There are 343 species of Hummingbirds, and they are found only in the Western Hemisphere. Hummingbirds are native to South America mostly, and only three species are permanent residents of North America.
Now, West Virginia, the Mountain state of the United States, living up to its name, is known for its natural beauty. And what is better than this state is a safe haven for migratory hummingbirds.
There are five types of hummingbirds in West Virginia. They arrive here in order to nest and breed or simply to escape the cold weather.
These pretty little birds we know have a plethora of colors on them, making them a delight to the eye. We are going to tell you all about their characteristics, scientific names, appearance, habits, and other facts.
When and Why Do Hummingbirds Arrive in West Virginia?
The migration of birds with changing seasons is not an uncommon phenomenon. Hummingbirds are native to the Americas, and they prefer the spring-summer time, especially when they need to nest and/or breed.
In winter, they stay in the equatorial regions for warmth and fly north and northeast starting from early spring. Southern areas usually get to see the earliest birds due to the warmth. However, the arrival starts in late March.
Hummingbirds have their own individual schedule to migrate and breed. So, they hardly ever fly in colonies.
Some of these species are commonly spotted, whereas others are considered near-threatened.
Five Hummingbirds You Would See in West Virginia
1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the earliest ones to arrive in West Virginia. They stay from late March to November before flying south for winter.
Male birds come two weeks earlier than their female counterparts to build their territories before breeding.
The scientific name of this hummingbird means ‘Sky Spirit’ or ‘Sun-God Bird.’
99% of the hummingbirds seen in West Virginia are ruby-throated. They are the only species to nest and breed in this state, and the others just pass through here on their way elsewhere.
The male birds are vibrant green on the back and crown, with a gray-white underside. Females have green on the back, with a white underside.
Their crown and sides are brownish. The females are slightly larger, but the males stand out with their iridescent red throats.
Their legs are too short to stand on, so they only flap their wings and perch.
Males fly may fly away after mating, but females build nests on thin branches, with dandelion or thistle, stuck by spider silk. They lay 1-3 eggs of 1.3 cm.
The average lifespan of ruby-throated hummingbirds is 3-5 years. They have a wingspan of 8-11 cm.
Where to Find
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are frequently spotted in flowering gardens, bird feeders, birdbaths, nectar feeders, etc.
2. Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous hummingbirds are one of the near-threatened species that are rarely seen but are spotted in West Virginia. Studies have shown that their “Numbers Have Declined By Around 60% Since The 1970s”.
Most of them do not spend the winter in West Virginia and migrate south to Mexico.
This species is known for its sharp memory and aggressive territorial nature, and competitiveness while feeding. They also have flying acrobatic skills.
The name Rufous comes from the Latin word ‘Rubrum,’ which means ‘red.’ Male Rufous Hummingbirds have bright orange backs and rusty bellies, a beige underbelly, and a white patch below the throat.
The iridescent red-orange gorget makes the males stand out. Females of this species have greenish-brown on the back and light rust on the sides with a dusty white belly.
With a wingspan of 11 cm, Rufous Hummingbirds are the longest migrating birds traveling 4000 miles, making a clockwise circuit of western America.
Rufous Hummingbirds feed mainly on nectar from colorful tubular flowers. They also like gnats, midges, flies, insects, etc.
These birds lay 2-3 tiny white eggs measuring 1.3 cm.
Where to Find
Rufous Hummingbirds migrate north along the Pacific Coast in spring. They fly to the Rocky Mountains in late summer and fall, starting in July and ending in October.
The spring migration starts in February, and they reach Alaska by mid-April. These birds choose the highest branches of trees and build nests using soft down from plants. They use spider webs to hold it together.
This species is found mostly in mountain meadows and coniferous forests.
3. Mexican Violetear
Mexican Violetear hummingbirds are a rare type that was spotted only near Alpine Lake and Terre Alta back in 2003. The name comes from the Latin word ‘Thalassinus.’
It translates to ‘Color Of The Sea.’ They prefer a surrounding with a higher level of tropical humidity. These birds breed in forests in Mexico, Central America, and Nicaragua.
