Status: Fairly common regular spring migrant east, uncommon east central, rare casual west central and west. Uncommon regular breeder east, rare casual central. Common regular fall migrant east, uncommon east central, rare west central and west.
Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM10638, 25 May 1913 Lancaster Co.
Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized (Gill et al 2022).
A hybrid male Ruby-throated Hummingbird x Broad-tailed Hummingbird was photographed in Dawes Co 6 May 2014, was joined by a female Ruby-throated 22 May, copulation was observed, both were present through 7 Jul, and the male until 10 Aug (Juanita Whittecar, eBird.org; Broad-tailed x Ruby-throated Hummingbird (hybrid).
Changes Since 2000: This species has occurred in increasing numbers westward, with multiple reports from the Panhandle, especially in fall. Some of this increase may be due to an increase of feeders placed around residences, which would naturally increase detection of the species, rather than actual increased occurrence. There are breeding records west to Keith Co, but not yet in the Panhandle itself.
Spring: Apr 23, 23, 23 <<<>>> Jun 15, 15, 16 (west, central)
An earlier date is 15 Apr 2023 in Nemaha Co.
Later dates away from the east may be potential breeders; see Summer.
Migration occurs mostly in May, although extreme dates are in late Apr and early Jun.
Spring records extend rarely to the Panhandle: One was at Wind Springs Ranch, Sioux Co 18 May 2009, an adult male was studied carefully in a yard near Mitchell, Scotts Bluff Co 29 May 2012, a female was photographed in a Dawes Co yard 29 May 2014 (Juanita Whittecar, pers. comm.), a female was in the same Dawes Co yard 6 Jun 2021 (Juanita Whittecar, pers. comm.), 19 Jun 2018 Scotts Bluff Co, and an apparent lingering spring arrival was near Gering 23 Jun 2022.
Reports from the west central in the Platte and North Platte River valleys are of an adult male netted at Cedar Point Biological Station 23 May 1996 (Brown et al 1996) and another adult male seen there 3 Jun 2001. One was at Ogallala, Keith Co 11 May 2022. There are several records from Lincoln Co; a pair remained in a Brady yard 9 May-13 Jun 2004, a female was there 19 May 2006, and a single 5 May 2010; nesting has not been confirmed at that location. Singles were in separate Lincoln Co yards 10 and 11 May 2011 and at least one male was photographed in the area 15 and 20 May 2013. A male was in a North Platte, Lincoln Co yard 12 May 2021 and was joined by a female 23 May (eBird.org).
West central reports from the Niobrara River Valley were of one at Valentine City Park, Cherry Co 17 May 2015, a male at Fort Falls, Niobrara NWR, Cherry Co 2 Jun 2021, and two at Smith Falls SP, Cherry Co 9 Jun 2019.
- High counts: 9 at Wilderness Park, Lancaster Co 16 May 2021, 8 at Fontenelle Forest feeders, Sarpy Co 14 May 2022, and 7 at Fontenelle Forest 21 May 2020.
Summer: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds breed mostly in the Missouri and lower Platte River Valleys, with summer records extending regularly farther west in the Niobrara, Elkhorn, and Platte river valleys, as well as most of southeastern Nebraska east of a line from Saunders to Nuckolls Cos.
Although this species does not appear to nest regularly in the Niobrara River Valley west of the confluence with the Missouri River (Johnsgard 1979, Brogie and Mossman 1983, Brogie 2009 eBird.org), there are a few reports further west: a pair with a nest was at the Valentine Fish Hatchery, Cherry Co in late May- early Jun 2002, and a nest was at Smith Falls SP, Cherry in 2016 (Gordon Warrick. personal communication). Two pairs were found 17 miles northeast of Bassett, Rock Co 15 Jun 2000, and there are older summer reports for Brown Co in 1964 and 1970. The only indication of summer occurrence in the western Loup drainage is from NNF Bessey, Thomas Co, where it was a “rare summer visitor” (Bray 1994).
In the Platte and North Platte river valleys, reports are recent, west to Scotts Bluff Co; a female was in a yard near Mitchell 10-14 Jun 2012, joined by a male 31 May but not later, and an adult female was there “all summer” 2013, joined by a male 16 Jun. There are several reports in Keith Co, including a reported nest in Ogallala in 2003 (William Huntley, personal communication); additional reports from Ogallala are of three birds at different feeders 2 Jun-2 Jul 2008, and two at a feeder 2-29 Jun 2012. A male and female visited a feeder at a residence on the north side of Lake McConaughy, Keith Co 6-20 Jun 2001 and for a few days after that, but no nest could be found (William Huntley, personal communication). There are several reports in Lincoln Co, including a pair at Brady all summer in 2008 and a pair photographed in a rural Lincoln Co yard all summer 2013. The species was reported to have nested for at least a few years prior to and including 1956 at Kearney (Ludden 1956), and Tout (1947) listed it as a “summer resident,” probably breeding, in Lincoln Co.
In the southeast, westernmost reports are of singles at different locations in Jefferson Co 19 Jun 2010 and 4 Jul 2013, one in Thayer Co 11 Jun 2014, nesting along Plum Creek near Seward, Saline Co, and a nest in a Saunders Co yard 8 Jul 2012. It is only a “casual summer visitor” in the Rainwater Basin (Jorgensen 2012); one was in Fillmore Co 28 Jun 2019.
