Calling all Prairie State birdwatchers! Make ready your nectar feeders, enticing the fascinating types of hummingbirds in Illinois.
While no breeds are year-round residents, two always visit seasonally, nesting in flowery meadows and woodlands. Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for the other types, known to make guest appearances.
You’ll recognize all these charmers by the hum of their fluttering wings while feeding. Meanwhile, you’ll hear their high-pitched tweets, as though saying, “This nectar is fantastic!”
Here you’ll learn the telltale colors, markings, and traits of these glimmering beauties.
1. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Each year, ruby-throated “hummers” migrate during April and May, flocking to Illinois from their wintering grounds in Central America.
The birds’ lengthy flight pattern follows the Gulf of Mexico coast, covering 1,300 miles. En route, they zoom up to 63 miles per hour!
Such high speeds are extraordinary given their tiny size of 3 inches long.
- Male – His neck plumage, called a “gorget,” is a dazzling crimson. Equally striking are his glossy teal back feathers, ending in a sharply forked tail.
- Female – She has a white throat, dull aqua back, and white-tipped, rounded tail feathers.
The term “gorget” comes from the metallic neck gear of soldiers in the 1700s.
Awesome Facts – Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
After mating, a ruby-throated mama works busily to fashion her nest, taking up to 10 days to complete. In the process, she gathers plant fibers and grasses, weaving them together with spider webs.
The result is a soft, thimble-sized cradle for her two pearly eggs.
2. Rufous Hummingbird
This bold species is one of the primary hummingbirds in Chicago. Unlike many hummers, Rufous types can take nippy winters.
Moreover, the Rufous is feisty, going after larger birds venturing near its favorite nectar sources. So, if you see bullying antics at your feeder, Rufous could well be the perpetrator.
- Male – He sports a blazing orange gorget, fronting a white chest and fawn-colored belly. Chocolate brown wings frame his russet back feathers.
- Female – Traces of turquoise highlight her gray back plumage. Also, look for a black-spotted throat with a glinting patch of red, seen in this thrilling video.
Awesome Facts – Rufous Hummingbird
Of all the hummingbirds in northern Illinois, Rufous types have the longest trek. After breeding in Alaska, they overwinter in Mexico, flying 2,000 miles to get there.
Meanwhile, their wings work tirelessly, flapping 60 times per second on average!
3. Allen’s Hummingbird
This species only reproduces in the coastal brush of California and Oregon. Sadly, with such a limited breeding range, its numbers are declining.
For this reason, Allen’s hummingbird is on the Yellow Watch List for birds at risk of extinction.
You can help to perpetuate the species by planting its favorite nectar sources. Winning picks are currant, eucalyptus, sage, columbine, gooseberry, and honeysuckle.
Then, supplement these sweet-blooming plants with your feeders, keeping them well-filled.
- Male – A pumpkin orange gorget flares at his throat, abutting a beige belly. A glistening cape of green enhances his brown back feathers.
- Female – Traces of aqua highlight her back, and her white throat has brown stippling.
Rufous and Allen’s males look quite similar. One way to distinguish them is by the gorget, broader on Allen’s hummingbird.
Next, note the color of the back plumage on your sighted bird. It will be green on Allen’s and copper on the Rufous.
Awesome Facts – Allen’s Hummingbird
Every male has a distinct territory from which he calls to the ladies, luring them. He will only court females within his domain.
Allen’s dating display begins by zooming past a gal repeatedly. Next, from a lofty altitude, he zips down in J-shaped dives, ending with a shrill wine from his tail.
4. Broad-billed Hummingbird
Birdwatchers treasure this green hummingbird Illinois for its breathtaking beauty! Moreover, the broad-billed type is mild-mannered.
Sightings occur from July through December, each one enthralling.
- Male – He wears a scintillating turquoise cap and matching back plumage. In the front, his bright purple gorget and blue-green belly sparkle in the sunlight.
- Female – A dusting of teal paints her breast and back, and each eye has a white border. In flight, you may glimpse her cobalt inner tail feathers.
Awesome Facts – Broad-Billed Hummingbird
Like other male hummers, this showy species has a riveting courting ritual. After hovering near his chosen gal, he flies back and forth in arcing sweeps, like a pendulum.
