Hummingbirds in South Carolina (Pictures and Facts)

When most people think about South Carolina, it’s usually Myrtle Beach or one of the state’s other beautiful beaches they have in mind. Did you know that South Carolina is actually a vast US state full of all kinds of habitats?

You can find forests, mountains, meadows, and fields full of wildflowers.  All these natural areas mean that South Carolina has a booming bird population, but not just gulls and herons!

You’ll also find many hummingbird species in South Carolina.

There are 7 distinct hummingbird species in South Carolina: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, and the Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

With such a wide variety of hummingbirds, it might be hard to decipher which kind you’re seeing when you spot one! Some hummingbirds are native to South Carolina, while others are just visitors. 

In this post, we’ll give you a brief overview of the hummingbirds of South Carolina!

Hummingbirds in South Carolina 

To help you better identify the hummingbirds in South Carolina, we’ve listed the size, diet, and where to spot each species, as well as a quick biography of these nectar-loving jewels of the sky. 

Hummingbirds Native to South Carolina 

Only 2 hummingbirds are native to South Carolina; the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the Rufous Hummingbird. This means these hummingbirds are easier to find, and more likely to stay in South Carolina for longer periods of time. 

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Close up shot of a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting on a branch with a tan background.
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Size: 3 – 3.5 inches
  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Diet: Nectar and tiny insects 
  • Where To Spot A Ruby-Throated Hummingbird: Wherever possible, they will choose flowers with lots of nectar. Additionally, these hummingbirds frequently stop by hummingbird nectar feeders at residences.

When most people think about hummingbirds, it’s probably the Ruby-throated Hummingbird that comes to mind.

This is because the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most common type of hummingbird in South Carolina AND the United States in North America! 

Female and Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in flight with a colorful background.
Female and Male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

With shimmering green feathers, a ruby throat, and a white collar, the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird is easy to identify. Females look similar, but a little duller, and without the red throat. 

Despite being the most common, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird does migrate. They arrive in May and depart in September for the winter, with the males leaving the state of South Carolina first. 

Rufous Hummingbird

Male Rufous Hummingbird in flight with feet readily visible, against a smooth green background.
Male Rufous Hummingbird
  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Size: 2.8-3.5 inches
  • Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Diet: Tiny insects and nectar
  • Where To Spot A Ruby-Throated Hummingbird: This bird favors breeding in open areas like clearings and the edges of woodlands. They occasionally appear at hummingbird feeders.

If you’re looking for a sweet hummingbird to frequent your feeder, and you spot one of the lovely Rufous Hummingbirds, we have bad news for you.

This hummingbird might be small, but it is ferocious when it comes to feeding territory, and will drive other hummingbird species off when given the chance. 

A female Rufous Hummingbird hovering in flight on blue gray background.
Female Rufous Hummingbird

The rusty-colored Rufous Hummingbird has a shimmery, burnt orange throat in the males of the species. Females are closer to brown than rust color, and they don’t have a shimmering throat.

Like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, the Rufous Hummingbird also migrates during the cold winter, arriving in mid-May and leaving in September. 

Hummingbirds Not Native to South Carolina

Next on our list, we have the non-native hummingbirds of South Carolina. Some of these species are exceedingly rare in the state, so if you see one, make sure to have the camera ready!

Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

A male Broad-tailed Hummingbird on a curving perch.
Male Broad-tailed Hummingbird
  • Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Size: 3-4 inches
  • Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Diet: Insects, floral nectar, and hummingbird feeders’ sugar water.
  • Where To Spot A Broad-Tailed Hummingbird: Higher elevations in open areas.

If you think you see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but it ‘zings when it goes by, it’s possible you’ve spotted a Broad-tailed Hummingbird!

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird is a gorgeous emerald green color with a ruby red throat. The male and female both have a rusty patch on their tails, and they often lack the white collar that the Ruby-throated Hummingbird has. 

A female Broad-tailed Hummingbird mother and her chick gazing at each other during feeding time, while sitting on the edge of their little nest.
Female Broad-tailed Hummingbird and chick

You can identify the female Broad-tailed Hummingbird easily, too, because they have a rusty sheen to their green and gray plumage. 

