Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris
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General Comments This is the only hummingbird that nests in the eastern part of North America, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is arguably the most "loved" bird in the state, considering the vast numbers of people who put up hummingbird feeders simply to watch the species. Not surprisingly, with the large number of feeders that are kept up in fall and winter, many other hummingbird species find these feeders, and Ruby-throateds also are now overwintering in the state, mainly along the coast. The primary breeding habitats of the species are deciduous forests, edges, and groves, often in wooded residential areas, usually where tubular red flowers (such as trumpet-vine and scarlet honeysuckle) are present nearby. These sites are typically somewhat moist, such that bottomlands and other moist forests and woodlots are preferred over dry or scrubby sites. In winter, birds occur almost strictly near feeders, especially where there are thick evergreen shrubs and trees for roosting.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S5B,S2N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Breeding summer resident, and winter visitor/resident mostly along or near the coast. Fairly common over the entire province, and perhaps locally common in some areas with many feeders. Formerly, essentially unknown in winter, but since about 1980 has been increasing along the coast in winter, with the explosion of available feeders at that season. Now, uncommon winter resident in cities, towns, and other residential areas along and near the coast; fairly common at a few sites (e.g., Morehead City/Beaufort and Buxton/Frisco). Seemingly casual farther inland in winter. Main dates are early Apr to mid-Oct. Peak counts (winter): 39, Kitty Hawk CBC, 19 Dec 2020; 35, Kitty Hawk CBC, 15 Dec 2012; 33, Morehead City CBC, 20 Dec 2015; 31, Kitty Hawk CBC, 18 Dec 2010; 26, Kitty Hawk CBC, 20 Dec 2008; 25, Kitty Hawk CBC, 16 Dec 2006; 20+, Buxton (Dare), 22 Nov 2015.
Piedmont Breeding summer resident, and now a very rare winter visitor. Fairly common breeder across the entire province, not generally local or more numerous in one portion over another. Despite the large number of the species now wintering at feeders along the coast, it is very surprising that birds captured and banded in winter in the region are seldom Ruby-throateds, though there are about eight winter records, mainly from the Durham/Chapel Hill/Hillsborough area. One apparently spent the winter at a feeder in northern Chatham in 2020-21. Normal dates: early Apr - mid-Oct. Peak counts: ?
Mountains Breeding summer resident. Fairly common at lower and middle elevations, mainly below 4,500 feet. Likely does not breed at high elevations. Mainly early or mid-Apr to early or mid-Oct. One was seen in this province during the 2012-13 winter, but no details or location was mentioned; this might be the only winter season report. Peak counts: 52, Hendersonville, 1 Sep 2011; 30, Hendersonville, 4 Sep 1996.
Finding Tips The species can be difficult to intentionally search for, away from hummingbird feeders, mainly because the birds are tiny and their calls are easily overlooked. Thus, the best method to see the species is to hang around hummingbird feeders.
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Attribution LeGrand[2022-04-25], LeGrand[2021-05-17], LeGrand[2018-02-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.