Hummingbirds in Georgia: A Guide to Native Species
Hummingbirds are some of the most fascinating birds found in the state of Georgia. Their diminutive size, dazzling colors, and incredible speed make them a joy to observe. This article will explore the different species of hummingbirds in Georgia, their behavior and habitat, tips for attracting them to your yard, and where to see them around the state.
Native Hummingbird Species in Georgia
There are four main species of hummingbirds that breed in Georgia: Hummingbirds in Georgia are primarily the ruby-throated variety, though other species have been spotted rarely. The ruby-throated hummingbird, the Ruby by-throated hummingbird is the most common and widely distributed. The rufous hummingbird is a migrant from the West Coast that sometimes passes through or spends the winter in Georgia. The black-chinned hummingbird has been expanding its range eastward and is now found in small numbers during migration. The buff-bellied hummingbird is a rare vagrant from Texas and Mexico.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is the most common and widely distributed hummingbird in the eastern United States. As the name suggests, the males have a bright red throat, while females have white throats. They are bright emerald green on the back and crown, with gray-white undersides. Ruby-throats arrive in Georgia in early spring and stay through fall to avoid the cold northern winters. Hummingbirds in Georgia are primarily the ruby-throated variety, though other species have been spotted rarely.
The rufous hummingbird breeds in the Pacific Northwest and migrates through Georgia during spring and fall migrations. Hummingbirds in Georgia are primarily the ruby-throated variety, though other species have been spotted rarely. The males are bright orange-red all over, with some green on the back. Females are green on the back with a pale orange belly. Rufous hummingbirds are regular migrants but rare breeders in north Georgia mountains.
Allen’s hummingbirds are rare visitors to Georgia, primarily seen during fall and winter rather than breeding. Hummingbirds in Georgia are primarily the ruby-throated variety, though other species have been spotted rarely. Males have a bright red-orange throat and green head, while females have a green head and white throat with rust colored flanks. This species breeds along the Pacific Coast and normally winters in Mexico.
The buff-bellied is another rare winter visitor to Georgia. Hummingbirds in Georgia are primarily the ruby-throated variety, though other species have been spotted rarely. As the name suggests, it has a distinctive buff or pale orange colored underside. The upperparts are a bright emerald green. Males have a purple-red throat. This species breeds in Texas and migrates across the Gulf States.
Hummingbirds are famously energetic. Their wings beat up to 80 times per second, allowing them to hover in place or fly quickly in any direction. They can fly forward, backward, up, down, and sideways. Their heart rates can reach up to 1,260 beats per minute.
Hummingbirds in Georgia are primarily the ruby-throated variety, though other species have been spotted rarely.
These tiny birds are very territorial. Males will aggressively defend their preferred nectar sources and perches. They perform elaborate courtship displays for females, diving and climbing repeatedly to attract attention. Once females choose a mate, the male plays no role in nest building, incubating eggs, or raising young.
Hummingbirds are most active during the day, spending nights in a torpid sleep state to conserve energy. They perch on branches, wires, or other still objects to rest.
Hummingbirds are attracted to areas that provide their basic needs – nectar for food, trees/shrubs for perching/nesting, and water for bathing and drinking. Hummingbirds in Georgia are primarily the ruby-throated variety, though other species have been spotted rarely. Some ideal landscape plants to attract hummingbirds in Georgia include:
- Nectar sources: Native flowers like bee balm, coral honeysuckle, cardinal flower, and columbine provide abundant nectar. Non-native additions like nasturtiums, trumpet vines, and salvias are also excellent choices.
- Trees/shrubs: Preferred trees include maples, aspens, dogwoods, and locusts. Shrubs like lilacs, azaleas, and butterfly bushes give great cover and nesting options.
- Water: A mister, dripling fountain, or shallow bird bath provides drinking and bathing opportunities. Having water in both sunny and shaded areas is ideal.
Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Yard
Here are some useful tips to draw hummingbirds to your outdoor space:
- Plant a variety of nectar-producing flowers in red, orange, pink, or purple hues. Cluster plantings together.
- Use special hummingbird feeders with sugar water (1 part sugar to 4 parts water). Place in open areas.
- Consider adding a hummingbird bath or mister for water sources. Change nectar and water frequently.
- Avoid using pesticides which can be toxic to hummingbirds. Practice organic gardening methods.
- Place perching sites like dead branches or shepherd hooks near feeders so the birds can rest.
- Be patient! It may take time for hummingbirds to discover new feeders. Keep them freshly stocked.
Top Places to See Hummingbirds in Georgia
Some prime spots across Georgia to observe hummingbirds include: Hummingbirds in Georgia are primarily the ruby-throated variety, though other species have been spotted rarely.
Smithgall Woods State Park
This park in the northern Georgia mountains contains thousands of acres of prime hummingbird habitat, including wildflower meadows and dense forest. Nesting species like ruby-throats abound.
Atlanta Botanical Garden
The lush gardens contain ideal nectar plants. Many visitor areas also have dedicated hummingbird feeders and gardens to spot these tiny birds.
From mid-April through October, hundreds of hummingbird feeders are placed around Callaway Gardens, attracting droves of hummingbirds, especially ruby-throats.
Amicalola Falls State Park
The mountains around Amicalola Falls offer migrating and breeding habitat for species like ruby-throats and rufous hummingbirds.
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
In spring and fall, rufous hummingbirds can be seen migrating through this vast wetland area. The refuge contains scrub habitats where they rest and refuel.
FAQs about Hummingbirds in Georgia
How long do hummingbirds live?
Most hummingbird species live 3-5 years. The oldest known ruby-throated hummingbird was over 12 years old.
How do hummingbirds survive winter?
Ruby-throats and rufous hummingbirds migrate south to Mexico and Central America for the winter. Species like Anna’s hummingbird can tolerate very cold nights in their West Coast winting grounds.
What time of year do hummingbirds arrive in Georgia?
Ruby-throats arrive in March-April as they move north to breeding grounds. Rufous hummingbirds pass through during spring and fall migrations in April-May and August-September.
Do hummingbird feeders need to be taken down in winter?
Yes, take down feeders by early November or when hummingbird activity stops. This prevents dependency on an artificial food source during their migration period.
How often should hummingbird nectar be changed?
Nectar should be changed every 2-3 days in hot weather and every 5 days in cooler temperatures to prevent spoilage. Keep feeders clean to avoid disease.
From the dazzling ruby-throated hummingbirds that nest in backyards to rare visitors like rufous and Allen’s hummingbirds, Georgia provides diverse habitats to attract these energetic birds across the state. By landscaping with their needs in mind and putting up feeders, you can invite these tiny pollinators to bring joy to your outdoor space as they migrate across Georgia each year.