Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Rufous Hummingbird - Selasphorus rufus
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General Comments The Rufous Hummingbird is the state's second-most numerous hummingbird, and though it breeds in the remote northwestern corner of the continent from Alaska south to Idaho, it has a well-known southeastward fall migration that routinely takes some individuals to the Atlantic coast. Even so, more records of it occur well inland in the state than near the coast. There is an odd hiatus in records, with essentially none from the inner portions of the Coastal Plain, probably a result of fewer feeders left up in winter in this region than elsewhere in the state. In fact, though quite a few hummingbirds winter now along the coast, the great majority of these are Ruby-throateds, whereas a winter hummingbird in the Piedmont or mountains is more likely to be a Rufous, or perhaps even a Black-chinned, than a Ruby-throated. Though Rufous Hummingbirds should be easily separated from Ruby-throated (or Black-chinned), there are other very similar species, especially the Allen's, as well as females of Broad-tailed and Calliope. Thus, though one can probably assume a hummingbird with buffy or rusty flanks and tail feathers is a Rufous, it is best to be cautious and report such birds as Selasphorus sp.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G4
Coastal Plain Transient and winter visitor. Very rare along the coast and in the Tidewater zone, mainly at feeders; accidental/casual (surprisingly scarce) farther inland, with just two reports (from Moore) -- Whispering Pines of a Selasphorus sp. -- and at Pinehurst. Records from early Aug - mid-Apr, with most from mid-Nov - late Mar. Peak counts: 2, New Bern, winter 1986-87.
Piedmont Transient and winter visitor. Very rare to rare (essentially only at feeders) across the province, with a preponderance of records in the Triangle area. Records span all 12 months, but mainly from mid-Aug to late Mar. A very odd record is that of an adult male at a feeder near Hillsborough (Orange) from 6-8 Jun 2003; slightly less shocking were an adult male at a feeder near Lenoir (Caldwell) on 30 Jun 2019, and an adult male at Chapel Hill from 7-9 Jul 1999. These three records likely represent extremely early "fall" migrants. Peak counts: 5 at Bakers Mountain Park (Catawba), winter 2005-06; 4 on the Charlotte CBC, 27 Dec 2008.
Mountains Fall transient and winter visitor, but primary in the fall season. Very rare, and mainly at feeders (about 17 records there) in the southern mountains. Casual to very rare in the northern mountains, where there are 5-6 published records -- from Piney Creek (Alleghany) on 5-6 Aug 2002; from Sparta in that county from 22 Aug - 12 Sep 2013; from a feeder in Woodford (Ashe) in fall 2016; from the same feeder (same bird?) in Woodford on 4 Nov 2017; 3 at a feeder in Burnsville (Yancey) from 13 Nov into winter 2020; and 1 at Sparta (Alleghany) on 6 Nov 2020. Mainly early Aug - early Jan, sparingly through the depths of winter (just four records after mid-Dec). Peak count: 3 (above in Burnsville); 2, Etowah (Henderson), 5 Dec 2008 - 5 Jan 2009; all other records of single birds.
Finding Tips One has a reasonable chance to see one during the year, but only by visiting a feeder with a known bird.
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Attribution LeGrand[2022-04-25], LeGrand[2021-08-04], LeGrand[2021-03-05]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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