Male vs. Female Hummingbirds: 6 Main Differences!

Male vs. female hummingbirds

Though similar in many ways, male and female hummingbirds exhibit unique characteristics that make each gender unique. While not always clear, some of these differences become more obvious upon closer look.

Male and female hummingbirds vary in size, color, behavior, and vocalization. Female hummingbirds are larger, with muted colors, focusing more on nesting. Meanwhile, males are smaller with brighter colors and iridescent gorgets. They are more aggressive and vocal, especially during mating season.

This article delves into these intriguing differences in order to help you understand these remarkable creatures better. Read on as we explore the nuances that set them apart in the avian world.

Summary of Male vs. Female Hummingbirds

Male HummingbirdFemale Hummingbird
Male hummingbird in flightFemale hummingbird in flight
Typically smaller: 2.4 to 3.6 grams
Typically larger: 2.8 to 4.5 grams
Plumage Color:
Bright and vibrant (green, blue, purple, orange, and red)
Plumage Color:
Subdued and camouflaged (green and brown)
Throat Patch (Gorget):
Often iridescent with brilliant colors
Throat Patch (Gorget):
Dull or absent
Tail Feathers:
Forked tail feathers with black, pointed feathers on the outside
Tail Feathers:
More rounded and blunt tail feathers with white tips
Much more aggressive than females
Protective of its nest but less territorial
Tend to be louder, especially during mating season
Limited vocalizations
Migrate ahead of females
Migrate later than males

6 Differences Between Male and Female Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds, with their mesmerizing flight patterns and vibrant colors, have always intrigued bird enthusiasts. One common curiosity is determining whether a hummingbird is male or female.

Every common hummingbird species in North America presents unique sets of characteristics that define males and females distinctly. However, there are general differences that can be seen across all species.

1. Size

Male and female hummingbirds size difference

The size of a hummingbird is a distinguishing factor between males and females. Although hummingbirds, in general, are one of the smallest birds, female hummingbirds tend to be slightly larger in size than their male counterparts.

In addition to their slightly larger build, female hummingbirds also sport a longer bill, which they use to extract nectar from flowers.

This difference in size is not just a random occurrence; it’s nature’s way of ensuring that females have the capacity to carry and lay eggs, a crucial role in the survival of the hummingbird species.

The size difference, though noticeable, is not vast. On average, female hummingbirds weigh between 2.8 and 4.5 grams, while males weigh around 2.4 to 3.6 grams.

This subtle difference in overall size can be observed in different species of hummingbirds, making it a useful way to tell them apart when you spot a hummingbird fluttering in your garden.

2. Coloration

Male and female hummingbird with different coloration

Male and female hummingbirds look very different in terms of coloration. You can easily identify a male hummingbird by its bright colors, which can include shades of pink, green, bright red, and purple.

These iridescent colors, especially on their neck and crown feathers, are not just for show. Male feathers play an important role in courtship displays to attract female counterparts.

On the other hand, female hummingbirds generally sport duller colors. Their feathers tend to be brown or dull green, making them less striking than their male counterparts.

This more subdued coloration helps female birds blend in while nesting, offering protection from predators.

Essentially, female hummingbirds use their duller colors as a defense mechanism, in contrast to the males, who dazzle with their bright feathers to attract mates.

3. Gorget

Male and female hummingbird with visible gorget

One of the best ways to tell a male and female hummingbird apart is to look at the gorget, a patch of feathers on its throat. If you see a hummingbird with a brightly colored throat, you are probably looking at a male.

Male hummingbirds are known for their vibrant and iridescent gorgets, which shimmer and glisten when exposed to sunlight.

These bright patches, which can range in color from radiant reds to shimmering greens, play a crucial role in courtship displays to attract female hummingbirds. When choosing a mate, birds with the most colorful gorgets are usually favored.

In contrast, female hummingbirds exhibit a more muted appearance when it comes to their gorgets. Instead of the bright, iridescent colors seen in males, females usually sport plain white throats.

Some might have spots of dull gray-brown dots, and depending on the species, a small patch of iridescent feathers might be present.

In this video, you can get a close-up look at both a male and female hummingbird, near enough to tell the differences in their throat colors:

Male and Female Hummingbirds Up Close

4. Behavior

Male and female hummingbirds about to sip nectar from a flower

There are various differences between male and female hummingbirds in terms of behavior. Male hummingbirds are more aggressive, especially when it comes to defending their territory.