There are only two records of nesting for the Republican River Valley west of Nuckolls Co, none since 2000. The only reported nest was in Hitchcock Co in 1975. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds summered at a residence in Alma, Harlan Co 1990 and for a few years thereafter, and, while young birds were seen, no nest was found; the last report there was of a male Jun-Jul 2000.
Breeding season reports (mid-Jun through mid-Jul) in the west, central, and east away from the breeding range suggest breeding: 21 Jun 2022 Nance Co, 21 Jun 2023 (2) Keller Park Brown Co, Bassway Strip WMA, Buffalo Co (2) 22 Jun 2021, 23 Jun 2022 Smith Falls SP, Cherry Co, 23 Jun 2022 Scotts Bluff Co, 24 Jun 2020 Nance Co, 25 Jun 2022 Boyd Co, 25 Jun 2023 northeastern Cherry Co, 25 Jun 2023 Valentine, Cherry Co, 26 Jun 2021 Boyd Co, 16-28 Jun 2022 North Platte, Lincoln Co, 28 Jun 2019 Fillmore Co, a male in Hall Co 30 Jun 2021, 30 Jun 1961 Hall Co, 1 Jul 2017 Hall Co, 1 Jul 2018 York Co, 2 Jul 2021 Boyd Co, 2 Jul 2023 Buffalo Co, 6 Jul 2014 Buffalo Co, 6 Jul 2020 Knox Co, 6 Jul 2023 Hall Co, 7 Jul 2022 Hall Co, and 10 Jul 2022 Lincoln Co.
- Breeding Phenology:
Nest-building: 12 May-4 Jun
Eggs: 21 May-26 Aug (Mollhoff 2022)
Nestlings: 30 Jul-18 Aug
- Fledglings: 6 Jul-19 Aug
Fall: Jul 12, 13, 13 (west, central) <<<>>> Oct 16, 17, 17
Earlier reports are cited in Summer.
Migration takes place mainly from late Jul through Sep, although there is a later report 23 Oct 1909 Webster Co (Ludlow 1935). An unidentified hummingbird was at a Bassett, Rock Co feeder 20 Oct 2008.
Migrants occur somewhat further west than in spring, and probably occur every year in small numbers in the Panhandle, where there are about 32 records 22 Jul-18 Oct. A Scotts Bluff Co observer stated, “we have a couple every year”. There is a specimen 3 Sep 1912 Thomas Co (UNSM ZM10637).
- High counts: 36 in a Lincoln, Lancaster Co yard 11 Sep 2015, 31 there 6 Sep 2016, 25 at Indian Cave SP, Nemaha and Richardson Cos 4 Sep 2010, and 25 at a Utica, Seward Co feeder 3 Sep 2021.
Comments: Determining how many hummingbirds visit a given yard in a season is difficult to assess. Careful studies indicate far larger numbers than generally realized. Exhaustive recording and subsequent analysis by four video and one still cameras operating continuously in the Ron and Susan Whitney yard in Lincoln, Lancaster Co provide some insights. For the years 2007-2014 inclusive, the daily tally in fall varied from 13 to 112, the latter in 2011, but in 2015 an amazing 266 individuals were counted; peak day was 11 Sep, when 36 were counted. A feeder operator in Buford, Wyoming reported similarly large numbers (WYOBIRDS@HOME.EASE.LSOFT.COM): On 22 Jul 2016, he had “11 feeders up, with seating ranging from 3 to 8 on each. Most days I have about 80% occupancy, and all the feeders have to be refilled daily. A University of Wyoming team captured “oodles” of birds in a few hours with no recaptures, which the team indicated meant “you have a lot of hummingbirds”.
SP: State Park
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
Bray, T.E. 1994. Habitat utilization by birds in a man-made forest in the Nebraska Sandhills. Master’s thesis, University of Nebraska-Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
Brogie, M.A., and M.J. Mossman. 1983. Spring and summer birds of the Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska: An annotated checklist. NBR 51: 44-51.
Brown, C.R., M.B. Brown, P.A. Johnsgard, J. Kren, and W.C. Scharf. 1996. Birds of the Cedar Point Biological Station area, Keith and Garden Counties, Nebraska: Seasonal occurrence and breeding data. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 23: 91-108.
Gill, F., D. Donsker, and P. Rasmussen (Eds). 2022. IOC World Bird List (v 12.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.12.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
Johnsgard, P.A. 1979. Birds of the Great Plains: breeding species and their distribution. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
Jorgensen, J.G. 2012. Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
Ludden, C.E. 1956. Birds through the years. NBR 24: 34-37.
Ludlow, C.S. 1935. A quarter-century of bird migration records at Red Cloud, Nebraska. NBR 3: 3-25.
Mollhoff, W.J. 2022. Nest records of Nebraska birds. Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Occasional Paper Number 9.
Silcock, W.R., Whittecar, J., and S.L. Williamson. Apparent hybrid between Broad-tailed (Selasphorus platycercus) and Ruby-throated (Archilochus colubris) Hummingbirds in Dawes County, Nebraska. In Press.
Tout, W. 1947. Lincoln County birds. Published by the author, North Platte, Nebraska, USA.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2023. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org
Birds of Nebraska – Online
Updated 15 Nov 2023