5 Species of Hummingbirds Found in Illinois

Illinois may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of hummingbirds, but did you know there are actually five different species that can be found in the state? From the commonly sighted Ruby-throated hummingbird to the rare Mexican Violetear, these tiny creatures bring a burst of color and energy to backyards across Illinois. With tips on how to attract them to your own yard, this article dives into the fascinating world of hummingbirds and the joy they can bring to nature enthusiasts.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Appearance

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a small bird, measuring only 3 to 3.5 inches in length and weighing less than a nickel. As the name suggests, the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird has a vibrant red throat, which appears iridescent when hit by sunlight. Their upper parts are a shiny green color, while the underparts are a pale grayish-white. The females, on the other hand, lack the bright red throat and have a duller green color on their upper parts.

Habitat

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are primarily found in the eastern half of the United States, including Illinois. They are migratory birds, spending their winters in southern Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, and then returning to their breeding grounds in the eastern United States during the spring and summer. They inhabit a variety of habitats, including woodlands, gardens, and meadows.

Behavior

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are known for their incredible flying abilities. They can hover mid-air, fly backwards, and even perform acrobatic dives during courtship displays. These tiny birds have a high metabolism and must feed frequently to sustain their energy levels. They primarily consume nectar from flowers but also feed on insects and spiders for their protein needs. Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are territorial and defend their feeding territories aggressively. They can often be seen chasing away other hummingbirds from their preferred food sources.

Rufous Hummingbird

Appearance

The Rufous Hummingbird is a tiny bird that measures about 3.5 to 4 inches in length, making it slightly larger than the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The males have a distinct reddish-brown color on their upper parts, while the females have a greenish-brown upper plumage. Both the males and females have white underparts with orange or rufous-colored sides and rump.

Habitat

Rufous Hummingbirds breed in western North America, from southern Alaska to California, and migrate south to Mexico and parts of Central America during the winter. While they are not native to Illinois, they are occasional visitors to the state, especially during migration. They typically inhabit forests, meadows, and gardens.

Behavior

Rufous Hummingbirds are known for their feisty nature and aggressive behavior. Despite their small size, they are not afraid to defend their territories and have been observed chasing away larger birds. They primarily feed on nectar from flowers and also consume small insects and spiders. Rufous Hummingbirds have a high metabolism and need to consume large amounts of food to sustain their energy levels during migration.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Appearance

The Anna’s Hummingbird is a relatively larger hummingbird, measuring around 4 to 4.5 inches in length. The males have a vibrant iridescent pinkish-red throat, which is commonly referred to as a “gorget.” They also have a metallic green upper plumage, while the females have a duller green coloring. Both males and females have a grayish-white underbelly.

Habitat

Anna’s Hummingbirds are primarily found on the west coast of North America, from southern Alaska to Baja California in Mexico. Occasionally, they may stray into Illinois and other parts of the eastern United States. They inhabit various habitats, including woodlands, gardens, and coastal areas.

Behavior

Anna’s Hummingbirds are known for their impressive aerial displays during courtship. The males perform elaborate diving displays, during which they create a distinctive chirping sound with their tail feathers. Like other hummingbirds, Anna’s Hummingbirds primarily feed on nectar from flowers but also consume small insects and spiders for protein. They have a strong territorial instinct and aggressively defend their feeding and nesting territories.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Appearance

The Broad-billed Hummingbird is a small bird, measuring about 3.5 to 4 inches in length. The males have a brilliant green upper plumage, with a vibrant blue throat and an iridescent purple crown. The females, on the other hand, have a slightly duller green upper plumage and lack the vibrant colorations of the males. Both males and females have a whitish underbelly.

Habitat

Broad-billed Hummingbirds are native to Mexico and are predominantly found in the southwestern United States. However, they have been occasionally sighted east of the Mississippi, including in Illinois. They prefer semi-arid habitats, such as deserts, arid woodlands, and scrublands.

Behavior

Broad-billed Hummingbirds are known for their swift flight and agility. They are excellent hoverers and can quickly change direction in mid-air. Like other hummingbirds, they primarily feed on nectar from flowers but also consume small insects and spiders. Broad-billed Hummingbirds are migratory birds, spending their winters in Mexico and migrating north to their breeding grounds during the summer. They are not known for being particularly territorial.

Mexican Violetear

Appearance

The Mexican Violetear is one of the larger species of hummingbirds, measuring about 4.5 to 5 inches in length. They have a metallic green upper plumage and a violet-colored throat patch, which gives them their name. The females have a slightly duller coloring. Both males and females have a whitish underbelly.

Habitat

Mexican Violetears are primarily found in Mexico and parts of Central America. However, they have been occasionally spotted in the eastern half of the United States, including Illinois. They inhabit a variety of habitats, including forests, plantations, and gardens.

Behavior

Mexican Violetears are known for their vocal nature and their distinctive high-pitched chattering calls. They primarily feed on nectar from flowers and have long bills adapted for probing deep into flowers. In addition to nectar, they also consume small insects and spiders. These hummingbirds are known for their tolerance of cooler temperatures compared to other species and are capable of surviving in environments where temperatures drop significantly during the winter.

Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Yard

Hanging Hummingbird Feeders

One of the best ways to attract hummingbirds to your yard is by hanging hummingbird feeders. These feeders contain a simple sugar solution that mimics the nectar found in flowers. When choosing a feeder, opt for one with bright red parts, as hummingbirds are attracted to this color. Hang the feeders in a visible and easily accessible location, preferably near flowers or in a garden. Regularly clean and refill the feeders to ensure a fresh supply of nectar.

Making Your Own Nectar

If you prefer to make your own hummingbird nectar, it is a simple process. Combine four parts water with one part white granulated sugar in a pan and bring it to a boil. Allow the solution to cool before filling your hummingbird feeders. Avoid using artificial sweeteners, honey, or red food coloring, as these can be harmful to hummingbirds.

Planting Native Flowers

Hummingbirds are attracted to a variety of flowers, especially those with bright, tubular-shaped blooms. Planting native flowers in your yard is a great way to attract these beautiful birds. Some popular native flowers that hummingbirds love include trumpet vine, bee balm, cardinal flower, and columbine. Grouping these flowers together in a garden or along a fence line will create a hummingbird-friendly habitat.

Providing Water Sources

Hummingbirds not only need nectar for energy, but they also require water for drinking and bathing. Providing a shallow birdbath or a small water fountain can attract hummingbirds to your yard. Make sure the water source is clean and shallow enough for the birds to safely land and take a dip. You can also add rocks or pebbles to create perching spots for them.

Promoting Insects

Hummingbirds require protein in their diet, which they obtain from small insects and spiders. By promoting insects in your yard, you can create a natural food source for hummingbirds. Avoid using pesticides and allow flowers and shrubs to bloom, attracting insects. Additionally, providing a small brush pile or leaving leaf litter can create hiding spots for insects, further supporting the hummingbird’s diet.

Attracting hummingbirds to your yard can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. By providing the right food, habitat, and water sources, you can create an inviting environment for these magnificent birds. Observing their colorful plumage and incredible flying abilities up close is truly a sight to behold.

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