Their aggressive behavior is usually seen around feeders, where male hummingbirds typically chase away other birds to ensure they have uninterrupted access to the nectar.

On the other hand, while females tend to be less confrontational around food, they are particularly protective of their nesting areas and young ones. This maternal instinct ensures the safety and well-being of their offspring.

Another significant behavioral difference is their migration patterns. Male hummingbirds migrate to the breeding grounds ahead of time.

Their early migration allows them to prepare for the upcoming breeding season by establishing and defending their territory before the females arrive.

5. Role in Reproduction

Male and female hummingbird interacting

Both male and female hummingbirds play distinct roles when it comes to reproduction. When a male finds a female to mate with, it engages in dramatic courtship displays to catch the female hummingbird’s attention.

Elaborate aerial maneuvers are typically used in these displays, and the males sometimes flip their gorget feathers toward the sun to show off their vibrant colors.

After a successful mating, the male’s involvement usually comes to an end. Unlike many other bird species, male hummingbirds don’t take care of their young.

In fact, after mating, they often move on, possibly never encountering the female again. The responsibility of nest-building, incubation, and caring for the offspring rests solely on the female hummingbird’s shoulders.

The female hummingbird single-handedly ensures the survival and well-being of its offspring, from building the nest to feeding them.

6. Vocalization

Male and female hummingbird appearance

Male hummingbirds are known for their complex vocalizations, especially during the mating season. Their songs are usually a combination of high-pitched chirps and more drawn-out, buzzy notes.

These sounds, combined with their vibrant colors and aerial displays, are used to attract potential mates. Their songs and calls are not just about courtship; they also serve to establish territory and ward off other males.

Meanwhile, female hummingbirds have fewer vocalizations. Their sounds tend to be softer, reflecting their overall more subdued appearance compared to the bright and flashy males.

However, this doesn’t mean they are silent. It’s not uncommon for female hummingbirds to produce sharp chirps, trills, and raspy calls, especially when they feel the need to be assertive or aggressive.

On a research trip in the Rockies, I was captivated by the hummingbirds’ vocalizations. There, I learned that many of these sounds weren’t just calls.

Instead, they were produced by the feathers of their wings or tails vibrating against the air, adding a new dimension to my understanding of these avian wonders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Male and female hummingbirds playing around a flower

How Can You Tell a Female Hummingbird?

Although it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart from males, female hummingbirds have some distinctive characteristics that can help identify them.

Typically, adult female hummingbirds are slightly larger than males. Compared to their male counterparts, they are also duller in color, mostly comprised of a blend of dark green, brown, and white.

Unlike the vibrant gorgets of males, their throats are usually white, sometimes spotted with gray-brown dots.

Why Do I Only See Female Hummingbirds at My Feeder?

Male hummingbirds tend to establish their territories far from feeders and blossoms, which might explain their less frequent appearances in your area.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that young male hummingbirds resemble adult females in appearance.

This means that the visually striking adult males are outnumbered by those that have the more subdued look of females, further reducing the numbers you see at your feeder.

Do Female Hummingbirds Have Red Throats?

In general, female hummingbirds do not have vibrant red throats like adult males. However, there are exceptions.

For instance, older female ruby-throated hummingbirds might develop a few iridescent red feathers on their throats, but they won’t have a full red gorget like the ones adult males have.

In most cases, female hummingbirds will have white or lightly streaked throats.

Do Female Hummingbirds Hum?

The humming sound associated with hummingbirds isn’t exclusive to males; female hummingbirds hum too. Interestingly, this characteristic sound isn’t produced vocally but is a result of the rapid flapping of their wings.

Moreover, the humming sound produced by females can be slightly softer and lower-pitched compared to the louder and faster wing beats of males.

Are Green Hummingbirds Male or Female?

Green hummingbirds can be both male and female. That said, what sets them apart is the intensity and distribution of the green coloration.

Male hummingbirds often have vibrant colors, including bright shades of green combined with other hues like red or purple, especially on their throats.

On the other hand, female hummingbirds tend to have a more muted appearance, with prominent accents of dark green, brown, and white.

As we wrap up our exploration of the distinct differences between male and female hummingbirds, we hope you’ve found these insights both informative and fascinating.

If you have any further thoughts or questions, or if there’s something specific you’d like to know more about, feel free to drop a comment below!

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