Mexican Violetears are medium-sized solitary nesting hummingbirds. They hunt for nectar and insects alone. These rare birds have a brilliant metallic blue-green iridescent color with violet patches on the sides of their heads and breasts.
Where to Find
Mexican violetear hummingbirds are like nomads. Their migration pattern is still uncertain.
On rare occasions, these birds can be seen traveling in flocks around flowering trees, such as the coffee-shade Inga tree. Mexican Violetears can be seen along the forest from Mexico to Nicaragua.
At times they go as far south as the mountains in Bolivia and Venezuela. Few have even been spotted around Michigan and even Canada.
4. Black-chinned Hummingbird
Black-chinned hummingbirds are another rare species seen in Shepherdstown, Bakerton, and Charles Town back in 2006. They migrate in March and September.
Their summer breeding grounds include inland in western states from British Columbia to Baja, California. The scientific name is in memory of a French doctor named Alexandre, who first discovered the species in Mexico.
Black-chinned hummingbirds are recognized by their light metallic green back and a dusty white underbelly.
Males have tiny iridescent violet-purple gorgets and black chins. Females have white tips on their dorsal feathers and metallic marble colors of green, beige, white, and yellow-green on their backs.
They often mate with other hummingbird species and crossbreed. With a wingspan of 11 cm, black-chinned hummingbirds can live up to 10 years.
They prey on small insects and spiders. Their tongues can flap 13-17 times per second when they eat nectar from flowers.
They build nests out of small plant parts and use spider silk as adhesive.
Black-chinned hummingbirds lay only two white eggs of 1.3 cm. They are known to build their nests around larger birds’ nests to protect themselves from predators.
However, “They have the smallest genetic material among all vertebrates.” Their small size makes them vulnerable to large, predator birds.
Where to Find
Black-chinned Hummingbirds roam along canyons, rivers, and large shady trees such as oaks. They are also found on dead tree tops and tiny bare branches.
Sometimes, they can even return to a favorite perch.
After breeding, these birds move to higher mountain regions with abundant colorful flowers. In winter, they fly to western Mexico, southern California, and the Gulf Coast.
5. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Broad-tailed hummingbirds have a stable population as they have adapted to human habitat encroachment now. But they “Suffered a decline in population since the 1990s”.
During a study in Colorado, a female Broad-tailed hummingbird was found to be 12 years and 2 months. They can also beat their wings at 80 beats per second.
The iridescent ruby-red gorget sets apart the males from the females. But the pale underbellies, green topside, rounded tails, and bright white rings around the eyes make the common appearance of both males and females.
Broad-tailed hummingbirds love to eat nectar from Currants, Red Columbine, Scarlet Mint, Indian Paintbrush, and Sage varieties.
So, they breed during the peak blooming time of native plants. But the younglings are raised by the females alone.
Where to Find
Broad-tailed hummingbirds can be migrant or non-migrant. They reside in Mexico. Migrants fly north in spring to breed and pass-through Colorado, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, and even Montana.
At the end of the breeding season, they start flying south in fall to winter in Mexico and reunite with the permanent population. 70% of the time, they return to their previous nesting ground.
They build their nests on the branches of trees. The Broad-tailed hummingbirds prefer to stay in the understory of pine forest woodlands or oak groves.
How to Attract Hummingbirds
- Install a birdbath, small water fountain, and stream, and change the water every day
- Prepare tiny shelters, perches, and resting spaces for hummingbirds with bare twigs and branches, hang little birdhouses from trees, decorate with creepers
- Keep seeds and homemade nectars to feed them
- Clean the feeders, birdhouses, and birdbaths every day to prevent diseases
- Grow native plants like salvias, trumpet creeper, fuschias, columbine, lupin, bee balms, and foxgloves to provide natural nectar
- Do not use insecticides or pesticides, as they are toxic to birds and the insects they feed on
The land, climate, and geography of West Virginia are optimal for these species of hummingbirds to live in. In return, they have made an immense contribution to the state’s agriculture.
While the Ruby-throated hummingbird may dominate the landscape, the other four species are also commonly found. And if you spot any of them, make sure to help them out if they need it.