Hummingbirds in Wisconsin – Picture and ID Guide

Green-breasted Mango male and female pair

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.

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 8 species of hummingbirds in Wisconsin that have been spotted. Of these, 1 species is recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, 6 additional species are considered rare or accidental, and an additional one regarded as near-threatened.

This guide will help you identify the hummingbird species spotted in Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin, the hummingbirds considered as regularly occurring and also the most common species during summer are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

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

8 Species of Hummingbirds in Wisconsin:

  1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  2. Rufous Hummingbird
  3. Allen’s Hummingbird
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird
  5. Green-breasted Mango
  6. Broad-billed Hummingbird
  7. Mexican Violetear
  8. Buff-bellied Hummingbird

8 Species of Hummingbirds in Wisconsin

1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby throated hummingbirds

In summer, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the most frequently spotted hummingbirds in Wisconsin and appear in 14% of checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

They spend the breeding season in the state and are most commonly seen from April to Mid-October, but a few hang around into December.

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 Wisconsin, but there are a couple of recorded sightings in the fall and 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. 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. Allen’s Hummingbird

Allens hummingbird male

Allen’s Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in Wisconsin, but they were spotted in New Glarus in 2020.

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.

4. Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird male
Male
annas hummingbird female
Female

Anna’s Hummingbirds are accidental species in Wisconsin, but there have been a couple of sightings around Oshkosh, Madison, and Milwaukee over the past ten years.

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.

5. Green-breasted Mango

Green-breasted Mango male and female pair

Green-breasted Mangoes are accidental species in Wisconsin, and according to records, they were spotted in Beloit back in 2007.

Green-breasted mangoes are glossy bright green on the back, and the males have a blackish throat bordered with blue on the chest. Females are white underneath with a black stripe in the middle with a few bluish-green metallic feathers.

  • Length: 4.3 – 4.7 in ( 11 – 12 cm)
  • Weight: 0.24-0.25 oz (6.8 – 7.2 g)

Green-breasted Mangos are found near the coasts of Mexico and Central America and some down to northern South America. Their habitat is tropical deciduous forests, gardens, and open or lightly wooded areas.

The Green-breasted Mango is very rare in North America, but a few have been sighted in Texas on the southeastern border with Mexico.

6. Broad-billed Hummingbird

broad billed hummingbird male
Male
broad billed hummingbird female
Female

Broad-billed Hummingbirds are considered an accidental species in Wisconsin, and they were last spotted in Thiensville back in 2011.

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.

7. Mexican Violetear

mexican violetear

Mexican Violetears are considered rare or accidental species in Wisconsin, but they were recently spotted around Gay Mills and Fairview 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.

8. Buff-bellied Hummingbird

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

Buff-bellied Hummingbirds are accidental species in Wisconsin, and according to records, they were only spotted once in the state back in 2017.

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.

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

Hummingbirds in Wisconsin in Summer:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 14.5%
Rufous Hummingbird <0.1%
Mexican Violetear <0.1%
Buff-bellied Hummingbird <0.1%

Hummingbirds in Wisconsin in Winter:

Allen’s Hummingbird <0.1%
Rufous Hummingbird <0.1%
Anna’s Hummingbird <0.1%
Ruby-throated Hummingbird <0.1%

How to Attract the Hummingbirds of Wisconsin 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.