Blue-throated Mountain-Gem Hummingbird

Blue-throated Mountain-Gem Hummingbird on a u-shaped branch.
Male Blue-throated Mountain-Gem Hummingbird
  • Blue-throated Mountain-Gem Hummingbird Size: 4.3-5.5 inches
  • Blue-throated Mountain-Gem Hummingbird Diet: Although they frequently visit hummingbird nectar feeders, they prefer vibrantly colored flowers.
  • Where To Spot A Blue-throated Mountain-Gem Hummingbird: In the shadow of mountains, close to flowing rivers.

Next on our non-native list is the summery Blue-throated Mountain-Gem Hummingbird. These hummingbirds are rare for all in the United States. 

Blue-throated Mountain-Gem Hummingbirds are the largest breeding hummingbirds in the US.

The underside of the lovely green upper plumage fades to a green-gray color. The Blue-throated Hummingbird features blackish cheek patches, white stripes behind the eyes, and a narrower stripe that extends backward from the corner of its relatively short bill.

The striking blue throat of the male stands out against its green-gray coloring. Females and juvenile Blue-throated Mountain Gems lack the beautiful blue throat.

You’ll find this hummingbird in Central America and Mexico during the winter months.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Buff-bellied Hummingbird flying against a yellowish-green background.
Male Buff-bellied Hummingbird
  • Buff-bellied Hummingbird Size: 3.9-4.3 inches
  • Buff-bellied Hummingbird Diet: Most commonly, nectar and insects.
  • Where To Spot A Buff-bellied Hummingbird: Thickets and dense woodlands.

When we say ‘buff’ about this little hummingbird, we aren’t saying they’re muscular! Buff refers to the light brown or yellow-brown color of their chests and bellies!

The male Buff-bellied Humming’s neck is a metallic golden green color, changing to a more olive tone towards the back and wings.

A Buff-bellied Hummingbird perched on a small branch.
Buff-bellied Hummingbird

As the name suggests, the chest and belly are buff in color. Females are similar, without the metallic neck. 

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Black-Chinned Hummingbird male with purple throat aglow while hovering in flight.
Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird
  • Black-Chinned Hummingbird Size: 3 – 3.5 inches
  • Black-Chinned Hummingbird Diet: Mostly nectar and tiny insects 
  • Where To Spot A Black-Chinned Hummingbird: Black-chinned hummingbirds enjoy hummingbird feeders, but they can also be seen on the limbs of dead trees.

The Black-chinned Hummingbird leaves Mexico and comes to the United States as soon as the flowers begin to bloom.

The male has a collar of whitish feathers below his black, shimmering throat with a violet edge. Their head will appear completely black unless the sunlight hits them at just the right angle. The rest of the body is shimmering green. 

Female Black-chinned Hummingbird in flight.
Female Black-chinned Hummingbird

Females of the species are paler, with speckled throats instead of solid-colored ones.

Their heads are not black, making the Black-chinned hummingbird a species that varies vastly in color depending on sex. This gendered color differentiation is known as sexual dimorphism. 

Calliope Hummingbird

Male Calliope Hummingbird in flight with red rays on throat.
Male Calliope Hummingbird
  • Calliope Hummingbird Size: 3 inches
  • Calliope Hummingbird Diet: Flower nectar and small insects like beetles and flies. 
  • Where To Spot A Calliope Hummingbird: These hummingbirds love tall grass and areas of high altitude. 

Here’s a fun fact: the colorful area of a hummingbird’s throat is also known as a gorget! The gorget of the Calliope Hummingbird, with its beautiful magenta rays, is one of the most striking. 

Female Calliope Hummingbird, highly detailed flight image, with wings extended and natural green background.
Female Calliope Hummingbird

The gorget on the male Calliope Hummingbird is covered in thick magenta rays. This coloration is absent in females, but they do have white underparts with a little rust-colored wash on the flanks and brilliant green wings. 

Attracting Hummingbirds To Your Yard

If you want to attract hummingbirds to your yard, feeding hummingbirds is a great way to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures!

Consider hanging a hummingbird feeder that contains sugar water. Use four parts water to one part sugar. Be sure to change the water every few days and to clean the feeder regularly.

Additionally, using a bright/red hummingbird feeder or other brightly colored objects near the hummingbird feeder will help attract hummers as they are attracted to bright colors.

Final Thoughts on Hummingbirds in South Carolina

South Carolina hummingbirds are incredibly diverse, both in appearance and habitat! Knowing which species are native to the area and which ones are just passing through on their annual migration can help you better appreciate these amazing little creatures.

Be sure to keep an eye out for these tiny feathered friends the next time you’re outdoors and you may catch them in their frenzied flight!

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