Hummingbirds Found in Montana: (Pictures and Sounds)

What types of hummingbirds are found in Montana?

  • There are 8 hummingbird species found in Montana.
  • Anna’s – (Calypte anna)
  • Black-chinned – (Archilochus alexandri)
  • Broad-tailed – (Selsaphoris platycercus)
  • Calliope – (Selasphorus calliope)
  • Costa’s – (Calypte costae)
  • Rivoli’s (Magnificent) – (Eugenes fulgens)
  • Ruby-throated – (Archilochus colubris)
  • Rufous – (Selasphorus rufus)

Montana, known as The Treasure State, after all of its rich sources in mineral reserves is home to three out of the eight hummingbird species: Black-chinned, Calliope, and Rufous.

While it is easy to assume all hummingbirds are the same when we see them only as a jewel-toned flash of color as they jet around our hanging flowers and porches; they have different temperaments, varied nesting habits, diverse coloring and reside in multiple geographical ranges.

There are 3 categories of hummingbirds found in Montana. Year-round natives, seasonal, and rare hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds are known to exist within certain established ranges, either as year-round natives or as part of a migratory cycle.

While there are species of hummingbirds that are year-round natives to Montana as well as seasonal visitors, there are hummingbirds rarely found in Montana that show up at feeders far outside their established range. These hummingbirds are known in ornithological circles as “vagrants.”

Categories of Hummingbirds:

Year-Round/Native Hummingbirds:

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), some of these hummingbirds live in Montana year-round while some of them migrate south for the winter.

  • Black-chinned  (Year-round)
  • Calliope (Year-round)
  • Rufous  (Year-round)

Seasonal Hummingbirds:

These hummingbirds are in Montana temporarily as part of their migratory pattern.

  • Black-chinned  (Some Migrate)
  • Broad-tailed  –  (Seasonal – Migrate)
  • Calliope (Some Migrate)
  • Rufous (Some Migrate)

Rare/Vagrant Hummingbirds:

These hummingbirds are outside of their normal geographic range when found in Montana but are occasionally spotted. Not only do these species of hummingbirds have a wide variety of specific geographic ranges, but they are also known to sometimes interbreed with each other, creating hybrids.

  • Anna’s – Rare-Accidental)
  • Costa’s – (Rare-Accidental)
  • Rivoli’s (Magnificent)(Rare-Accidental)
  • Ruby-throated – (Rare-Accidental)

Because of human intervention, in the form of feeding stations and the transplant of exotic flowers in residential areas, some hummingbirds in mild climates are staying rather than migrating.

Read on to find out more about each of these hummingbird species as well as where and when they can be found in Montana.

Year-Round/Native Hummingbirds

BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD – (Archilochus alexandri)

Conservation Status: Least concerned
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Archilochus
Species: A. alexandri

Black-chinned hummingbird’s scientific name is in commemoration of Dr. Alexandre, a French doctor who was the first to discover the species in Mexico. 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Black-chinned hummingbirds breed east of the Cascade mountain range and are a common summer breeding resident to Montana. Their breeding grounds and habitat are closely related to their cousin counterparts, the Ruby-throated hummingbird.

They hybridize and readily crossbreed with other hummingbird species. Black-chinned hummingbirds can live up to 10 years, which is extremely long in comparison to other birds and animals of similar size.

Male Black-chinned hummingbirds are identified by their royal purple gorget, showing a small glimmer of color right near the neckline like a buttoned-up shirt. Since the male purple gorget or throat color is minimal, at times they can appear to look all black. They have metallic green on their backs and flanks with white on their underbelly. Their dark tail is forked and their bill is black. Their size is 3.25 inches to 3.5 inches in length and weigh 2.8-5.6 grams.

Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male
Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Photo by: hummingbirdsbysurprise

The gorget on a male hummingbird is named after the protective metal piece in a suit of armor that covers the wearer’s throat to prevent injury when in battle. Since male hummingbirds are very aggressive with each other when fighting for their own territory, this name is appropriate and fitting to describe their physical attributes.

Female and juvenile Black-chinned hummingbirds have no gorget, but have a dark rounded tail with white tips and beige margins on the dorsal feathers that turn dark black as they mature. Their head and back reflect the dull metallic marbled colors of beige, greens, whites, yellow-green, and dark browns, looking similar to the scales found on a snake.

