Hummingbirds in Connecticut: Common and Rare

Introduction: Connecticut’s Hummingbird Haven

Every flutter and dance in the Connecticut sky hints at the magic of the hummingbird’s presence, a spectacle of speed and vibrant color. Come early spring through late summer, the air is particularly abuzz with the iridescent ruby-throated hummingbirds, the most common hummingbirds in Connecticut for the breeding season. These tiny birds, with their emerald backs glittering in the sun, are a common joyous sight among the tubular shape flowers and sugar water feeders of backyards.

While the ruby-throated hummingbirds reign over the summer months, the keen-eyed may also witness the rarity of other beautiful birds visiting species. Rufous hummingbirds, with their blazing orange feathers, the elusive and aptly named black-chinned hummingbird, or the delightful Calliope hummingbird, North America’s smallest breeding bird – all have been known to grace Connecticut with their accidental appearances. Each rare sighting is a treasure for those who watch the skies and gardens with hopeful anticipation.

For other birdwatching in Connecticut see our articles on backyard birds, owls, ducks, hawks, and woodpeckers.

Spotlight on the Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Scientific Name: Archilochus colubris   

The male ruby-throated hummingbird reigns supreme, brandishing its iridescent emerald green back and a fiercely crimson throat. Peer closely, and you’ll catch the less flamboyant female’s throat a modest white, darting among nectar feeders during the summer months. Admirably adapted to a diet of sugar water from tubular flowers and small insects, these tiny birds are ceaseless dynamos, energizing gardens and woodlands alike.

But as the breath of autumn whispers through the trees, a remarkable journey begins. Both male and female ruby-throated hummingbirds steel themselves for the daunting migration to their wintering grounds. The trek is a perilous odyssey, a solo flight of epic proportions directly across the Gulf of Mexico, where the luxury of rest is denied. This impressive endurance test is driven by sheer necessity. Yet, their return each year is a testament to resilience, reminding me of nature’s intricate rhythms and the fragile tenacity of the smallest breeding birds.

Call and Wingbeat

Attracting Hummingbirds

There’s a certain magic to drawing these vibrant flutters to your garden, and I’ve found the key lies in the sweet allure of sugar water, gently swaying in a nectar feeder. You’ll want to mimic the natural diet of these tiny birds, so mix one part sugar with four parts water and hang your feeders near a window for a mesmerizing show. For a touch of whimsy, infuse your yard with native plants flaunting tubular flowers, like the trumpet honeysuckle or the cardinal flower, their rich, jewel-toned blossoms a perfect fit for the slender beaks of male and female ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Beyond the blast of colors from bee balm and other purple flowers, remember to set up a bird bath where these feathered jewels can frolic and refresh themselves. And, as summer wanes into the cooler months, watch for the ruby throated hummingbird, busily fueling up at your nectar feeders before embarking on their epic journey to their wintering grounds. By creating this haven, you not only become an ally in their hummingbird migration but also secure a front-row seat to one of nature’s most enchanting spectacles right in your backyard.

Identifying the Rare Rufous and Black-chinned Hummingbirds

Other hummingbird species in Connecticut, although rare on the east coast, are the elusive Rufous Hummingbird ( Selasphorus rufus) and Black-chinned Hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri). The Rufous, with its fiery shades of orange and aggressive disposition, certainly doesn’t shy away from making its presence known. If you spot a small, feisty hummingbird fiercely defending a feeder well beyond the summer months, it’s likely a Rufous – a rare sight, given how their migration takes them a staggering distance from their traditional Pacific Northwest haunts.

On the other hand, the Black-chinned Hummingbird (distinguishable by the mature male’s namesake black chin and shimmering purple collar) is more of an accidental visitor, usually signaling they’ve been blown off course during their migration. We’re talking about exceptionally tiny birds here, and yet their resilience is astounding. To catch a glimpse of these accidental species, attune yourself to their distinct feeding times during winter months, just after dawn or before dusk when they buzz around tubular flowers or nectar feeders snatching up sugar water with unmatched eagerness.

Spotting tip: Keep an eye out for trumpet honeysuckle or bee balm. These plants with tubular flowers are like magnets for these tiny travelers, and you just might get lucky enough to see one of these rarities halt in its journey, even if just for a thrilling instant.

Call and Wingbeat Rufous Hummingbird

Call and Wingbeat Black-chinned Hummingbird

The Calliope Hummingbird: Connecticut’s Rarest Visitor 

Imagine the thrill when amidst a quiet, crisp fall morning, a bird no larger than a ping pong ball bestows upon your garden the grace of its presence—witnessing the smallest bird Calliope Hummingbird in Connecticut is nothing short of enchanting. One of the smallest breeding birds in North America, these tiny avian creatures possess a distinctive white-throat with streaks of magenta radiating from their petite frames, setting them apart from their more commonly spotted cousins. The Male Calliope Hummingbirds, known for their vibrant streaks, perform an impressive U-shaped dive during courtship, an aerial spectacle that’s as mesmerizing as it is rare.

Spotting a Calliope here is akin to finding hidden treasure; these accidental species are like ephemeral jewels against Connecticut’s autumnal tapestry. Fall migration ushers in a sliver of a chance to observe these beauties. Prepare your binoculars and keep a vigilant eye towards the sky as they may just grace you with a fleeting visit. Remember, these moments are fleeting, so cherish the surprise, and share the wonder with fellow bird watchers—a collective gasp, an exchange of rapturous grins, it’s the birding community at its best.

call and wingbeat

Creating a Hummingbird-friendly Environment

Turn your flower gardens into a bustling hub for Connecticut’s tiniest aviators, by creating environments where hummingbirds thrive. Offering a smorgasbord of nectar-rich flowers like trumpet honeysuckle and cardinal flower, I transform my backyard into an all-you-can-eat buffet for these feathered jewels. It’s not just about the bee balm and purple flowers that dot my landscape; ensuring a steady supply of sugar water in clean nectar feeders is critical too.

A shallow bird bath with just the right amount of water allows these birds to bathe and preen, vital for their feather care. And let’s not forget about the small insects; these protein snacks are a must-have for female ruby-throated hummingbirds nurturing their young.

But the accommodations go beyond just food and bath time. Providing shelter from the elements and safe havens from predators is akin to rolling out the welcome mat for these winged wonders. Tuck a few nest-friendly spaces amid the foliage and you can be rewarded with the hum of wings and the sight of adult males flaunting their ruby throats to impress their mates. Seeing the smallest breeding birds flit and feed brings a profound sense of joy and connection to nature’s marvels.

Feathers, Flowers, and Farewells

In conclusion, the enchanting world of hummingbirds adds a touch of magic to the picturesque landscapes of Connecticut. These tiny, vibrant creatures bring joy to our gardens and remind us of the delicate balance of nature. As we marvel at their aerial acrobatics and iridescent plumage, let us also appreciate the efforts to create a hospitable environment for them. By planting native flowers, providing sugar water feeders, and being mindful of pesticide use, we can ensure that these charismatic birds continue to grace our state with their presence. So, as you sip your morning coffee on the porch or stroll through a local park, take a moment to look up and appreciate the delicate dance of hummingbirds – nature’s aerial wonders right here in Connecticut.

Check with the National Audubon Society for birdwatching in your area and the Audubon Connecticut to see what types of hummingbirds are on the checklists for a particular time of year

To those who’ve shared in this spectacle, who’ve dedicated corners of their yards to tubular flowers and eagerly awaited the summer months, I urge you to keep the welcome mat out. May we each find fulfillment in the role of steward to these winged wanderers, ensuring their safe passage, wintering grounds, and return to Connecticut’s skies.

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