Best time to travel to California

Hummingbirds in California

A plentitude of rare treats await the avid birdwatchers in both Southern and Northern California

Best time: March–September

Anna's Hummingbird at San Francisco Bay Area

California is one of the best places across the US to watch the world's smallest bird with tiny wings flapping at an incredible rate. Some hummers stay here year-round, while others come from afar to nest or just migrate across the state for more convenient climates. If you're chasing these beautiful creatures, your best bet is between March and September, when the local population is replenished with the migratory hummers. Even so, the first migrants might arrive in Southern California as early as January or February, and they typically stay until October.

Types of hummingbirds in California

There are over 360 species of hummingbirds existing in various places world-wide, and 14 of them are found in California. Still, only eight types can become your frequent sighting within the Golden State. These include the resident Anna's, Allen's, and Calliope hummingbirds, and also the migratory Black-chinned, Rufous, Costas, Violet-crowned, and Green-violetears hummingbirds.

Southern California hummingbirds

Southern California is especially abundant in native Costa's hummingbirds (Calypte costae) and Calliope (Selasphorus calliope) hummingbirds. Yet, being native to So Cal, some Calliope hummers still prefer to winter in Mexico and breed in the Rocky Mountains. This fact makes them the world's smallest long-distant migrant bird. Other migrant hummingbird species commonly spotted in Southern California is the Green-violetears or Mexican-violetears (Colibri thalassinus) hummingbird. As a bonus, here you might catch a glimpse of Xantus's Hummingbirds (Basilinna xantusii), a rare vagrant from Baja California.

Hummingbirds in Northern California

As for Northern California, its most widespread species must be Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna). You are particularly likely to see females and their chicks during the nesting season. The native Allen's hummingbirds (Selasphorus sasin), both males and females, also favor local weather conditions and prefer nesting in the gardens. But outside of the nesting season, they are not particularly social and often fight for their feeding territories. Besides the resident hummers, Nothern California shelters the migrant Black-chinned hummingbirds (Archilochus alexandri), which usually arrive in April.

Where to see hummingbirds in California

The most popular locations, especially for the resident hummingbirds, include Cabrillo National Monument, the University of California Arboretum Botanic Garden, and the San Francisco Bay Area. But these tiny fellows can also be encountered practically everywhere across the state, including your backyard. All you have to do to lure some hummers to your place is plant the right flowers or put out the feeders with sugary water.

Practical info

What is the best time to see hummingbirds in California?

Hummingbirds in California are best observed from March to September, although some arrive earlier in Southern California. The local hummingbird population is replenished with migratory hummers during this time. Show more

What are some popular locations in California to watch hummingbirds?

Cabrillo National Monument, the University of California Arboretum Botanic Garden, and the San Francisco Bay Area are among the popular California locations to watch hummingbirds. However, hummingbirds can be found almost anywhere in California, including your backyard. Show more

How many types of hummingbirds can be found in California?

There are a total of 14 hummingbird species found in California of which eight species are commonly seen. These include Rufous, Costas, Black-chinned, Violet-crowned, and Green-violetears hummingbirds, in addition to the resident Anna's, Allen's, and Calliope hummingbirds. Show more

Which hummingbird species is unique to Northern California?

Anna's hummingbird is the most commonly found species in Northern California. During nesting season, chicks and female birds are often spotted. Allen's hummingbirds favor garden nesting locations and battle for feeding territories. Black-chinned hummingbirds arrive in April during migration season. Show more

How can one attract hummingbirds to their backyard?

To attract hummingbirds to your backyard, grow native flowers like fuchsia, salvia, or penstemon. Feeding stations with sugary water should have multiple ports and be colored red to prevent territorial fights. Ensure you keep the feeders clean as bacteria may grow quickly in sugary water. Show more

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Last updated: by Olha Savych