Illinois isn’t home to many hummingbird species – in fact, four species of hummingbirds are purely accidental.
This means that they’ve been spotted two times or less in the last ten years, as they don’t nest in the Prairie State, but only migrate through it.
Let’s take a look at the 6 hummingbirds in Illinois, and their nesting and feeding habits to properly understand why there are so few of them in Illinois.
- Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
- Mexican Violetear (Accidental)
- Rufous Hummingbirds
- Anna’s Hummingbirds (Accidental)
- Allen’s Hummingbirds (Accidental)
- Broad-billed Hummingbirds (Accidental)
Note: The hummingbirds are ranked in no particular order.
1. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
These hummingbirds are some of the most common species in the eastern half of the United States – they’re one of the few species that often occur in Florida and Georgia.
Rarely growing larger than 3.5 inches, male ruby-throated hummingbirds have a red-colored throat on top of the black head. Their wings and back are also black, while a combination of white, gray, and metallic green appears on the back as well.
These solitary birds usually live alone and only become social when it’s time to mate. They migrate every spring, crossing more than 500 miles at once. In the wild, they feed on flower nectar and they can be attracted to bird feeders filled with it.
Flowers that attract hummingbirds in Illinois are usually red, orange, and pink in color.
2. Mexican Violetear
Scientific name: Colibri thalassinus
Although the natural habitat of these hummingbirds is restricted to southern Mexico and parts of Nicaragua, it regularly migrates northwards. It has been spotted in Illinois, albeit rarely, and they’re known to migrate as far up north as Canada.
Just like ruby-throated hummingbirds, they feed on nectar, but they’ll eat insects too if available. It’s still unknown why they migrate this much, especially when considering that the United States and Canada are much colder than Mexico.
3. Rufous Hummingbirds
Scientific name: Selasphorus rufus
Another species found in Illinois on a permanent basis, rufous hummingbirds are usually smaller than ruby-throated hummingbirds, only growing up to 3.1 inches.
Males of these common hummingbirds in Illinois have characteristically rufous-colored heads. Their chests are white, while the back and wings are a combination of black and light orange.
Females are almost identical to Allen’s hummingbirds, which are described below. Although they’re often found in Illinois, they spend the winter in Mexico, traveling up to 2000 miles. In extreme cases, it can travel from Alaska to Mexico, which is almost 4000 miles.
4. Anna’s Hummingbirds
Scientific name: Calypte anna
Just like Mexican violetears, these birds aren’t native to Illinois. They’re found on the West Coast, in an area ranging from northwestern Mexico to eastern Canada.
Because of their wide migration range, they often wander off to states further east, including Illinois.
The belly and chest of this bird are gray, while the back can be black or bronze-green with an iridescent glow.
Males’ heads are magenta-colored with an iridescent glow. While female heads don the same color and glow, they’re noticeably smaller and attract less attention.
Anna’s hummingbirds feed both on nectar and on insects. In fact, they don’t have a preference for nectar, unlike most hummingbirds. They can be drawn to bird feeders if filled with bugs.
5. Allen’s Hummingbirds
Scientific name: Selasphorus sasin
While they’re still young, Allen’s hummingbirds are identical to female rufous hummingbirds. Both species have green backs, especially the females, which lack the orange-red combination that the males have.
Male Allen’s hummingbirds have that color on their flanks, rump, and tail.
A migratory species, Allen’s hummingbirds usually breed on the West Coast, but they’re known to winter in Mexico. Just like other hummingbirds, they often wander far away and their flying habits are not entirely understood.
Interestingly, Allen’s hummingbirds are extremely aggressive when it comes to territory. They’re capable of chasing hawks, predatory birds that are several times larger, hunting and feeding on other (larger) birds, away from their grounds.
6. Broad-billed Hummingbirds
Scientific name: Cynanthus latirostris
Generally found in Mexico and parts of southwestern United States, these hummingbirds are highly migratory and they’ve been spotted in Illinois, as well as the East Coast.
They’re known to approach nectar-filled bird feeders and aren’t difficult to attract to the yard. They also feed on insects, mostly catching them mid-flight.
When it comes to plants, they mostly feed on agaves, milkweed, desert honeysuckle, desert willows, fireweed, and the Texas betony.
Aside from the ruby-throated hummingbirds and rufous hummingbirds, hummingbirds only pass through Illinois from time to time. Western and southern climates suit them much better, so only two species make Illinois their home throughout the entire year.
Illinois Hummingbirds can easily be told apart and most of them can be attracted by nectar-filled bird feeders, as they don’t have a developed fear of humans.