Female Black-Chinned Hummingbird
Photo by: hummingbirdsbysurprise

Black-chinned hummingbirds have the smallest known genetic material of all living vertebrates or mammals.

Because of their small size, Black-chinned hummingbirds are at risk of being preyed upon by larger insect-eating birds or larger insects such as a praying mantis. Black-chinned hummingbirds are known to use a decoy strategy by constructing their nest near larger and more active bird nests reducing the chance of predators around their nest.

See my article: 10 Common Things That Kill Hummingbirds 

While typically a territorial species, if Black-chinned hummingbirds find themselves in an area with a large population of hummingbirds and food sources of plenty, their territorial behaviors will reduce and they will play nice and share.

See pictures of male, female and juvenile Black-chinned hummingbirds here…..

Hear sounds of Black-chinned hummingbirds here…

CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD – (Selasphorus calliope)

Conservation Status: Least concerned
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Selasphorus
Species: S. calliope

Calliope hummingbirds are named after a Greek mythological muse, who represented poetry and eloquence. Calliope means “beautiful voice” in ancient Greek.

Calliope hummingbirds are the smallest long-distance migratory bird in the world.

They are a common summer breeding migrant to Montana and tend to breed in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains. They arrive in the spring as early as April and leave by September to mid-October, while some choose to winter in Mexico.

Male Calliope hummingbirds are easily identified by their iridescent purple crown and long striking spaced outline row of feathers that project down the sides of their throat.  Like many hummingbirds, the backs are metallic green and these birds measure 3 inches in length and weigh 2-3 grams.  

Adult Male Calliope Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male
Juvenile Male Calliope Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male

Note: His bright throat feathers are slowly coming in.

Female Calliope hummingbirds have gray-green crowns and buff-colored flanks which are the underbelly or wing of a bird. Females sport dark tails with white tips.

Female Calliope Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male

Like many hummingbirds, Calliopes communicate not just by their song, but also by manipulating their feathers during flight to make different buzzing noises that act as a form of language and communication. 

Male Calliope hummingbirds establish a breeding territory and mate with every available female hummingbird that accepts his courtship.

During nest construction, the female Calliope chooses tops of pine cones as her building site. She will also dismantle nests from previous seasons and recycle them in her new nest along with stealing materials from the nests of other birds in order to construct her own.

Therefore, female Calliopes are often chased and attacked by larger and more aggressive hummingbirds such as Allen’s and Rufous hummingbirds. To avoid these attacks, the Calliope maintains a relatively low profile in comparison to other species. 

Because Calliope hummingbirds have a more restricted wintering range than most hummingbirds, they are particularly vulnerable to habitat loss and natural disasters, such as climate change and wildfires.

During a capture and release banding operation in Idaho, the oldest living recorded female Calliope hummingbird was 8 years and 11 months old when she was captured twice, once in 2007 and again in 2014.

See my article3 Reasons Why Hummingbirds Are Banded

See pictures of male, female and juvenile Calliope hummingbirds here…..

Hear sounds of Calliope hummingbirds here…..

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD – (Selasphorus rufus)

Conservation Status: Near threatened
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Selasphorus
Species: S. rufous

The Rufous hummingbird gets its name from the Latin word rubrum meaning “red” which is used to describe its reddish-brown coloring.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rufous hummingbirds are a common summer breeding resident in Montana.

Fall migration begins in June for some Rufous hummingbirds and they use both travel routes between the Pacific and Rocky Mountain Flyways to reach their southern overwintering destination in Mexico. During spring migration those that choose to travel do so mostly along the Pacific Flyway.

Male Rufous hummingbirds display an iridescent orange-red gorget with rusty-colored flanks and tail. They have a white to beige underbelly and a black bill. Males can also have green plumage with specks of green color on their rustic-looking backs or on the crown of their head along with chocolate brown dorsal feathers. Their size is 2.8 inches to 3.5 inches in length and weighs 3.2 grams.

Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

Note: The iridescent orange-red gorget.

Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

Note: The gorget appears chocolate brown in this lighting, however, you can still see a glimmer of his iridescent orange-red gorget with some hints of yellow.

Male Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh
Plant: Blue Elf Aloe

Juvenile male Rufous hummingbirds have a rustic look with small iridescent orange specks of color on their throats.

Juvenile Rufous hummingbirds are so similar in coloring and temperament to an Allen’s hummingbird that they are practically indistinguishable in the field. Therefore, identification is established by range rather than appearance.

