Hummingbirds in West Virginia – Picture and ID Guide

Black chinned 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 4 species of hummingbirds in West Virginia that have been spotted. Of these, 1 species are recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, 3 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 West Virginia 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 West Virginia, hummingbirds considered as regularly occurring are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and you will need to be lucky to spot any other hummingbirds here. However, Rufous Hummingbirds can be spotted in winter but not very often.

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

4 Species of Hummingbirds in West Virginia:

  1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  2. Rufous Hummingbird
  3. Mexican Violetear
  4. Black-chinned Hummingbird

4 Species of Hummingbirds in West Virginia

1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby throated hummingbirds

In summer, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the most frequently spotted hummingbirds in West Virginia and appear in 19% of checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

They spend the breeding season in the state and are most commonly seen from late March to November.

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, but a few have been spotted in winter in West Virginia.

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. Mexican Violetear

mexican violetear

Mexican Violetears are accidental species in West Virginia, and they are extremely rare to find. In fact, they were only spotted in Alpine Lake and Terre Alta back in 2003.

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.

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 considered accidental species in West Virginia, and according to records, there were a couple of sightings back in 2006 in Shepherdstown, Bakerton, and Charles Town.

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.

How Frequently Hummingbirds are Spotted in West Virginia 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 West Virginia on ebird in summer and winter.

Hummingbirds in West Virginia in Summer:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 19.5%
Mexican Violetear <0.1%

Hummingbirds in West Virginia in Winter:

Rufous Hummingbird 0.1%
Black-chinned Hummingbird <0.1%

How to Attract the Hummingbirds of West Virginia 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.