Meanwhile, the guy sings to her in thrumming notes, ending in sweet chittering. Here’s a recording of his tender lyrical song.
To attract broad-billed hummingbirds, plant flowers with exquisite nectar. Topping the list are red begonias, purple foxglove, pink fuchsia, and cardinal flowers.
5. Black-chinned Hummingbird
Due to climatic changes, black-chinned hummers are expanding into Illinois! Generally, sightings occur from March through May and August to September.
Then, during fall, the birds head to warmer regions, such as Mexico, southern California, and Texas.
- Male – A violet, jewel-like collar glimmers at his neck. In bright contrast, his white chest leads to a soft gray belly and turquoise back.
- Female – She models a white throat and light teal back feathers, edged in pale yellow. White tips define her tail.
Is birdwatching a new hobby? If so, you may wonder why female birds are less colorful than males. It’s nature’s way of protecting them from predators, especially while nesting and raising their young.
Awesome Facts – Black-Chinned Hummingbird
To court a lady black-chinned, a male zips past her repeatedly in a U-shaped pattern. Here you can see a male in action and the mesmerizing effect on his chosen gal.
A mama’s nest expands with the growth of her babies. As the chicks develop, the spider silk stretches, making room for them.
See this post for more on the sweet stages of baby hummingbirds.
6. Anna’s Hummingbird
This species is quite talkative, conversing in scratchy “chipping” sounds. The male has a jazzy courtship song – buzzing notes, then a high-pitched squeak, recorded here.
Next, a guy engages a gal by soaring into the air, zooming to the ground, and whistling at her with his tail feathers. This short video explains how hummingbirds chirp with their tails.
Unlike other hummingbirds, Anna’s holds its tail steady while hovering.
- Male – Glossy pink feathers clothe his gorget and entire head! Brown wings outline his shimmering turquoise back.
- Female – Look for her pink-speckled throat and a streak of teal back feathers. Meanwhile, her gray and sapphire tail is tipped in white.
Awesome Facts – Anna’s Hummingbird
Males with protein-rich diets have the most colorful heads and reflective gorgets.
When a mama creates her nest, she sits in the middle, building it around her. For materials, she gathers thistle, willow, and cattail fibers, securing them with spider silk.
After giving birth, the mom labors to feed her babies, capturing up to 2,000 tiny bugs a day.
How Anna’s Hummingbirds Brave Winter
Like the Rufous breed, Anna’s can take the Illinois cold.
These birds are adept at managing chilly climates. One way is by slowing their metabolism during sleep, conserving energy.
As they nod off, their core temperature plunges, triggering a hibernating state called “torpor.” Here are other ways the birds stay warm in frosty weather.
You can help this species thrive with a steady supply of sugar water. Still, cold temperatures change the mixture to ice.
Here’s how to keep your homemade nectar from freezing.
Signs of Bullying at Nectar Feeders
Do you ever see hummingbirds guarding your feeders, threatening other hungry birds as they approach? For instance, a menacing male may:
- flare his gorget, making it look bolder and brighter
- scold with loud, rapid-fire chittering
- point his beak at birds seen as rivals
- block other hummers, then dive at them from above
- charge and chase fellow visitors until they retreat
Curbing Hummingbird Agitation
Thankfully, you can promote backyard harmony. Here are a few ways to stop a bullying hummingbird.
- Space several feeders widely apart, out of view from each other.
- Provide more nectar sources with the flowers featured here.
- Prune branches from which male hummingbirds survey their territory.
- Or place a dispenser near a male’s perching spot. In turn, he may claim that feeder exclusively, leaving other devices alone.
Is there a hummer you can’t seem to mollify? If so, look for a life-threatening cause of their commotion. Examples are a nearby cat or hummingbird predator, such as a praying mantis, described here.
Hummingbird Season in Illinois
Some species arrive in the Prairie State in March. Others wait until May, when flower nectar is plentiful.
So, when do hummingbirds leave Illinois?
Most types depart in the fall. In the Chicago area, hummingbirds are scarce by the second week of October.
Still, as mentioned, Rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds can endure cold weather. Thus, you may still see these types on frosty days.
What a delightful sight in a winter landscape!