Female Rufous hummingbirds are green and white with some iridescent orange feathers on their throat. Their tail is dark with white tips and an orange-red base. Female Rufous hummingbirds are slightly larger than the males in anticipation of producing offspring.

Female Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh
Female/Juvenile Rufous Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male

They have one of the northernmost breeding ranges of any hummingbird in the world; migrating north from Mexico and nesting as far north as Alaska to breed during the summer months. They are polygamous and will mate with several partners in a season.

Rufous hummingbirds make the longest migrations of any bird in the world. They travel making a clockwise circuit of western America every year that is approximately 3,900 miles.

Rufous hummingbirds are highly territorial and aggressive towards other hummingbirds and animals. They are fearless and have a reputation for chasing away not only other hummingbirds but even large birds and rodents from their favorite feeders. They have been known to even attack squirrels and chipmunks that come too close to their nest.

Their flying acrobatic skills can outmaneuver all other hummingbird species, making them extremely competitive at feeders.

Rufous hummingbirds have excellent memories and have been known to investigate the location of an old hummingbird feeder years after the feeder has been removed.

During a capture and release banding operation in British Columbia, the oldest living recorded female Rufous hummingbird was 8 years and 11 months old.

See my article3 Reasons Why Hummingbirds Are Banded

Due to habitat loss in the Pacific Northwest, Rufous hummingbirds are listed at “near threatened” status by the IUCN red list of threatened species.

See pictures of male, female and juvenile Rufous hummingbirds here…..

Hear sounds of Rufous hummingbirds here…..

Seasonal Hummingbirds

BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD – (Selsaphoris platycercus)

Conservation Status: Least concerned
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Selsaphoris
Species: S. platycercus

The Broad-tailed hummingbird, though usually residing in Mexico and as far south as Guatemala during the winter, is a common summer breeding resident to Montana.

They have a migrant and non-migrant population that begins in the south of Mexico. The ones that migrate north to breed will do so during spring migration and will pass through Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and reach as far north as Montana.

Once the breeding season is complete, Broad-tailed hummingbirds once again depart and begin their southbound fall migration to Mexico in September to winter and meet up with their non-migrant population.

Male Broad-tailed hummingbirds have an iridescent ruby-red gorget. Both males and females Broad-tailed hummingbirds have green topside and pale underbellies with bright white eye rings and broadly rounded tails. Their size is medium build and ranges from 3.3 inches to 3.8 inches in length and weighs 3.6 grams.

Juvenile Male Broad-Tailed Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male
Female Broad-Tailed Hummingbird
Photo by: sony_alpha_male

This species of hummingbird favors habitats in the understory of mature forest woodlands such as pine and oak groves. They chose to nest on the branches of trees and have been known to return to the same nesting ground each year, roughly 70% of the time.

Their breeding time coincides with the peak time of flowering native plants for maximum food resource availability. Their favorite nectar producing flower plants include: Red Columbine, Indian Paintbrush, Sage varieties, Currants and Scarlet Mint.

Broad-tailed hummingbirds commonly nest in Montana during the summer and their nests are often located over riparian corridors.

They are promiscuous and do not form any kind of a pair bond between male and female birds and again the female raises the young alone.

The Broad-tailed hummingbird has suffered a decline in population since the 1990s, but presently, its population is stable, and it has been shown to have adapted to human habitat encroachment.

See pictures of male, female, and juvenile Broad-tailed hummingbirds here…..

Hear sounds of Broad-tailed hummingbirds here…..

Rare/Vagrant Hummingbirds

ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD – (Calypte anna)

Conservation Status: Least concerned
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Calypte
Species: C. anna

Anna’s hummingbirds are named after Anna Massena, Duchess of Rivoli. They are a rare visitor to Montana since they are seen mainly in the Western United States.

Male Anna’s hummingbirds are the only hummingbird species in North America with a red crown. They are identified as mostly green, gray, and magenta in color. The males have a flashy and colorful iridescent magenta gorget and crown. Their size ranges from3.5 inches to 4.3 inches in length and they weigh 2.4 to 4.5 grams.

The gorget on a male hummingbird is named after the protective metal piece in a suit of armor that covers the wearer’s throat to prevent injury when in battle. Since male hummingbirds are very aggressive with each other when fighting for their own territory, this name is appropriate and fitting to describe their physical attributes.

