We have picked the best hummingbird feeders for you to get hummingbirds buzzing all over your yard.

How to Attract the Hummingbirds of Virginia to Your Backyard

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

  1. Provide more hummingbird feeders and spread them around your yard to create more territories.
  2. Ensure you clean and change the hummingbird nectar regularly.  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.

How to Identify Birds in Virginia

Here are some tips to help you identify birds whether you are out birding or backyard bird watching in Virginia:

  1. Size – Size is the easiest thing to notice about a bird.  Birds are often measured in inches or centimeters in guide books.  It’s best to take a note of the bird in terms of small, medium, or large to be able to look for it later. A small bird is about the size of a sparrow, a medium bird is about the size of a pigeon and a large bird is the size of a goose.
  2. Shape – Take note of the silhouette of the bird and jot it down or draw the outline.  Look at tail length, bill shape, wing shape, and overall body shape.
  3. Color pattern – Take a note of the main color of the head, back, belly, and wings, and tail for the main color and then any secondary colors or patterns. Also take note of any patterns such as banding, spots, or highlights.
  4. Behavior – Are they on the ground or high up in the trees. Are they in flocks or on their own?  Can you spot what they are eating?
  5. Habitat – Woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shore or marsh.
  6. Use a bird identification app such as those created by ebird or Audubon