Male vs Female Hummingbird: What’s The Difference?

male vs female hummingbird

If you have hummingbirds feeders in your yard, you probably delight in watching these interesting little birds that come and visit your feeders. But, have you ever wondered how to tell the difference between a male and a female hummingbird?

In most cases, it’s really easy to tell whether you’re looking at a male or a female hummingbird simply by looking at the color of their feathers. You see, male hummingbirds are usually brightly colored while females tend to have only brown or green feathers. But, also understand that juvenile male birds will not have the bright colored feather until they reach maturity.

Male birds also have what is called a gorget. This is a patch of brightly-colored feathers on their necks. These usually shimmer and glisten in the sunlight.

To help you further with identifying male hummingbirds from the females of the species, let’s look at some of the more common species found all around America.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Male Anna’s Hummingbird Female Anna’s Hummingbird
Males have an iridescent pink or red throat and head with green and gray or brown chest feathers. Females have a gray throat, dull green back feathers and a grayish or brown chest.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Males have an iridescent red or orange gorget, dark green iridescent back feathers and a white chest and brown belly. Females have brown and white feathers on their throats, back and belly with speckles of green. They also have a white chest. The green feathers on their back are also duller than those on the male bird.

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird Female Black-Chinned Hummingbird
It’s easy to distinguish the male black-chinned hummingbird with its iridescent purple gorget. He also has brighter-colored feathers on his back in green, and black feathers on his head. The female bird is quite dull in color compared to the male. She is generally gray and white all over but has white tips on her tail feathers.

Rufous Hummingbird

Male Rufous Hummingbird Female Rufous Hummingbird
Male Rufous hummingbirds have an iridescent red throat. Their back and belly feathers are orange and they have a white patch on their chest just below the throat. Female Rufous hummingbirds are more muted in color. They have greenish-brown feathers on their back and head. Their chest and belly is white and bordered with rust-colored feathers.

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Male Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Female Broad-Tailed Hummingbird
It’s easy to identify a male broad-tailed hummingbird by his iridescent purple throat. The rest of his coloring is similar to the female. The female bird lacks the brightly-colored throat as hers is mainly white with spots of green or brown.

Costa’s Hummingbird

Male Costa’s Hummingbird Female Costa’s Hummingbird
You can distinguish the male Costa’s hummingbird by his iridescent purple throat. He also has specks of purple feathers on his head. In addition, he has more green feathers on his belly than the female. The female bird has a grayish-white throat, chest and belly. Both birds have green feathers on their backs.

Calliope Hummingbird

Male Calliope Hummingbird Female Calliope Hummingbird
The male Calliope hummingbird can be distinguished by his iridescent purple or magenta gorget or throat. He also has glossy green feathers on his head and back, and a dark-colored tail The female of the species doesn’t have the bright coloring on the throat. Rather, she has a whitish throat, chest and belly that is tinged with a muted pink. Her green back feathers are also much duller than those of the male.

Allen’s Hummingbird

Male Allen’s Hummingbird Female Allen’s Hummingbird
The male Allen’s hummingbird is far more colorful than the female. He has a bright orange throat and iridescent green feathers on his back. His chest is white while his underside is mainly rust colored. The female bird is mainly white and gray but she has a spattering of yellowish-green feathers on the edges of her underside.

Broad-Billed Hummingbird

Male Broad-Billed Hummingbird Female Broad-Billed Hummingbird
The male broad-billed hummingbird is quite colorful. He has a blue gorget and a blend of iridescent blue, green and yellow feathers on his chest, belly, head and back. He also has a bright red beak with a black tip. Compared to the male bird, the female is much duller. She has a blend of dull green, brown and white feathers on her head, throat, chest and belly. She also has a black beak.

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird

Male Buff-Bellied Hummingbird Female Buff-Bellied Hummingbird
The male of this species has a lovely iridescent green throat and head. His chest and belly is a lovely rust color. The female has the same rust-colored chest and belly but she has a muted throat and head in colors of brown, white and gray.

Why Are Male Hummingbirds More Colorful Than Females?

The theory, according to Charles Darwin, is that the bright colors help the male birds to attract females more easily. It’s believed that bright colors indicate the vitality and health of the male bird to any prospective female birds.

Another theory states that because females are the sole carers of their young, their muted colors help them to blend in with their environment. This makes them less susceptible to attacks from predators.

So, to recap, here are the main color differences between male and female hummingbirds:

  • Male hummers always have a brightly-colored throat or gorget while females have white throats. In fact, if you look at a male’s throat in sunlight, it will often shimmer brightly.
  • The male of the species also have brightly-colored back feathers that seem to possess a metallic sheen. On the other hand, female birds are much duller and do not have the sheen on their feathers.
  • There’s also a difference in the tail feathers of male and female hummingbirds. Generally, males will have plain colored feathers on their tails while females will have white spots on the tips of their tail feathers.

Other Notable Differences Between Male and Female Hummingbirds

Apart from their obvious differences in color, male and female hummingbirds also have other differences. These include size, mating behaviour and nesting, as well as general behaviour.


In most instances, female hummingbirds are larger than their male counterparts. To give you an example, females weight around 2.8 to 4.5 grams while males will weigh around 2.4 and 3.6 grams.

The reason for the difference in size is because females are the ones who lay eggs and sit on the nest to brood. For this reason, they need to have slighter larger bodies so that they can adequately cover the eggs to keep them warm.

Mating and Nesting

During mating season, it’s quite easy to tell male and female birds apart. The male is the one that puts an on amazing aerobatic display in order to entice a nearby female to mate with him. Sometimes, the female will join in with this mid-air dance. This is a clear indication that she has been impressed by his behavior.

When it comes to building a nest and raising the young, it’s all done by the female bird. Hummingbirds do not mate for life and once the mating ritual is complete, the male bird will fly off to find another female to mate with.

On the other hand, the female bird will build the nest, lay the eggs and tend to the young until they’re ready to venture out on their own. Many female birds will even chase males away from their nesting area. This is to protect their young from predators who might be attracted by the bright colors of the male bird.

General Behaviour

You’ll find that male hummingbirds will be far more aggressive than their female counterparts. This is because they need to defend their territory and attract suitable females to mate with.

Quite often too, males will be more vocal than females. However, during nesting season, female birds will often emit different sounds such as chirps and trills in order to chase away possible predators.

Male birds also tend to create louder humming sounds with their wings than female birds. In fact, when male birds are trying to attract a female, they’ll flap their wings as fast as they can in order to produce the loudest sound.

Females are, of course, also capable of making that same humming sound. However, most times they prefer to sit and watch the performance from the male birds.

When it comes to migrating, it’s usually the males that will start the journey before the female birds. On the reverse trip, male birds will arrive at the breeding ground some time before the females. They do this so that they can establish their territory and then wait for the female birds to arrive.

Final Thoughts

Most times, it’s not that difficult to differentiate male hummingbirds from the females of the species. The first important characteristic to consider is the color of the feathers. In all species of hummingbirds, the males will be far more colorful than the females.

Additionally, there are minor differences in size and general behavior that can alert you as to whether you’re looking at a male or a female humming bird.

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