Adult Male Anna’s Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

Note: The iridescent magenta gorget and crown with a metallic green shiny back.

Adult Male Anna’s Hummingbird
Photo by: rickwmo
Juvenile Male Anna’s Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

Note: This Anna’s hummingbird could be a juvenile in those awkward teenage years or it could be during a molting stage.

Baby/Juvenile Male Anna’s Hummingbird 
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

Note: This Baby/Juvenile Male Anna’s Hummingbird is beginning to show his magenta head feathers near his temple along with some faint color starting to show on his gorget.

Female Anna’s hummingbirds are overall not as colorful as the males, appearing pale green in color. Females can also have a gorget, but it is a smaller patch of magenta. Females tend to have a pale white line over each eye that makes them distinctive.

Adult Female Anna’s Hummingbird
Photo by: rickwmo
Baby/Juvenile Female Anna’s Hummingbird
Photo by: Kevin Walsh

The Anna’s hummingbird predominantly breeds in northern Baja California and parts of Southern California, however, due to the transplanting of exotic ornamental plants in residential areas along the Pacific Coast and Inland Deserts, their breeding range has expanded up the Western Seaboard. Anna’s hummingbirds have the northernmost year-round range of any hummingbird species.

Female Anna’s hummingbirds raise their young with no help from the males.

Anna’s hummingbirds protect their territory with elaborate dives targeted towards predatory birds and even towards people they perceive to be threatening.

See pictures of male, female and juvenile Anna’s hummingbirds here…..

Hear sounds of Anna’s hummingbirds here…..

COSTA’S HUMMINGBIRD – (Calypte costae)

Conservation Status: Least concerned
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Calypte
Species: C. costae

Costa’s hummingbirds are an extremely rare/accidental visitor to Montana since there has been only one documented sighting. They normally reside in the Western United States.

Costa’s hummingbird was named in1839 by Jules Bourcier to commemorate Louis Marie Pantaleon Costa, the French ornithologist who was an avid collector of hummingbirds.

Male Costa’s hummingbirds have a bright reddish-purple cap and gorget. Their gorget has long streaming throat feathers, similar to a Calliope hummingbird. Having green backs and flanks, their back and wings are black and their throat and tail have patches of white. Their size ranges from 3 inches to 3.5 inches in length and weighs 2-3 grams.

Adult Male Costa’s Hummingbird
Photo by: hummingbirdsbysuprise
Juvenile Male Costa’s Hummingbird
Photo by: hummingbirdsbysuprise

Female Costa’s hummingbirds are not as vibrant and display in color, a grayish-light green back with a dusty white underbelly.

Adult Female Costa’s Hummingbird
Photo by: hummingbirdsbysuprise

Female Costa’s hummingbirds migrate north to breed. They are a desert-dwelling species and build their nests in open areas with scarce vegetative cover. They have been known to nest on the tops of cacti. The thorns of the plant act as a deterrent to predators that may attempt to eat the eggs or nestlings.

Their habitat consists of desert scrub and washes including grasslands where they thrive on desert plants or ocotillos.

Male Costa’s hummingbirds are extremely territorial and can come across as being the meanest sheriff in town, especially when defending “their” feeders. Their aggressive conduct is equivalent to the known quarrelsome and combative behaviors of the Rufous hummingbird.

Adult Male and Female Costa’s Hummingbird
Photo by: hummingbirdsbysuprise

These hummingbirds have no known predators, however, the largest threat to Costa’s hummingbirds is human encroachment in the form of the desert being plowed and cleared for settlement and grazing.

They are known to interbreed and produce hybrids between Anna’s and Black-chinned hummingbirds.

See pictures of male, female and juvenile Costa’s hummingbirds here…..

Hear sounds of Costa’s hummingbirds here…..

RIVOLI’S HUMMINGBIRD – (Eugenes fulgens)

Conservation Status: Least concerned
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Eugenes
Species: E. Fulgens

The Rivoli’s (pronounced: rivo-lee) hummingbird has undergone several name changes. In 1983 it was changed to the “Magnificent Hummingbird”, then to “Refulgent Hummingbird” only to have the “Rivoli’s Hummingbird” name return in 2017 when the species was split into two variations (Rivoli’s and Talamanca). Rivoli’s Hummingbird is named in honor of Francois Victor Massena, the Duke of Rivoli, by the ornithologist Rene-Primevera Lesson.

