In reality, this list is the top four hummingbirds, after a tie for fifth place from over 10 other species. I just really fawn over all hummingbirds. Can you blame me?
Over twenty species of hummingbirds have been recorded in the US and Canada, and I am going to rank them. Then, you are going to become furious with my rankings and dispute them vehemently in the comment section at the end of the article. That is how this works. Why? For funsies. And because I want to talk about hummingbirds.
Want to take better photos of hummingbirds in your backyard? Check out our guide to birding cameras!
We only include North American species that have been recorded north of Mexico. Why? Not enough bird people are familiar with species beyond our own borders.
Hummingbirds are a New World-only family of birds, characterized by their (usually) small size, fast wing beats, and affinity for flowers and the sugary goodness found within. There are over 350 species worldwide (again, only in the western hemisphere), but the majority of those species are found throughout the tropics and down into South America. Males are often more showy than females, with brightly colored gorgets, which are the feathers covering the throat. Few who have seen the sporadic yet graceful movements of hummingbirds have not been captivated by them. Or maybe they just thought, “WHOA! What the @#%$ was that?”
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Learn more about North America's hummingbirds with this guide!
#5 - Broad-tailed Hummingbird
The Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus) is NOT the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. But some people sure are convinced otherwise! While this similar-looking hummingbird has a pinkish-red gorget like the Ruby-throated, it is a far more impressive species! This little mountaineer lives high in the Rockies, surviving some of the harshest conditions. Late spring snowstorms, summer thunderstorms on the peaks, and nightly freezing temperatures can all be experienced in a single breeding season. How does this species survive it? By being some bad mother-flockers. In all seriousness, this species utilizes torpor, a specialized form of hibernation.
Population Status of Broad-tailed Hummingbird
There is an estimated population of between 6 million and 12 million Broad-tailed Hummingbirds in the world. Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, like all hummingbirds, are likely understudied, but populations seem to be experiencing a small decline in some regions while being stable in others. The Broad-tailed Hummingbird is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.
What I like about the Broad-tailed Hummingbird
The traditional red throat and green-backed appearance of this hummingbird are a fan favorite. However, it also works against it. I love this hummer's ability to survive the harsh Rocky Mountain climate, as well as its loud display sound made by its wings!
What I do not like about the Broad-tailed Hummingbird
The limited range of this hummingbird prevents much of the world from getting to enjoy it. It could also use a little rebranding to further distinguish itself from the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Also tied for fifth place is every other hummingbird known.
Spend some time learning how to identify female Broad-tailed and Rufous Hummingbirds!
#4 - Rufous Hummingbird
The Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) is the farthest migrating hummer in the world. They will migrate from southern Alaska to southern Mexico each year, taking two different routes, up the Pacific coast in spring and down the Rockies in the fall. If you struggle to identify the immature and female birds of this species, check out our guide linked above in the Broad-tailed profile!
Population Status of the Rufous Hummingbird
The population of the Rufous Hummingbird is approximately 22 million birds for the globe. Populations in most regions are experiencing significant to more subtle declines. The Rufous Hummingbird is listed as Near-Threatened by the IUCN Red List.
What I like about the Rufous Hummingbird
The rufous body combined with the orangeish-red gorget make this stunner stand out at the feeder scrums seen across the west and gulf states. Oh, and these little birds are fearless butt-kickers. I have heard stories of Rufous Hummingbirds chasing grizzlies away from bird feeders. How can you deny this tough flocking bird?
What I do not like about the Rufous Hummingbird
Seriously, can they not let ANY other birds visit the feeder? I just want to see one or two more bir…. Nope. Chased away again. Talk about a bully.
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#3 - Lucifer Hummingbird
The Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer) is a rare hummingbird in the mountains of the desert southwest, from Texas to Arizona. The US population is minuscule, as the majority of this bird's range lies within Mexico! It is identified by its combination of size, extreme decurved bill, and extensive purple gorget!
Population Status of the Lucifer Hummingbird
The Lucifer Hummingbird has a population of approximately 200,000 individuals in the world, though numbers in the US are likely less than 5,000 birds. Much more study is needed on this species, but populations appear to be stable. They are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.
What I like about the Lucifer Hummingbird
This. Bird. Is. Stunning. Their range is limited north of the Mexico border, but they are absolute gems of the agave-rich plateaus and shrublands. Their love of agave, survival in harsh, arid environments, and vibrantly purple gorget are three big factors for their place on this list. The females are also quite stunning, which helps their placement on this list. The scientific name of this hummer translates to “beautiful light-bearer.”
What I do not like about the Lucifer Hummingbird
Look, Lucifer does mean “light-bringer,” but what is it most known for? Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of naming such a stunning bird after the master of disaster, the prince of darkness, and the chief deceiver itself. Why not just name it Angelic Hummingbird or Prismatic Hummingbird instead? C’mon man.
Take your own hummer photos with the Sony RX10 IV!
#2 - Broad-billed Hummingbird
The Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris) is a commonly sighted hummer at feeders throughout southern Arizona. This species was likely rare in the US before feeders became commonplace throughout the sky islands of Arizona. While the range is still limited in the US for this species, it may continue to expand northward due to feeder assistance.
Population Status of the Broad-billed Hummingbird
The Broad-billed Hummingbird has a population of approximately 2,200,000 birds globally, with a US population of fewer than 250,000 birds. The population is likely stable, and this species is listed at Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.
What I like about the Broad-billed Hummingbird
This hummingbird (the males) is almost completely blue!? Vibrant blue and green, with a red bill, makes for a stunning bird. This may be one of the only hummingbirds regularly found north of Mexico that may use ‘lekking’ behavior as part of its courtship of females! Yes, you read that correctly. The males of this species gather together and perform, sing, and display together to attract females. This would be a dance troupe I would willingly watch.
What I do not like about the Broad-billed Hummingbird
While I LOVE this look, this plumage seems to be trying a little too hard. Ya know? No. You don’t. Because that is a nothing statement. I just love the next bird more!
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#1 - Calliope Hummingbird
Meet the Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope). The smallest, toughest, most dominant bird north of the Rio Grande. The Calliope Hummingbird is the first hummingbird to return to the Rockies in spring, thriving, even when temps drop and snows blow. Nothing can stop the Calliope Hummingbird. Except for maybe a really big spider. But really big spiders also seem capable of stopping full adult humans as well. So…
Population Status of the Calliope Hummingbird
The global population of the Calliope Hummingbird is approximately 4,500,000 birds, with all of those individuals occurring in the US and Canada. The Calliope Hummingbird has experienced population declines at the limits of its breeding range but is likely stable to increasing populations region-wide. This species is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.
What I like about the Calliope Hummingbird
The name, the look, the behavior, the sturdiness. This hummingbird has it all, and it is wrapped in the smallest package for birds in the US and Canada. The scientific name Selasphorus calliope translates roughly to the light-bearing, fine-voiced chief of ancient Greek mythology Muses. And ya know what? These birds are absolutely muses. And their gorgets, whew, they could ignite a dormant volcano.
What I do not like about the Calliope Hummingbird
More. I need more! I really wish I got more visits from Calliope Hummingbirds at my feeders.
Honorable Mention Hummingbirds
Yes, these birds were not officially listed in the top 5, but trust me, they are top 5 material.
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