The Rivoli’s hummingbirds is a rare/accidental hummingbird to Montana since there has only been 1 recorded sighting in 2019. They are normally found in the western parts of the United States in the mountainous areas of Arizona, New Mexico, and Central America.

Male Rivoli’s hummingbirds are somewhat dark in color except when they are shown in bright daylight, where their violet crown, bright blue-green gorget, and white eyespots are more apparent through iridescence. They are 4.3 to 5.5 inches in length and weigh 6-10 grams. They are considered the second largest hummingbird in the United States.

Female Rivoli’s hummingbirds prefer to live in ravines while feeding in open meadows. Their breeding habitat consists of building nests in evergreen coniferous trees such as pine, fir, and juniper. Female Rivoli’s hummingbirds are located in Oak Creek Canyon (a smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon), Mount Lemmon (near the Sonoran desert), Mount Graham (near Tuscan), and Madera Canyon.

These birds will nest in trees overhanging streams and creeks. They spend the summer in the higher mountains of southeastern Arizona and breed in the late spring then migrate back to western Mexico by November.

They have the highest recorded heart rate of any living vertebrate ranging from 420 to 1,200 beats per minute.

Rivoli’s hummingbirds are known for hybridizing with Broad-billed hummingbirds in the southernmost areas of its habitat range.

See pictures of male, female, and juvenile Rivoli’s hummingbirds here…..

Hear sounds of Rivoli’s hummingbirds here…..

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD – (Archilochus colubris)

Conservation Status: Least concerned
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Archilochus
Species: A. colubris

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are a very rare/accidental bird to Montana since their main residence is mostly in the midwest and on the east coast of the United States. There has only been one banded and recorded sighting in Montana.

The Ruby-throated hummingbird’s scientific name originated from Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, who first listed this scientific classification as “Trochilus colubris”. It’s name changed over a hundred years later and was reclassified by Ludwig Reichenbach, a German botanist to “Archilochus colubris”, which is its current scientific name, meaning “top thief” or “sky spirit/sun-god bird”.

Male Ruby-throated hummingbirds have a striking iridescent blood-red gorget, stopping at the neckline. He is identified with a dull metallic green topside, a light gray underbelly and black wings. The Ruby-throated hummingbird is a smaller species of hummingbirds weighing less than 4.5 grams or 2 U.S. dimes and is 2.8 to 3.3 inches in length. Their lifespan is approximately 3-5 years. 

Adult Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Photo by: MaryLou Ziebarth
Adult Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Photo by: paulapaintsart

Female Ruby-throated hummingbirds have a white throat with some light stippling and are typically larger than the males. The oldest female Ruby-throated hummingbird has been recorded at 9 years, almost double that of the male. 

However, the average lifespan of a Ruby-throated hummingbird is approximately 3-5 years.

Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Photo by: dgen.photos

Juvenile male and female Ruby-throated hummingbirds during their initial stages of life resemble their mother exhibiting a white throat with light stippling. 

As the males mature, they begin to display a few specks of color near their neckline and eventually their bolder red throat feathers become more dominant and stately displaying a colorful gorget. 

Juvenile females show a light faint grey stippling on their throat. As both sexes mature their less vivid and lighter colored plumage will begin to mature and become darker in color.

Baby/Juvenile Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Photo by: mz13hummingbirds

Note: The newly white fluffy down feathers on this baby/juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird’s bottom. Also, notice the nice fat reserves they have accumulated by being fed by their diligent mother which will sustain them through adolescence.

Baby/Juvenile Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Photo by: MaryLou Ziebarth

Ruby-throated hummingbirds prefer open woodlands and are often seen in parks, gardens, and backyards. They are solitary birds except during mating periods when they are fiercely territorial and aggressive towards hummingbirds of other species.

Even though these hummingbirds have an aggressive side they can still be eaten by predators such as large invertebrates, praying mantises, orb-weaver spiders, and dragonflies.

See pictures of male, female, and juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbirds here…..

Hear sounds of Ruby-throated hummingbirds here…..

See my article: Hummingbird Migration in Montana

Happy Hummingbird Watching!

Elizabeth Donaldson

Hi Everyone! I have always been fascinated and amazed by the skill, strength, and beauty of hummingbirds. I hope this article answered your questions.

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